Burgers Park, Pretoria, City of Tshwane
Burgers Park was the first park to be set out in Pretoria. This 4 hectare park is located in the Pretoria city centre and is the best and only example of a 'Wilhelmiens' park in South Africa. The idea of the park as a botanical garden originated with T.F. Burger (who was the President of the South African Republic between 1872 and 1877) and the park was named after him. It contains historical structures, such as the cast iron band stand imported from the Saracen Foundary of Walter McFarlane in Glasgow, Scotland, a kiosk, the Curator’s house (Architect Van der Benn) and the greenhouse that houses plants from four different climatic regions. The park also has a statue of T.F. Burger and the memorial of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment. It is also the site were the British army grounds were located across from Melrose House where the headquarters were housed. Burgers Park was proclaimed a National Monument in the 1970s and was the national winner of the Larger Parks category in the Townscape Millennium Open Spaces competition in 1999. It is of high significance as the only residual park dating to the time of the ZAR and its chief architect, S.W. Wierda. It is of (landscape) archtiectural, easthetic, age and cultural historical value. The park containts public memorials (T.F.Burgers Statue and the Transvaal Scottish Regiment). It is importaint to the a variety of communities inlcuding the archtiectural community and previous and current inhabitants of the surrounding suburbs and the city.
The Queen Wilhelmine Tree commemorates the coronation of the Dutch Queen and punctuates the importance of the place as Shared South-African Sutch Heritage.
Current known heritage status
Burgers Park is is subject to Section 34 of the NHRA (25 of 1999) as a structure older than 60 years and contains many comemorative structures, soome of whcih were constructed throgh public conscription.
Possible interested and affected parties
- City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality
- South African Institute of Architects (SAIA)
- Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africa (ILASA)
- Pretoria Institute for Architecture (PIA)
- Tshwane Buidling Heritage Association
- Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria
President Thomas Burgers of the then Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR), the Boer republic which became the Transvaal Province before becoming Gauteng in 1994, wanted to create a botanical garden on some land which he set aside for the project in 1874. At this stage Pretoria was still a small settlement in the wide landscape of the Transvaal, but nevertheless the capital of the ZAR. Gold was yet to be discovered on the Witwatersrand, so there was no Johannesburg, which only came into being in 1886 when the gold reef started to attract thousands of people in search of their fortunes.
But in 1874 money was rather scarce in the ZAR and Burgers's dream was not affordable to the public purse, and so the land was not used, except for the planting of a few trees. After the discovery of gold in 1886 funds became available to realise Burgers's dream and the park was conceptualized by a prominent and very wealthy Pretoria resident George Heys, who's residence, Melrose House, was opposite the main gate of the park. This house is also important for being the venue of the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging which ended the Boer War in May 1902.
The real development started in 1890 when Sytze Wopkes Wierda designed a layout for the park which was then completed by George Hays in collaboration with the botanist James Hunter. The park was fully completed in 1892. In 1895 the bandstand manufactured Walter MacFarlane and Sones Saracen Foundry was brought in from Scotland and assembled on site. During the Anglo-Boer War, the park was used as a camping ground by the British army. After the end of the war a house was built on site to house the curator of the garden. In the 1960s the green house was built on site.
On 31 August 1898, Wilhelmina became Queen of the Netherlands. This was celebrated in Pretoria by planting of an orange tree in Burgers Park, at a spot marked by a blue plaque. The tree symbolises the Dutch Royal house of Orange-Nassau. The Netherlands South African Railway Company (NZASM) made the cast-iron fence. A new tree was planted at the current spot in 1986 after the original tree and its successor had died.
Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces
Burgers Park as mentioned above is the best example of a formal Wilhelmiens park in South Africa. Like most parks Burgers Park aims to bring a piece of "paradise" to its users in the man-made city and to provide balance and contrast between the hard urban landscape and natural living landscape. Victorian parks were romantic escapes from the hustle and bustle of the industrial cities. These parks were also designed in an irregular fashion. Curving paths gave unexpected views to surprise and stimulate the user's imagination. This experience was further enhanced by the use of exotic trees and plants which recall foreign countries.
The social function of Burgers Park is emphasised by a number of memorials. The Scottish Monument on the western side of the park was erected to honour the members of the South African Scottish Regiment who died in World War I. A fish pond with fountains dates from the 1890s and was meant to symbolise life in the city centre.
The cast iron band stand with its Chinese pagoda-style roof was actually made in Scotland by Walter MacFarlane and was erected in the park in 1895. On cool summer evenings the band of the 24th Regiment of Roberts Heights (now known as Thabo Tshwane) would entertain visitors to the park from the bandstand.
The Parkzicht iron gates came from the long since demolished house where Boer signatories of the 1902 Peace Treaty were housed. In the middle of the park is a small pavilion with a refreshment kiosk, which was a typical feature of parks about a century ago. It was built in 1911 in a neo-classical style and was designed by Vivian Rees-Poole (1883-1965). This pavilion was the scene of a glamorous dinner to welcome home the then Prime Minister of South Africa, General Louis Botha, and his wife back to South Africa after they had attended the coronation of King George V in England in September 1911.
A statue of President Burgers is also housed in the park. It was commissioned in 1950 by the city council after funds had been made available from the estate of one of the president's daughters, Mrs. Mary Adelene Jorissen. It was completed by Lithuanian artist Moses Kottler and unveiled in 1953.
A house for the permanent park keeper was built in 1904. This quaint little building was designed by the Government Engineer and head of the Public Works Department Sytze Wierda, who was Dutch-born and had been appointed by President Paul Kruger in 1887. Near the Park Keeper's house is a gazebo which was rescued from one of the Victorian houses which once surrounded the park.
A florarium on the north-eastern side of the park was built in 1974. It houses a large variety of plants from four climatic regions. The florarium is open from Monday to Wednesday and Friday from 10:00-12:00 and 12:30-16:15 and on Saturdays/Sundays and Public Holidays from 10:00-12:00 and 12:30-15:30. It is closed on Thursdays for maintenance. No dogs or smoking allowed in the florarium.
Named after the wife of the first president of the United States of America, a stinkwood tree, the Martha Washington Friendship tree, was planted in 1932 to commemorate the 200th birthday of George Washington. Some of the plants in the park include: Acacia xanthophloea (Fever tree), Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm), Ginko biloba (Maidenhair tree), Bunyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), Aloe marlothii (Mountain Aloe), Encephalartos natalensis, Sterlitzia Nicolai (Natal wild banana), and Bolusanthus speciosus (Tree wisteria). Until the 1920's Burgers Park was a popular venue used for festivities, musical performances and social events. When Pretorians started moving away from the city centre to settle in other suburbs these activities stopped. Today the park is an important recreational area used by the many flat-dwellers of the city centre. Burgers Park is open daily, closes at sunset in winter and at 22:00 in summer.
VAN DYK, P. 2008. Explore Gauteng. 4th ed. Pretoria: Izimpilo C&S: Publishing Division.
Heydenrych, H & Swiegers, A. 1999. Discover Pretoria. Pretoria: Van Schaik
Gauteng.com. [Online] Available: http://www.gauteng.com/content.php?page=Burgers%20Park
AOL Travel. [Online] Available: http://travel.aol.com/travel-guide/africa/south-africa/pretoria/burgers-park-thingstodo-detail-210533/
All photographs taken by Tuness Prinsloo.