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Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children
Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng

COWIN, POWERS and ELLIS: Architect

Date:1923
Type:Hospital
Status:Extant
Street:13 Joubert Street Extension

 


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Coordinates:
26°11'14.17" S 28°02'25.99" E

(Building Dec 1921: 539; SAB Jul 1923:34 ill; SA Archt Sep 1940:221)

Other Names: TRANSVAAL MEMORIAL INSTITUTE: T.M.I.; Children's Memorial Institute

HISTORY:

The administration or central block has as its central feature the Memorial Hall on the ground floor. Here are placed the two altars on which stand scrolls with the names of the honoured dead of the Transvaal from World War 1. The walls are hung with Bronze Memorial Tablets to commemorate those who have endowed cots, or in whose memory cots were endowed and are lit by a glass skylight.

The Hospital was erected as a memorial to the men of the Transvaal who lost their lives in the First World War. On 8 December 1919 the memorial was proposed at a meeting in Johannesburg of the National Council of Women of South Africa. It was agreed that "a childrens' hospital be erected in Johannesburg as a thank-offering for the successful termination of the War". The National Council of Women collected the funds, and the City of Johannesburg gave a donation as well as the land for the development on a site covering eight acres.

An open competition was held for the design, won by the architects COWIN, POWERS and ELLIS. H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught laid the foundation stone on 10 December 1921, and opened the building on 29 October 1923.

The booklet issued to commemorate the opening tells of generous public donations raised despite hard economic times:

"The total cost of the Hospital Buildings and the beautiful Nurse's Home adjoining is £108,258. The cost of the equipment is in the neighbourhood of £13 000.

The story of raising so large a sum as that required to build this magnificent hospital is as interesting as a romance. It must be remembered that, when the Committee approached the public with a request for funds, Johannesburg, in particular and the Transvaal in general were passing through a period of great depression. There were many who prophesied a most disheartening response – urging that no matter how generous minded people might be the times were too bad to justify large contributions.

The prophets, as usual, were wrong, and people placed their appreciation of the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Transvaal before the set-back of the depression and contributed generously".

At the opening ceremony the Hospital was handed over to the Provincial Administration. It consisted of the memorial hall on the ground floor, six wards totaling 112 beds, two operating theatres, radiology and physiotherapy departments and a nurses’ home. Dr E.P. Baumann, who developed Paediatrics in Johannesburg as a study and a service in its own right, led the medical team.

From 1923 until the building of the Johannesburg Hospital in Parktown, TMI was the Children’s Hospital. The verandas had a special function. Children suffering from Perthes hip disorder, a congenital problem that was treated by putting them in plaster so they would grow correctly, were taken out onto the verandas to benefit from the sunshine.

By 1935 the Transvaal Memorial Hospital for children consisted of the Main Building with its memorial hall, a block to the east of it which was the Observation Ward, the Nurses Home which was south of it and a western wing of wards. Only 207 beds initially but it was extended in 1965. The new building was opened for Outpatients, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, a Central Sterilizing Department, a laboratory for SAIMR, and a Child and Family Unit.

In 1978-9 the Children's Hospital was incorporated as part of the main Johannesburg Hospital and the buildings were left vacant for a while as the new use was developed, that of accommodating special needs clinics and later the NGO's which provide fundraising and special support services to children in need.

This worked until 2005 as an outstanding example of public-private sector partnerships. In 2006, the specialized state clinics were transferred to the Johannesburg Hospital severing these close ties which was unfortunate, but apparently brought savings to the Public hospital, while leaving the NGO's to carry the load of maintaining buildings which the Gauteng Provincial Administration had failed to maintain.

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE:

The Transvaal Memorial Institute has not only served as a hospital. It was created as a World War 1 monument. The memory of those who fell in the war was honoured and while the sick children may not have seen or understood the Memorial Hall, their parents would have been aware of its significance.

It has a special value as a memorial initiated by women because instead of a public sculpture glorifying war they chose a much more ambitious and costly project, collecting a huge sum of money for an institution dedicated to the living and to the future. They had taken the words which appear on so many memorials very seriously. "We gave our tomorrows".

The copies of the Fifteenth Century Della Robbia plaques which adorn the main facade and which symbolize the dedication to child care remain significant, though the care has changed from a hospital to the many other needs of children in Johannesburg and Gauteng. They are not simply ornamental, but integral to the use and meaning of the buildings.

The Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children was founded by a voluntary organization, the National Council of Women, It has become TMI, housing 28 Non Governmental Organizations dedicated to child care. It is therefore symbol of the community's tradition of service to children.

The main building was placed at an angle to Joubert Street so that it faces the oncoming traffic coming the ridge, the Hospital Hill Ridge. Directly east stands the old Queen Victoria Hospital and above is the Fever Hospital. So it is an important part of the history of the state's provision of health care.

It is a finely proportioned and well-detailed red face-brick building with a special presence despite the tarmac and concrete guardhouse, which replace the original terraced garden.

TMI is an important element in an almost processional way leading to Constitution Hill to the east and the City of Johannesburg's Metro Centre to the west.

The building has a central memorial hall with bronze plaques and a roll of honour. It is however not fully reflective of the men and women of the Transvaal who volunteered to serve overseas and died in the War since only two distinctly African names appear on the Roll. It seems highly unlikely that only two black men from the Transvaal died on active service.

This shortcoming should not override the cultural value of the memorial, since it creates an opportunity to correct the position. Ideally, the missing names of black soldiers on the bronze should be added to ensure that the memorial becomes all inclusive.

INSCRIPTIONS:

On the foundation stone:

"THIS STONE WAS LAID BY

MAJOR GENERAL

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS

PRINCE ARTHUR OF CONNAUGHT K.C.

GOVERNOR GENERAL

OF THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA

10TH DECEMBER MCMXXI"

Inscriptions on the panels in the Memorial Hall include the following:

1.

THIS

HOSPITAL

WAS ERECTED BY VOLUNTARY SUBSCRIPTIONS

FROM THE

PEOPLE OF THE TRANSVAAL

AND PERPETUATES THE

GLORIOUS MEMORY

OF THOSE

SONS AND DAUGHTERS

OF

SOUTH AFRICA

WHO FELL IN ACTION OR DIED OF WOUNDS,

SICKNESS, OR FROM OTHER CAUSES,

IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY DURING THE

GREAT WAR

1914-1918

[The Afrikaans equivalent appears on a separate board]

2.

THE HEROES OF DELVILLE WOOD

"MEN AND WOMEN

OF

BRAKPAN

BENONI

JOHANNESBURG AND SUBURBS

KLERKSDORP AND DISTRICT

KRUGERSDORP

INANDA

CYFERFONTEIN AND ZANDFONTEIN

PRETORIA

PIETERSBURG AND DISTRICT

POTGIETERSRUST

RANDFONTEIN

RUSTENBERG

SPRINGS"

3.

"IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

OF

GIFTS OF GROUNDS

AND £12,500

FROM THE

JOHANNESBURG

MUNICIPALITY"

4.

IN

GRATEFUL MEMORY

OF

LOUISA BECK

(BORN GILBERT)

WHO GENEROUSLY

BEQUEATHED OVER

£13,000

TO THIS HOSPITAL

CURRENT USE

The buildings accommodate twenty-eight organisations serving vulnerable children and those with special needs. There is a crèche and nursery school for street children, clinics such as the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, ARV treatment for children from institutions (Big Shoes), a Dental Clinic which is used mainly for disabled children; a facility for Autistic children; Childline, the Sunshine Centre and head offices for many organizations where the doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators and caregivers are based.

A nursing Museum Collection is also stored there.

Current: Specialist services for children.

REFERENCES:

The Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children: its History. 1953. Kimberley: Northern Cape printers for the Argus Printing and Publishing Company. [Booklet reproduced for the 50th Anniversary of the Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children].

50th Anniversary Golden Book of the Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children = 50e Bestaanjaar Gedenkboek van die Transvaalse Gedenkhospitaal vir Kinders. 1973. Compiled and edited by Marie Beaconsfield. Kimberly: Northern Cape Printers Ltd.

The Johannesburg Hospital 1890-1965. Printed by Dagbreek

The Johannesburg Hospital 1890-1990 Lorna Schreiber, 1990.

The Golden City. Alistair Macmillan 1936

Personal communication with val Hammerton, Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust, November 2007

Personal communication with Jill Stacey (Director: Autism South Africa), 5 December 2007.

COMPILED BY: Flo Bird (Chairperson: Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust). 2008.

[Submitted by William MARTINSON]

This site was selected as one of the ten most endangered cultural heritage sites in South Africa in 2017. The campaign is an initiative of the Heritage Monitoring Project (HMP) to identify and raise awareness of cultural heritage sites that are at significant risk from natural or human made forces. The HMP and the judges made their selection from more than 35 heritage sites nominated by the public.

See: The Heritage Portal.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.