Street names reflect history 14 – V

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Forgotten Heroes, People, Street names | 0 comments

A street not named after a rector and one named after another rector, one named after a musician, the town furrow and a battle are included in these street names.

Van Alphen Street (Baillie Park)
was named after one of the early teachers of Potchefstroom. JN van Alphen was appointed on 8 August 1871 as Dutch teacher. He does not appear to have been very popular and it is noted in Potchefstroom 1838 to 1938 that more pupils attended the classes of the English teacher than his classes. By 1876 a new district school was created and he was kept as assistant teacher, but another teacher was appointed as headmaster. He served until about 1879 and was later appointed as postmaster general of the ZAR.

JN van Alphen was a teacher in Potchefstroom during the 1870s. Photo: Potchefstroom 1838-1938

Music man

Van der Bent Street (Central)
was named after Mr MM (Fanie) van der Bent (1887-1968), a prominent music teacher. His house stood on the plot of land between Van der Bent Street and Potgieter Street (Nelson Mandela).

Marthinus Meiring van der Bent was born in Beaufort West. He received a scholarship to study at the University of Cape Town which allowed him to study piano an organ at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, UK.

He became an Associate of the RCM and later a Member of the Royal Society of Teachers. He completed his studies after three years and was offered a post as inspector in the UK.

Urged by his mother, he returned to South Africa. He founded a music school in Beaufort West where he also founded a brass ensemble. Three years later he moved to Potchefstroom with his new wife, Florence (néé Wimmer) and arrived here in 1914. Here the couple founded the Potchefstroom College of Music. The College was situated on the northern side of Potgieter Street, just west of the corner plot where Greyling Street (OR Tambo) crosses Potgieter Street. Currently Nimes Flats are situated on the plot, with the entrance around the corner in Van der Bent Street. The house might have been the former home of the Scorgie family. Read my article.

This photo shows the former College of Music founded by the Van der Bents, which was in Potgieter Street (Nelson Mandela). It appeared in Wapad on 14 August 1981 which also announced that it was soon to be demolished to make way for a large block of flats. The university, who acquired the property in 1949 when it bought the College of Music, sold it in 1980 for R35 000.

He also accepted the post as organist for the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) Potchefstroom (Moedergemeente), where he served for 50 years. His wife was the organist for the DRC, Potchefstroom Mooirivier for many decades.

The building of the DRC Potchefstroom Moedergemeente as it appeared in 1950 at the time Fanie van der Bent was the organist of the church. Photo: DRC Potchefstroom Moedergemeente.

The building of the DRC Potchefstroom Moedergemeente as it appeared in 1950 at the time Fanie van der Bent was the organist of the church. Photo: DRC Potchefstroom Moedergemeente.

The music school of the Van der Bents grew to one of the most important musical institutions in the Western Transvaal. Their building in Potgieter Street (Nelson Mandela) was bought by the Potchefstroom University College in 1949 and it is regarded as the predecessor of the Conservatory of the Potchefstroom University.

After much controversy Mr Van der Bent was appointed as music teacher at the Potchefstroom High School for Girls. This was even debated in the Johannesburg Star who was of the opinion that the current teacher, the English speaking Mrs Wood, was disregarded for an Afrikaans speaking teacher (Van der Bent). The matter had to be resolved by the director of Education who appointed both with the directive that parents can choose who they want as music teacher for their daughters.

Van der Bent founded a choral society in 1914, which gave its first concert the same year. In 1915 a brass ensemble was founded, which existed until 1918. Amongst others it gave performances in Alexandra Park on Sunday afternoons.

He also founded the Potchefstroom Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society in 1918. In 1921 they performed Miss Hook of Holland by Paul Rubens and in 1923, The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. Sporadic concerts of operettas and cantatas followed under the direction of Van der Bent until The Gondoliers in 1949.

In this year he retired at the Potchefstroom Teachers Training College, where he taught from 1939. He became a businessman and passed away in 1968. Mrs Florence van der Bent passed away less than a year after her husband in 1969 at the age of 84 years.

Senex, columnist of the Herald, wrote in 1975 that he was a “public spirited man” who served as a town councillor. “He was on a number of occasions president and captain of the golf club, was a champion golfer for some years; was ‘father’ of the tennis courts and bowling green at the Country Club. Those who knew Fanie van der Bent would never take umbrage at his often brusque and apparently harsh retorts for, by nature, he was an inveterate humourist and a most likeable person.”

Mr Fanie van der Bent (right) with Rev GW Worst and Mr HC du Raan. This photo was taken when the three of them served the DRC Potchefstroom for a total of 112 years. Rev Worst served for 25 years as minister to the congregation, Mr Du Raan as church warden for 36 years and Mr Van der Bent as organist for more than half a century from 1914 to 1965. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Van Eck (Baillie Park)
was named after J van Eck, one of the earlier advocates of Potchefstroom. In 1882 he was a member of the school board. Ernst Jenkins mentioned in Potchefstroom 1838-1938: “Gentlemen of the side-bar were non-existent but one Advocate Van Eck made a living by drawing up the more important legal documents. These had, of course, to go to Pretoria for scrutinising and confirmation by the Registrar of Deeds.”

Van Graan Street (Oewersig)
was named after Mr Jan van Graan, whose home was situated in the area near the North Bridge. According to Senex in 1975, the defunct water-mill “on the right bank” of the Mooi Rivier was owned by Mr Van Graan and was locally known as “Van Graan se meule”.

Van Heerden Street (Heilige Akker)
Senex is of the opinion that the street might have been named after Prof JAS van Heerden, popularly known as “Jas” who was the first rector of the Potchefstroom Teachers Training College, then known as the “Normaal College”. The College, colloquially known by the abbreviation of its Afrikaans name, POK, was founded in 1919 on the grounds of the Potchefstroom High School for Boys, where it was housed in wood and corrugated iron buildings. It was transferred to the military cantonments in 1920. In 1923 the College moved to the President Street campus, where it was again housed in corrugated iron buildings. Prof Van Heerden was rector until 1934. The first permanent building on the campus, a ladies’ residence, was built between Hoffman Street and President Street and was named after him. Van Heerden Huis was officially opened on 12 October 1929. Currently it is the men’s residence Caput (B1) on the NWU campus.

Prof JAS van Heerden was rector of POK from 1919 when it was founded, until 1934. Photo: POK 50 Jaar

Van Rooy Street (Oewersig)
was named after Prof DJ van Rooy (1890-1954), mayor from 14 March 1964 to 19 November 1964 when he passed away at the age of 68. It was not named after Prof Joon van Rooy, rector of the PU from 1951 to 1953.

Prof Dirk van Rooy wearing the mayoral chain and speaking at a tea party held at in Cachet Park. Photo: NWU Records, Archive and Museum

Piet van der Schyff wrote in Sages en Legendes 2 that Dirk Jan van Rooy was the grandson of Rev Dirk Postma, the founder of the Reformed Church.

He received a BA degree from the Grey University College (later the University of the Free State) in 1914 with main subjects Mathematics and Physics. In 1915 he was appointed as teacher at the Potchefstroom Gimnasium at the tender age of 19. In 1923, after Prof APC Duvenhage after whom Duvenhage Street was named (see my article) had passed away, he was appointed as senior lecturer at the PUC and promoted to professor in 1928. He received the doctorate in Mathematics from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam cum laude in 1935. A former student of him later said that the grasp of Mathematics came noticeably natural to him and he was passionate about the subject.

Prof (Dirk) DJ van Rooy Photo: NWU Records, Archives and Museum

Under his hand the department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics came to full development. At one time there were seventeen of his former students who taught at tertiary institutions. Within the PUC he was appointed to many Council and Senate commissions. He twice served as dean of Natural Sciences (1929-1930 and 1951-1952) and was also dean of Arts from 1939-1940.

The annual Mathematics Olympiad for scholars, was his brainchild. It was initially known as the Dirk van Rooy Mathematics Olympiad.

His involvement in the town council lent a voice to the issues concerning the PUC in these circles.

Today each university residence has its own “koshuisvader” (an adult staff member, mostly a lecturer, appointed to serve as overseer to the students in the residence). At the time when Dirk van Rooy was koshuisvader at the PUC only one such koshuisvader oversaw all the students living in residences.

He was quick in response to student activities which bordered on the naughty and the unlawful. With the benefit of hindsight some students who got caught, later realised that he was willing to give them a second chance and sometimes even paid for damages out of his own pocket.

He believed in the motto that a healthy body houses a healthy spirit. While still a student in Bloemfontein, he played rugby for the first team of the GUC. In 1920 he captained the Theos (first rugby team of the PUC). Later he played an important role in the founding and establishment of the Western Transvaal Rugby Union.

The University of Pretoria was to confer an honorary doctorate to him, but he died before he could receive it in person. It was accepted by his widow.

In February 1949 a part of the Main Building of the PUC was devastated in a fire. In Sages en Legendes 2 Piet van der Schyff noted about this photo that Dirk van Rooy was able to use his abilities as a former rugby fullback to sidestep fallen debris during the fire. Photo: NWU Records, Archives and Museum

Named after the town furrow

Voor Street (Bult West)
According to Senex Fritz Kan, who wrote a now lost article about the origin of street names that was published in the Potchefstroom Herald in 1932, this street was so named because of its proximity to the main water furrow of the town that was in the vicinity. “Voor” is thus not referring to “front” but to “furrow”. Potchefstroom lost its iconic water furrows in 1972.

A 1906 map of Potchefstroom reveals that the furrow ran directly next to the corner of Voor and Eleazer Streets. Erven to the north of this junction were probably laid out after the furrow was closed in 1972.

This map from 1906 shows how near Voor Street was to the town furrow of Potchefstroom. The map is in possession of the Potchefstroom Museum.

Out of this main furrow smaller street furrows flowed down into the town. Only some of these street furrows are still visible on pavements on the Bult. Although the main furrow had been filled up, railings of bridges over the furrow are still in place in Smit Street south of the Potchefstroom High School for Girls and between the Kenneth McArthur Stadium and Olen Park.

Before the town of Potchefstroom relocated from Oudedorp to the site where Potchefstroom is now, a town furrow was surveyed and had to be dug out. This was done in 1841 by Gert Kruger who received the farm on which the first settlement of the Voortrekkers at Oudedorp was situated as payment. The farm was known as Koloniesplaas.

Kruger’s furrow started just north of the northernmost part of the Potchefstroom Dam. A weir was built so that the water level could rise high enough for the water to flow into the furrow. The Dam itself was only built in 1908. The furrow passed through the Bult, west of Boys High to Maherry Street, where it followed the street back into the Mooi River.

By 1861 this furrow did not deliver sufficient water to the town and there were even erven above the furrow that could not receive water. A larger furrow was necessary.

JC Schutte received the tender to dig the new larger furrow. It was 0.5 m deep and 1,6 m wide. It took him four months to complete the furrow for which he received £60, then regarded as a large amount.

The new furrow flowed through what later became the west campus of the NWU, hence the name of the men’s residence “Over-de-Voor” (over the furrow) and was a scene for much student jollities.

Students from the 1950s having fun in the town furrow just upstream from where Voor Street was laid out. Photo: NWU Records, Archives & Museum.

Van Wyk Street (Central)
was named after Mr A van Wyk, who provided some of the land on which this street was laid out.

Van Zyl Lane (Central)
was named after Mr JH van Zyl, for many years town clerk of Potchefstroom. According to Senex Mr van Zyl’s double-storeyed home was the first of its kind in Tom Street (Steve Biko). The address is, however, unknown.

Street named after local battle

Vegkoppie Street (Dassierand)
was named after the nearby hill. It was named Vegkoppie (Fight Hill) after the Civil War of 1862 between Paul Kruger (later president) and Stefanus Schoeman. The battle at Vegkoppie was the decisive encounter in this war and one of Schoeman’s men died and seven were wounded in this battle. Kruger suffered no losses.

This photo of “Vegkoppie” the hill behind Dassierand, appeared in the Potchefstroom Herald on 2 September 1975 accompanying an article on the civil war between Schoeman and Kruger.

Venter Street was named after a speculator who lived in Kruger Street (Beyers Naudé), across from Boys High. TC de Klerk is of the opinion that the street was named after Mr Andries Venter a well-known local financier and the father-in-law of a Mr Martin Schoeman.

Vickers Street (Military Base)
As all the streets in the Military Base, this street was named after objects and concepts familiar in a military context. Vickers Street was named after the Vickers machine gun. It is a water cooled .303 (7.7 mm) machine gun, which typically required a six- to eight-man team to operate: one fired, one fed the ammunition, the rest helped to carry the weapon, its ammunition, and spare parts. It was developed around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century and saw action in many wars. It is regarded as one of the best guns ever made.

Viljoen Street (South)
was named after SP Viljoen, who was a deacon in the Hervormde Church. He resided on the farm Witkop in Potchefstroom district near Parys, where he passed away at the age of 73 years. This is according to Rev Johannes Dreyer in a letter to the city council on 13 October 1953 to recommend that a street be named after him.

Viney Street (Baillie Park)
was named after a family who resided at Vyfhoek in the area where the suburb was later laid out. “Wanderer”, a columnist in the “News” wrote on 4 August 1972 about the wedding of Mr Charles FB Viney, a lieutenant in the Imperial Yeomanry. This took place on 7 January 1903 and was reported in the Potchefstroom Budget on 10 January 1903. At the time of his marriage Charles Viney was the assistant superintendent of the local Repatriation Department. His bride was Constance Read, the daughter of a well-known resident of Potchefstroom. The 1903 report described the bride’s dress as “an exquisite dress of white with chiffon with orange blossoms, wreath and veil.” Charles Viney passed away in September 1952 at the age of 77. Shortly after Mrs Viney moved to town from Vyfhoek where the family lived since their marriage in 1903. She passed away on 19 August 1972, a few weeks after the column appeared. She was 88 years old.

Mrs Constance Viney. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Von Pittius Street (Central)
was named after a Mr Gey von Pittius.

Vorster Street (South)
was named after a long-time resident of the town.

Vyncke Street (Kanonnierspark)
was named after Dr Julien Vyncke, who was the superintendent of the nearby Witrand Hospital from 1962 till about 1974. Dr Vyncke, a Belgian, came to South Africa on leave during the Second World War and met his future wife, then Miss AJM (Anna) Steenkamp, while she was a nurse at the Johannesburg General Hospital.

They married after the war and lived in the Belgian Congo for 22 years, where he taught at the universities of the Congo and Ruanda-Burundi. After independence of the Belgian Congo in 1960 they moved back to Belgium. He then accepted a teaching position at the University of Katanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1962 they came to Potchefstroom after he had accepted the post as superintendent at Witrand.

Dr Vyncke was in Belgium when his wife passed away from a stroke on 12 September 1976, according to her obituary in the Potchefstroom Herald on 17 September 1976. She was sixty years old. Dr Vyncke passed away on 12 March 1989 in Klerksdorp after a long illness. He was 76 years old.

Dr Julien Vyncke. Photo: Potchefstroom Herald

The original source of and inspiration for these articles is a series of 13 columns written by “Senex” for the Potchefstroom Herald on the origins of the street names of Potchefstroom, published from 17 December 1974 to 24 June 1975. Senex was the pseudonym of Mr Jurgens Smith, a long-time history teacher at the Potchefstroom High School for Boys. Smith’s primary source of information was the research of Mr TC de Klerk, who studied the origins of the street names of Potchefstroom to write a master’s dissertation in the 1960s. He sadly passed away before completing his studies. Some of De Klerk’s research is kept in the Archives of the Potchefstroom Museum, which otherwise also provided a rich source of information.

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