History

The history of Lorentzville with the adjacent areas of Bertrams, Troyville, Doornfontein, Judiths Paarl, Kensington, Observatory, Yeoville, and Bez Valley: The early history and development of Johannesburg cannot be spoken of without reference to the expansion made by the first wave of gold mining barons and others making their fortunes from the gold rush. 120 years ago, the valley had become the first acclaimed township, Ferrerasdorp. From 1887 to 1902 when the rich first chose to move out from the ever more crowded centre, they moved east where they built their grand homes, and some even built high quality small factories in the fast developing suburbs of Doornfontein, Bertrams, Lorentzville, Troyville, Judiths Paarl and Bez Valley. Evidence of the early wealth can still be seen in these suburbs like some of the early mansions and factories.

The expansion continued into Kensington, Yeoville and Observatory from 1903 when the Observatory was built. In 1912 the Observatory Golf Course was constructed and 1913 the Observatory Primary School opened its doors to the children of the wealthy.

Observatory Ridge is the highest point in the city at almost 2,000m. It was here that a monument to members of the British Indian Army was built in 1902 and still stands as a reminder of sacrifices made by the many in the South African war. The British Army brought 9000 Indians to serve as stretcher bearers, veterinarian assistants, grooms, blacksmiths and other critical services needed during the 1899 to 1902 war. The Indian contribution has gone largely unacknowledged as has the contribution and sacrifices made by the thousands of African men. This was due largely to the British army not wanting to admit to a heavy reliance on black support service personnel in this and other wars. The monument honors the contribution of Hindis, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Zoroastrians who were among the estimated 24,000 black men who died in the Anglo-Boer war.

Overlooked from Observatory Ridge is Bez Valley Park, originally part of the Bezuidenhout family farm, the land on which much of Joburg was built. Between 1899 and 1902, this was the remount camp where up to 4000 horses and a largely Indian war support system were based. The same lush green fields and handsome oak trees with the Juskei stream running through it today offer recreation for local residents, unaware of the harsh history of the still beautiful space.

1933 was the year that Italian prisoners of war allegedly cut the scenic Stewarts Drive from the side of the ridge, using the excavated rock to build the beautiful parapets and walls that line the drive. Named after a local official, Stewarts Drive connects Lorentzville to Bellvue and Yeoville to the north of the ridge.

In 1911 the daughter of a Scottish man who served as gatekeeper on the estate of the Earl of Rothsay in Scotland, told her South African based fiancé she would only join him if he built her a castle. He then set about building Kensington Castle from locally quarried rock and designed it in the style of Rothsay, where she must have spent some of her childhood.

Some of the names that attest to the interesting history of the Lorentzville area who have resided in the suburb from 1896 are the artist William Kentridge, hospitality magnate Sol Kerzner, founder of the Boy Scout movement Lt.Gen. Baden Powell, British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, President of the Transvaal Rugby Union H.J. Sanderson, furniture empire founder Ellerines, or the infamous murderess Daisy de Melker.  Berea Road is also a place where the sun comes up on the day of the summer solstice.