Edgemead, founded in 1972, is a Garden Cities development. Nestled between the Plattekloof Heritage site and Bothasig it’s a leafy suburb boasting a number of public open spaces. It has both a primary and high school making it a popular choice for families. There are also many sporting clubs to choose from. Edgemead has a comprehensive library with a book of interest for everyone and a small shopping centre conveniently located in the centre of the suburb.
Edgemead enjoys a long and interesting history. Lee Engeler was kind enough to share with us just “How it all began” as it was published in Edgemead News during 2005 and 2006.
For a brief overview you can also view the slide show which was presented at the 40th anniversary celebrations.
How It All Began by Lee Engeler
Did you ever wonder how Edgemead came into being? The Garden City movement was founded in England in the late 1800’s by Ebenezer Howard, who was later knighted for his achievements. His aim was to construct self-contained, planned towns with adequate space for schools, roads, sports facilities, churches, shops and the other requirements of improved living and social conditions, instead of the appalling overcrowding that arose from rapid industrialisation. A close South African friend of Howard’s, Richard Stuttaford, visited some of these projects and was so impressed that he detailed proposals for a housing association and, in 1919, the formation of a Garden Cities Trust was approved by the Union Parliament. 400 morgen of state land was donated, and a cash donation of £10,000 from Mr Stuttaford comprised the Trust’s original capital, with which South Africa’s first Garden City, Pinelands, was established.
In 1967 negotiations were concluded for the acquisition of a 263 ha. portion of the farm Plattekloof, lying at the foot of the Tygerberg Hills. Additional land was acquired, and Edgemead now occupies more than 340 ha. Considerable attention was given to physical environment, and use was made of cul-de-sacs, curved roads, footpaths, carefully sited informal open spaces and playgrounds to create an attractive village environment. To further enhance the “streetscape”, houses were linked by walls so that yards, washlines, refuse bins and other unsightly activities were not exposed to the street. It was interesting to note that these, and other aesthetic controls exercised by Garden Cities, were enthusiastically supported by residents.
The houses were built of the best quality materials and sited to maximise privacy and to enable future extension if desired. To reduce initial cost, one in three houses was provided with a garage, although provision was made for two garages on each plot. And, based on an analysis of size of SA families, and for cost reasons, there was a rationalisation in the number of two, three and four bedroom units built.
Garden Cities’ primary function has been to build homes, rather than houses, and it regards the provision of full social amenities as an essential element in engendering a feeling of well-being and belonging to the community. Surpluses from the sale or letting of commercial and other non-residential sites are used for improving the welfare of inhabitants of Garden Cities, and there is not a club, society or any other public amenity that has not received either a donation of land or financial help. To a very large extent, it is the generosity and the caring attitude of Garden Cities that has enabled us all to be “Proud to live in Edgemead”.
One of the first organisations to be formed in our suburb was the Edgemead Sports Association and, in 1974, a survey was carried out to find out which sports were most popular with residents. The rather contradictory result was that playing fields were highly rated but that the most favoured sports were badminton, table tennis and squash, and that a recreation hall was therefore the number one priority, closely followed by tennis courts.
Garden Cities prepared basic layout plans for an extensive sport and social complex to be developed over a period of years and asked the Sports Association to raise R6,000. One of the first fund-raising projects was the raffle of a colour TV set – an enthusiastically supported venture as TV was just beginning in South Africa.
As it happened, the first sports facilities to be completed by Garden Cities were two tennis courts, on which the first games were played by Tennis Club members early in 1976; and two playing fields were ready for use by the end of that year, prompting the formation of the soccer club and attempts to start a cricket club.
The eagerly-awaited hall was completed in 1977 at a cost of R32,500 – R12,000 from Garden Cities, R7,500 from Goodwood Municipality, and R8,000 from the Sports Association, plus a R5,000 interest-free loan from Garden Cities, repayable by the Sports Association.
By then, a tennis clubhouse had also been built and an additional court; the Soccer Club was very active; Edgemead Karate-Do had begun; and both Badminton and Table Tennis clubs were formed, though the latter was unfortunately rather short-lived.
It was a few years later that Edgemead Bowling Club was started, and the first grass was planted on the greens in 1982. Then followed a fourth tennis court, a third football field and, at last, the founding of the Cricket Club.
Many of the clubs worked very hard at fund-raising to provide the necessary facilities and to contribute towards the building of their own clubhouses, and they received overwhelming encouragement and financial support from the community of Edgemead.
In a very short time, all our clubs were producing sportsmen and women of extremely high calibre, and they have gone from strength to strength over the years. Thanks must go to the members of the first Sports Association Committee, led by Chairman Terry Healy, whose efforts in those early years have led to sports facilities of which the Edgemead community can be justly proud.
Shortly after the first residents moved to Edgemead in 1972, a group met to discuss the need for a school. It took six long years of planning and meetings by the then newly-formed Edgemead Residents’ Association in support of this parent group, before the Dept. of Education rented six houses in Lombard Way from Garden Cities, and 93 pupils enrolled at Edgemead Preparatory School in January 1979. The following year the teaching staff doubled from four to eight, the pupils to 185, and additional houses were made available, as well as pre-fabricated classrooms and a caravan.
A tender offer of R2,2 million was accepted, and the newly-constructed school building was officially opened at the beginning of 1983. There were soon 660 pupils, 29 staff and, by 1987, EPS was the largest English medium primary school in the Peninsula, with 850 pupils and 37 staff.
Because of its continued rapid growth, a further R1million was allocated and 10 additional classrooms built in 1991. There was a devastating fire in 1997, arson was suspected, but the SAPS never found the culprits. However, turning a tragedy into a triumph, a modern computer centre was incorporated into the rebuilding.
Principal Fred van Vuuren reports that this year the school has a total enrolment of 1216 pupils and a staff complement (teaching and support) of 70, and Edgemead Primary continues to be one of the leading Primary Schools in Cape Town. Since there is no further residential building in Edgemead, the school is slowly being able to accommodate more children from outside the area, which has resulted in EPS becoming a truly cosmopolitan primary school.
As part of Garden Cities’ 1987 celebrations for the 2000th completed house, a competition was held and the following were some of the EPS entries on the theme “Why I like living in Edgemead”:
We have a very nice school. It is the biggest school in the Cape Province. In the morning all the birds are sining all the shrubs are covered in dew. The grass is bright green in the morning.
I think the people who have the privilege to live in the little town Edgemead are very lucky indeed.
There are lots of places where kids can have races, there are benches for old folks where they can sit and tell jokes.
Edgemead the edge of the meadow
Not like a city with dead cold streets
but lots of houses, all in a row
And pretty flowers and trees, wherever you go.
When Margaret Rasmussen attended Edgemead Primary’s 25th Anniversary celebrations last year, the principal, Mr Fred van Vuuren, reminded her of the role she had played in the establishment of Edgemead’s Pre-Primary School Association, of which she had been the first Chairman. Although now 28 years ago, Margaret recalls that 14 people met in March 1977 to discuss the need for a pre-primary facility for the community and, at a public meeting held in Edgemead Garage later that year, the Association was formed. The nearest pre-primary was in Milnerton, and Margaret was keen to have something nearer for her sons to attend.
One of the first priorities, in order to register for a subsidy from the Department of Education, was to draw up a constitution, which was done using another pre-primary school’s constitution as a guide, as well as with guidance from Garden Cities and assistance from Cyril Tessendorf and Richard Ferguson.
Next most important was fund-raising, and a fund-raising committee was formed, cake sales were held, a film premiere organised, and stalls manned at a fête in order to buy tables, chairs and equipment.
One of the first priorities, in order to register for a subsidy from the Department of Education, was to draw up a constitution, which was done using another pre-primary school’s constitution as a guide, as well as with guidance from Garden Cities and assistance from Cyril Tessendorf and Richard Ferguson. Next most important was fund-raising, and a fund-raising committee was formed, cake sales were held, a film premiere organised, and stalls manned at a fête in order to buy tables, chairs and equipment.
The waiting list of names grew apace, permission was given for use of the minor hall, the sports association assisted by planting grass for the playground and, in 1978, 60 excited little children started pre-primary classes in Edgemead.
Although a per capita subsidy was granted, the authorities at that time considered pre-primary education as non-essential and, in any event, would not pay teachers’ salary subsidies until a permanent building existed. Fund-raising began in earnest, including novel schemes such as plate-smashing and a “Big Knit” competition. Between Margaret’s involvement in this sphere, and husband Neville’s commitment to the newly-formed Scout Group, the Rasmussens can remember periods when they were “like ships that passed in the night” – one leaving for a meeting as the other returned from one. There were even occasions when their meetings coincided, and they had to get in babysitters!
Two years later, Garden Cities donated a plot worth R14,000 on which to build a school, assisted with the plans, matched the funds raised on a Rand-for-Rand basis, and Edgemead Pre-Primary was officially opened in 1981, having cost in the region of R60,000.
A survey done shortly thereafter produced the astonishing result that Edgemead had more babies than any other suburb in South Africa at 2,7 per family, where the national average was 2,2. Needless to say, a further classroom soon had to be provided, enabling the school to accommodate 89 children and, when the names on the waiting list topped 500, planning began for a second pre-primary in Denison Way, although this was opened only in 1990.
Margaret says that the benefits that the people of Edgemead now enjoy are due to hard work by many people over the years. The establishment of that first school was very much a team effort by a fine group of residents. Nearly 30 years after those first classes in the minor hall, many of the children now attending Edgemead Pre-Primaries may well belong to some of the very first pre-schoolers themselves. Many proud grandparents will groan as they think back to all the hard work that was involved…and smile contentedly as they see their grandchildren reaping the rewards of those labours.
Garden Cities started planning for the shopping centre as early as 1974, with project architect Louis Karol – the same company that is now jointly responsible for the design of the Cape Town stadium for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
In 1979 a questionnaire was sent out to 844 Edgemead residents, asking for their preferences. A very high response of 73% was received (where normally one can count on only 30-40%) and the top nine listed were:
- 90% Doctor
- 82% Chemist
- 79% Supermarket
- 75% Post Office
- 72% Dentist
- 62% Superette
- 56% Butcher
- 52% Bank
- 43% Building Society
At that time, 69% of Edgemead residents shopped in Milnerton and 11% in Goodwood.
Between 1967 and 1978, Garden Cities had received 57 applications for space in the shopping centre, but only ten could be accommodated in the 1300 sq.m available! The successful applicants were three building societies – SA Perm, NBS and UBS; Post Office, Scissors Hair Salon, Chatterbox gift shop & coffee bar, Edgemead Pharmacy, Edgemead Paint & Hardware, a Butchery, and a 7-Eleven; and Dr Solomon, and dentist Dr Bos were allocated the two offices.
Construction commenced in May 1980, the centre cost some R500,000 to build, and the average rental was thenR4,96 per sq.m.
Five more shops opened in 1984 – a Bakery/Deli, Laundrette, Video Shop, Clothing shop, and Curtain Boutique.
Over the next few years the doctors’ surgery was enlarged, the parking area extended to link with the newly-built BP garage, 7-Eleven took over the bakery, and the first ATM was installed in 1989.
In 1993, Garden Cities built new offices on the east side of the Shopping Centre parking area, and moved their Head Office from Pinelands to Edgemead. A few years later heralded the advent of Spar as anchor tenant and, in 1999, an agreement was signed with the Taxi Associations for a rank at the centre.
A major upgrade took place in 2000 and amongst the changes were enlargements to the pharmacy and to the laundry, inside which a book exchange opened. Another restaurant was added, as well as a travel agent, hot dog café, tuck shop, flower shop, and haberdashery. The following year saw Spar’s expansion to a SuperSpar, shortly followed by a revamp and upgrade of the parking area.
As the suburb has grown, so has Edgemead Shopping Centre, keeping pace with the demands of the community and surrounds. Today, 25 years after the first shops were built, there are 800 post office boxes, 7 public phones, and 284 parking bays. The 30 tenants range from the large supermarket and pharmacy, through restaurants, to little speciality stores, but the common thread that binds them all is the friendly, personal service which always makes it such a pleasure to shop at Edgemead Shopping Centre.
Through The 80’s
By 1980, eight years after the sales of the first houses in Edgemead, the new Garden Cities suburb was growing apace, and the first shops at the shopping centre were opened in 1981. In 1982, Edgemead was officially ten years old and well over 1000 homes had been constructed.
1982 saw the first Youth Group in Edgemead, at St. Michael’s Church, as well as the founding of the local senior citizens’ Sixty-Plus Club by Elisabeth Molenaar. No men were initially brave enough to join, but the original membership of 11 soon grew, and the interesting activities and fun outings swelled numbers to close to 70 within four years – both women and men and, in 1988, Garden Cities generously made available two houses in Anne Barnard Way for use as a clubhouse. Another notable event of 1982 was the start of Edgemead Garden Club by Magdalene Smith.
In 1983 Rob Pollitt was elected to the Goodwood Municipal Council as Ward 4 representative for Edgemead and Monte Vista, and we had direct Council representation for the first time. Edgemead’s first school, Edgemead Primary, opened in 1984, and the suburb’s “half-way mark” was reached the following year with the completion of the 1700th house. Annual construction was then some 170 homes, but an astonishing 1400 families were on the daily-growing waiting list!
By 1986 there were between 8000 and 9000 residents, and a survey produced the following results: 32,9% of families have two children; 46,5% of the children are under six years old; 56,8% of households have two cars; 60,1% of residents use the shopping centre.
Although Edgemead High School was officially opened only the following year, the school started in temporary accommodation in Pinelands. And ERA’s official coat of arms was registered with State Heraldry (see front cover of Edgemead News).
In 1987 Edgemead celebrated its 15th birthday, the completion of the 2000th house, and a start was made on the 650-house development to the west of the suburb.
On the resignation of Rob Pollitt, Skead Theunissen was elected as Edgemead’s Councillor in 1989, and this was also when initial discussions began for a community centre and library for Edgemead.
All in all, this was an eventful decade in the history of our suburb.
Although a Garden Cities’ survey in 1984 showed that almost 50% of the children in Edgemead were under six years of age, there were nevertheless sufficient older ones to warrant a high school. The authorities said that no funds were available, but the ERA was not prepared to accept this without putting up a fight. Lots of hard work, tenacity and determination were needed but, under the capable chairmanship of Steve Hayward, the committees of Edgemead and Monte Vista RA’s finally met with the Provincial Administrator, successfully convinced him of the necessity, and R4,2 million was budgeted for a high school in Edgemead.
Edgemead was exceptionally fortunate in the appointment of the highly qualified Dr Malcolm Venter as principal and he, in turn, was pleased to see how excited his staff of 10 teachers was “at the privilege of being able to set up a new school”. It was on 21 January 1986 that the first busload of some 70 eager pupils arrived at the Oude Molen Primary School in Pinelands, where they were to be temporarily housed until the new building was completed and, in January of the following year, 210 Std. 6 and 7 pupils took their places in the newly-constructed Edgemead High School building. It was painted in a rather lurid colour, described by pupils with comments varying from “Big, orange and modern”, down to a simple “Wow!” EHS also had the advantage of being the last school to be built which included a school hall and its own sports fields.
1990 saw the first ever EHS Matric Dance. Run on a shoestring budget, it turned out to be a roaring success, in part due to the wonderful ‘Fantasia’ theme decorations.
During the 20 years of Dr Venter’s excellent leadership, EHS has grown into one of the most sought-after high schools in Cape Town due to its outstanding academic results. From the initial enrolment of 210, it now has almost 1300 pupils, a total staff complement of 76, science equipment, two IT centres, and many sports facilities.