Paterson Park, on Norwood's eastern border, is in transition as the City plans to redevelop it to incorporate housing and improved recreation facilities. Learn more about its fascinating history here.
Prior to the founding of Johannesburg, the area that is now known as Paterson Park was part of the farm Klipfontein. Klipfontein was founded by BC Viljoen, and the area around the Viljoen homestead was famous for its grove of orange trees. Though Orange Grove was proclaimed in 1889, and Norwood, Orchards and Victoria in 1902, the area that would become Paterson Park remained unproclaimed. This photo, probably dating back to the first decade of the 20th century, gives a sense of the rural nature of the area.
The Norwood Tram
Maps from the time indicate two farms or smallholdings occupying this unproclaimed area, with a rough path in between. The horsedrawn tram was extended to Grant Avenue in Norwood through this path, and in 1911 the electric tram was extended along the same route, as can be seen in this photo from the Museum Africa archives.
The tram route is illustrated in red on this map dating back to the 1920s.
The Recreation Centre
The southern portion was owned by the Witwatersrand Lads Club, and was then bought in about 1925 by the Old Johannian Association. The Old Johannian Club House is pictured here in a photo dating back to 1925, and today forms part of the Paterson Park Recreation Centre.
The southern portion was sold to the City Council in 1938.
The northern portion was purchased by Edenvale Nurseries Limited on 28 July 1919, and then purchased by the City Council between 1925 and 1928. The City established a park on this portion in 1928, and named it after Joseph Paterson, a Rand Pioneer and Councillor to the City of Johannesburg. The road between the southern and northern portions was named after him in the 1940s.
Notable structures in the Park include the beautifully detailed ablution blocks dating back to the 1930s, and the Groundsman’s Cottage near the Nellie Road entrance. That a permanent dwelling was provided to the Park caretaker in the 1940s shows how seriously the City took its responsibilities then! The Cottage is an attractive example of 1940s modernism.
This photo from the Museum Africa archives dates back to 1949.
Bowls Club House
Among the first improvements to be effected by the City was the building of the Bowls Club House and bowling greens. This wonderfully evocative photo shows the opening of the Bowls Club in 1931. Note the Norwood tram in the background.
The Club House was a simple structure consisting of three rondavels, linked by a canvas covered stoep. The stoep would later be enclosed, as can be seen in this photo possibly taken in the late 1930s.
The enclosed stoep is all that remains of the original structure in the current building.
Stone Gates and Retaining Walls
A number of attractive stone retaining walls, stairs and gate posts were built in the 1930s. The stone gate posts at Nellie Road remain, but those on Paterson Road have been removed in the current construction work.
Through the intervention of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and Norwood Orchards Residents Association, these will be reconstructed as an entrance to the Bowls Club at some time in future, as can be seen in this artist’s impression.
A very fine set of stone stairs is found at the Frances Road entrance to the park.
The principal access points to the Park, at Nellie Road and Paterson Road, were joined by what could be a line of shrubs or perhaps trees. This elegantly curved lane can be clearly seen in aerial photos taken in 1937 and 1941.
Sons of England War Memorial
The most significant heritage structure to be found in the park is the Sons of England War Memorial. It may surprise some that the Memorial was originally constructed on Louis Botha Avenue, at the Sons of England Patriotic and Benevolent Society on Erf 1025, Orange Grove, probably in the mid-1920s.
The valuation rolls of 1946 however indicate that Erf 1025 had since passed ownership to Vrede Investments (Pty) Ltd, and it is therefore a reasonable assumption that the memorial was moved to its current position in Paterson Park between 1925 and 1946.
The memorial is built from quartzite stone originating from the ridges to the south of Norwood, often referred to as ‘Parktown Quartz”. It consists of three arched structures in stone work, curved steps and two curved flower boxes. Infill brickwork form the backdrop to a wooden cross.
The inscription was applied on sandstone from a fine, high quality grain, unlike any of the local types found around Johannesburg. The back wall of the memorial is built from ‘klompje bricks’, originating from the company Coronation Brick and Tile, established in 1916. The wooden cross at the centre of the memorial, is the original artefact that was erected on the Butte de Warlencourt (an ancient burial mound north-east of Le Sars, France) by the surviving members of Transvaal and Rhodesian Regiment (3rd SAI) after the 1916 Battle of the Somme.
Sadly, as the City neglected Paterson Park in the 1990s and 2000s, first the decorative iron gates on the memorial were stolen, and later vagrants began chipping away at the cross with the intention to use it as firewood. Thankfully, it has been saved and is now in safekeeping at the Orchards Project.
Many Norwood residents have fond memories of the Paterson Park swimming pool, which was situated on Paterson Road near the Park entrance. It was most probably constructed in the early 1930s, and the building style, as evidenced in this photo, is not dissimilar to the Zoo Lake swimming pool.
This happy photo, probably taken in the 70s, shows what a community gem it must have been.
It was sadly destroyed in a misguided attempt at modernisation and privatisation in the 1990s.
Do you have information on our neighbourhood's history that you would like to share? Contact us on email@example.com