Below is a short write-up on the architectural style of our house

Saturday, 21 March 2015

HF Gros and his remarkable collection of early Transvaal Photographs

This blog entry is reproduced from a article in the Heritage portal written by Rod Kruger

Camera similar to the one used by H.F. Gros 1885

H Ferdinand Gros was of Swiss origin. He arrived in South Africa circa 1869. 

On July 16th 1870 he was advertising that the Photographic Salon 'will resume again' in the 'Burgherdorp Gazette'. 

In the 'Diamond News' on March 9th 1872 he announced that he was taking over the studio of Weber and Gros and that he would soon open a 'Superb Salon' at New Rush (Kimberley). The New Rush studio was advertised for sale in 'Diamond News' 13th April 1872. However, this sale appears not to have happened as in 'Diamond News' on October 8th and December 10th 1872 he was still advertising the New Rush studio. 

HF Gros' photographic studio in Pretoria

He visited the goldfields at Pilgrim's Rest and Mac Mac ('Diamond News' May 9th 1874 and February 13th 1875). He also visited Lydenburg goldfields. In 1877 he set up the 'Photographic Gallery' at the corner of Church Street and van der Walt Street, Pretoria. 

In 1877 he photographed the Transvaal Annexation Commission at Ulundi House, Pretoria. He also photographed scenes in Pretoria during the First Boer War, these were later bound in to the limited edition (200 copies) of 'News of the Camp' (1880-81).
News of the camp

He photographed Chief Sekukuni in 1879. Circa 1888 he made a photographic tour of the Transvaal. 
Picturesque aspects of the Transvaal - 1888

He returned to Europe in 1895 and his Pretoria studio was taken over by J. Perrin (Cowan 1978, pp.99-101).

Below is a small selection of wonderful photographs taken by Gros. Enjoy..

The men who took on Victoria's soldiers.
The men were:

Back Row:
1. Veldkornet L.P. Bezuidenhout, Potchefstroom
2. Kmdt. S.P. Grove, Middelburg
3. Asst. Kmdt. Generaal H. Schoeman, Pretoria
4. Kmdt. Henning Pretorius, Elandsfontein, Pretoria
5. Kmdt. Lewis Fourie, Lange’s Nek

Second Row
6. Kmdt. H.R. Lemmer, Potchefstroom
7. Kmdt. J.D. Weilbach, Potchefstroom en Lange’s Nek
8. Weesheer J.S. Joubert, Sen., Gijzelaar te Newcastle
9. Kmdt. J. du Plessis de Beer, Wonderboom, Pretoria
10 Kmdt. D.J. Muller. Leydenburg

Third Row
11. Kmdt. Hans Erasmus, Raad Huis, Pretoria
12. Generaal J.P. Steyn, Leydenburg
13. Kmdt. Hans Botha, Zwartkop Pretoria
14 Kmdt. G. Engelbreght, Standerton

Front Row
15. Veghtgeneraal J.M. Kock, Potchefstroom
16. Veghtgeneraal Frans Joubert, Bronkhorstspruit
17. Kmdt. Generaal J.P. Joubert
18. Generaal N. Smit

19. Generaal P.A. Cronje, Potchefstroom.

The same rifles, bandoliers and clothing can be seen on a few individuals, which indicates that they were studio props and not necessarily the property of the individuals on the photos. This fact has been overlooked by many researchers, who used this set of photos when researching Boer firearms.

Passenger and Government Mail Coach (circa 1888)

'Sticking Fast' - In the Six Mile Spruit near Pretoria (circa 1888)
Camping at Matocks
A timbered stope - Meyer and Charlton (circa 1888).
Harry Struben is wearing the bowler hat

Knights lake at Driefontein (circa 1888).
Again Harry Struben is wearing the bowler hat.

Struben Brothers Stamp Mill (circa 1885 )
Fred and Harry Struben - Confidence Reef Mine (circa 1885)

Native Labourers working on an incline shaft (circa 1888)

Hatherley Distillery near Pretoria (circa 1888)
Botanic Garden (Witpoortjie) falls (circa 1885)

Rod Kruger with a Gros album

Rod Kruger, Bull, Marjorie and Joseph Denfield (1970) 'Secure the shadow: the story of Cape photography from its beginnings to the end of 1870 '. Cape Town: T. McNally.
Cowan, N. (1978), 'Photograficana of H.F. Gros', 'Africana notes and news'. Volume 23, number 3, pp.99-104.
'Transvaal almanac 1877'.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Mystery cars: Nardi Bisiluro's asymmetrical Le Mans racing car

Nardi Bisiluro's asymmetrical Le Mans racing car with
 the driver on the right, engine on the left, radiator in the middle.
  Blohm & Voss BV 141 in 1938. 
In 1938, the German airplane maker Blohm & Voss created several examples of asymmetrical bombers which, although nimble and fast, would not enjoy much success as part of the Luftwaffe. Several years later, an Italian, Nardi Bisiluro would use the idea to his advantage, this time on four wheels...


Never lacking imagination, but often lacking the financial means, Enrico Nardi continued his quest to evolve the car from its first appearance in 1932. Considering the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the only event worthy of showcasing his ideas, he took on the challenge of beating French auto-makers Renault and Panhard in their favourite class of engines smaller than 750cc. After a debut cut short in only the second lap in 1954 (water pump), he returned the following year with an ambitious project, thanks to a unique perspective.

Rather than adapt the exterior forms to the chassis, why not design the ideal bodywork first, then adapt the rest of the car to it? Following this logic, Enrico Nardi hires engineer-architect Carlo Mollino to design a very aerodynamic car, with a radiator in the middle, which he sees as a wing. He then added all the essential elements to make the car totally asymmetrical, with two fuselages. The left side housed the engine and transmission while the right side carried the driver, who needed to be small in stature.

The middle section was equipped with an
air brake... or a jumpseat ! 

The tight quarters in the cockpit necessitated
a very special steering wheel for the time.
To improve the braking performance, the car was equipped with an aerodynamic flap in the center. The ingenious air brake unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view) was replaced by a jumpseat (!) on the eve of the practice sessions, as the rules required a passenger seat in the car. Another innovation, the radiator was comprised of rectangular tubes aiming to disperse the heat thanks to the air flowing through them. Thre rest of the car was made up of various vehicles: Lancia Appia or Fiat 1100, with the entire weight totally only 400 kg.

The Nardi Bisiluro at Le Mans
During practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Nardi Bisiluro shows great speed (220 km/h) and performs very well in its class. Despite that, the drivers are worried to even turn around in the cockpit as the car requires a very soft touch due to extreme sensitivity to any change of direction. Even worse, they have a difficult time driving the car in a straight line! Their fears would come true in the race when after only 148 minutes, the  Bisiluro driven by Damonte is overtaken, or rather "blown" over by a Jaguar...

Retrieved from the ditch without much harm done to car or driver, the  Nardi Bisiluro would spend the rest of its days at the National Science and Technology Museum ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, in Milan.