Street Names

The Street Naming Committee elected by the Claremont Municipal Council met for the first time on 9.9.1904 and the area now known as Harfield was the first part of Claremont that they considered for naming. Existing named north-south streets were First, Second, Third and Rosmead Avenues and west-east streets were Lansdowne and Bell Roads and Sussex Street.

First Avenue had originally been named Buchanan Road on 14.7.1896 after Judge (Sir) John Buchanan who had built his house “Clareinch” on a large plot between First and Second Avenue, the present site of the Clareinch post-office and Telkom building. In naming it such, the Public Works Committee were merely endorsing the popular name but in 1901, Sir Buchanan wrote to the Municipal Clerk requesting that the name of the street be changed as he did not wish to have his name associated with the “class of houses which have been allowed to be erected along the road” (45) – i.e. the simple cottages erected by the coloured community. He was particularly incensed when trying criminals for serious offences to have it reported that they lived in Buchanan Road! The street was duly renamed First Avenue, which presupposed that there would be more avenues and Second and Third Avenues were accordingly named eighteen days later. Second Avenue had been known as St Mathew’s Road (named 29.6.1893) as it ran past St Mathew’s Anglican Church while Third Avenue was formerly Glastonbury Road (8.9.1898), presumably after the house “Glastonbury” which stood between Rosmead Avenue and the present Glastonbury Road in Kenilworth. Rosmead Avenue was named on 14.12.1896 and had been previously (and still frequently later) known as “the 100ft Road”. It was named after the Governor of the Cape of the time, Sir Hercules Robinson who had in 1896 become Lord Rosmead.

Lansdowne Road was named on 6.11.1883 but its’ origins remain elusive and open to speculation. It existed before the development of Lansdowne so the suburb may have been named after the road, rather than vice versa. It may also have been named after the Lansdowne Hotel, which was already marked on the 1885 map, and may well have been a landmark on the sparsely populated Claremont Flats but which is also thought to have been known by a previous name which may have been changed to the Lansdowne Hotel following the naming of the road.

Bell Road was not named formally but had been in existence since 1897. The Street Naming Committee of 9.9.1904 assumed that it had been named and used it as a reference point – “the road off St. Mathew’s Road (Second Avenue) constructed by Mr. Anthony Bell.” Bell was a bachelor “of independent means” and owned twelve properties in the area in 1896. (46)

Sussex Street had been named on 14.12.1896 after a county in England and was to set the theme for the naming of many other streets in the area after other English county’s and towns in 1904, reflecting connections to a British cultural heritage. These included; Bedford (English county), Cambridge (English city & county), Cornwall (English county), Devon (English county), Dorset (English county), Durham (English city & county), Gloucester (English city & county), Hereford (English city & county), Lancaster (English town), Leicester (English city & county), Lincoln (English city & county), Norfolk (English county), Oxford (English city & county), Pembroke (Welsh town and former county), Rutland (former English county), Somerset (English county), Stafford (English city & county), Suffolk (English county), Surrey (English County – was formerly called Ahrends Road), Sutherland (former Scottish county) and York Streets (English city & county) and Chichester (English town), Hampstead (Suburb of London – was formerly called Cotton Street) and Worcester Roads (English city and former county). The naming committee had apparently overlooked the fact that there was an existing Lincoln Road off Lansdowne Road, Cambridge Road in central Claremont and Norfolk Street in Newlands, much to the confusion of subsequent travelers. (47) In addition, many years later, the roads of the housing development in Sherwood Park in Philippi where some of the Claremont residents were moved to under Apartheid were subsequently all given similar English county names. (48)

With regards to the other streets, Albert (1928) and Edward (1919) Streets were apparently named in honour of Albert Edward, at that time, King Edward VII, formerly the Prince of Whales. Prince’s Street running parallel to these had been named in 1904 at the request of Mrs. Prince after her husband George Prince, a surveyor who lived at “Victoria House” on the site of Corfu flats. Grassfield Road (named 25.9.1911) was formerly known as Rosmead Row – the site of Rosmead Central Primary School was a grassy field (part of the block still is). Harvey Road was also named in 1904, apparently after a local resident, Mrs. L Harvey who lived in Glastonbury Road (Third Avenue). “Leraar” means minister (of religion) or teacher and Leraarstraat leads into the grounds of Livingstone High School which might suggest that it was an entrance used by teachers. Alternatively, the street also runs next to a church – previously the Dutch Reformed Mission of Claremont (which was sold to the Church of the Nazarenes in 1975 after the coloured congregation was forced to move away under the Group Area Act) and could refer to the Minster there. McBride’s Lane was named on 8.9.1908, most probably after J McBride who owned a shop in Second Avenue – presumably the shop was on the corner of McBride’s Lane. Mathew Road appears in the street directory for 1930 and was apparently named after Frank Carlton Mathew who lived at “Moorlands” in Rosmead Avenue, next to Mathew Road. He was a director of Heynes Mathew Ltd, “Wholesale and Manufacturing Chemists” and served as a municipal councilor for one year (1903 – 1904) Carlton Road (his second name) leads off Rosmead Avenue, directly opposite to where his house, “Moorlands”, stood. (49)

The buildings on the corner of Third Avenue and Peffers Street (Abbot’s College Residence) were formerly the Janet Bourhill Institute. In the 1920’s, Miss Bourhill envisaged a properly designed building in Claremont from which to continue to promote the Christian, social and educational work which she had begun amongst the “non-European” community in Claremont, along with Mary Atlee (sister of Clement Attlee, later British Prime Minister). After Janet Bourhill’s death in 1933, Miss Attlee continued to raise funds for a community centre and Clarendon Hall at No. 77 Third Avenue and the Janet Bourhill Institute at No. 79 were eventually built in 1944. General George Peffers, a Scottish bachelor was a friend of Miss Bourhill and Miss Attlee and bequeathed more than £30 000 to the Institute. Thus Peffers Street was named in his honour. Wesley Street was named on 9.9.1904 as it led to the “Wesleyan Chapel” in Second Avenue, now called the Kenilworth Methodist Church – John Wesley was the founder of Methodism.

John Harfield Tredgold
(John Harfield Tredgold, after whom "Harfield Cottage" & subsequently Harfield Road & Village were named)

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