The little town of Deneysville exists because of the Vaaldam. Its position is: 26.8909°S, 28.0972°E and 1513m
The initiator for the establishment of a settlement was the construction of the Vaal Dam. I make it easy for myself and just quote verbatim from Ref 1: Deneysville, O.F.S. Village and holiday resort on the Vaal Dam in the Sasolburg district, established by Dr, Hjalmar Reitz and named after his brother, Col.Deneys Reitz, who was Minister of Lands when the dam was build. Deneysville was founded in 1936 by Deneysville Estates Ltd. on parts of the farms Witpoort and Wilhelmina. The company 'Deneysville Estates Ltd' was run by the Greinmann brothers to lay out the town and to sell properties. Later Chase and Sons took over as estate agents, that was in 1948. The first elected Village Management Board was installed in 1948. It became a municipality in 1974.
Development of the town appears to have been slow, struggling to sell the empty stands. I do remember that as a young man I was made an offer to buy a stand in Deneysville at a cost of R200, which was my monthly salary at the time, thus very cheap.
In the middle of the town is a park, left mostly in its natural state. In it are the Khoi ruins, of previous inhabitants. Reading the information table it becomes a bit confusing who actually lived here. First were the Khoi-Khoi, which were replaced by the Tswanas, who were pushed north by Chaka Zulu. The empty huts were than taken over by the Khoi-Khoi again.
Some of the tools used by these pre-historic people are on display at the local library, which includes some from the iron age. Iron smelting was practised here.
The picture on the right shows some strange markings on one of the rocks. I am not sure what it is, either man made or some fossil.
Dam construction started in 1934 and completion was December 1938. The cost, excluding expropriation of land was £1.7 million, of which more than half was contributed by the Rand Water Board. Capacity was increased first in 1954 by raising the wall by 6.1m and again in 1985 by an additional 3.05m.
The prime purpose of the dam was to supply water to the ever growing metropolitan areas of the Witwatersrand.
There is a little museum inside the wall, one has to walk down a number of flights of stairs to get to it. It contains a display of the technical aspects of the dam, a large number of photographs from the construction time and some of the history. The picture of the dam wall under construction is from there.
Yes, Deneysville had an airport at one time, it was the landing place of the BOAC flying boats. The flying boat service from England to South Africa was first offered in 1938, it was mostly to deliver mail to and from South Africa. I can't pick up many details of the time before the war. During the war the air port was closed for civilian use. The facilities were used for training in that time. Flying boat services started up again after the war and received a major boost with the introduction of the BOAC scheduled service in 1948.
The inaugural flight was on the 4 May 1948, taking off from Southampton and stopping over at Augusta (Italy), Alexandria (Egypt), Khartoum (Sudan), Lake Victoria and Victoria Falls. A journey of 4½ days. At that time land based aircraft were already faster, this mode of travel was offered mainly to the leisure and adventure traveler. Which was possibly also the reason why it only lasted until November 1950, at which time the service was discontinued and the air port de-registered.
The BOAC terminal building was later demolished, only the foundations remain. And those are only visible at very low dam level. That is because of the dam wall having been heightened since then. I picked them up on Google Earth and will have wait for the dam level to drop before I can take a picture.
It's a landmark of Deneysville. Built in 1963 by Alfred Sumner, who decided on the style because he had lived near Windsor Castle. That is what the sources say, but I can't find any similarities between this castle and Windsor Castle.
It was designed as a unique restaurant to seat 400 people inside and outside including a roof beer-garden. It also housed the unique Alfred Sumner collection of medieval weapons and shields. During its time it was very popular and attracted the crowds mostly during the weekend for a reasonable priced meal.
In 1985 there was calamity, during a night the castle got torched by an unknown arsonist. The evening before there was some trouble between the manager and a young visitor, the source calls it a 'sharp altercation' and the visitor was thrown out. It is suspected that the fire was initiated by that person, but nothing could be proved.
The fire damages ruin stood empty after that, rebuilding was considered to be too expensive because of the heat damaged re-inforced concrete. That was the situation in 2001 when the article, used as a source document, was written by Gordon Young. During a recent visit, January 2019, I did not see any fire damage and it looks like the place has only recently been vacated. Some more research is required here.
Advocate Reitz from Bloemfontein (he was the brother of Deneys Reitz) had two cottages built near the shores of the Vaaldam to be used for holidays. They were known as Deneys's cottages.
When Deneysville developed it also had a number of English speaking inhabitants with a desire to have regular church service. A complicating factor was that they belonged to different church denominations with insufficient numbers to form a community. The problem was solved by inviting ministers from different churches to come to the village conducting Sunday services. The four religions taking turn were from the Methodist-, Anglican-, Catholic- and Presbyterian church. Initially services were held in private homes.
As the community grew the desire to have a dedicated church building also grew. The cottages had become available and the community got them renovated and one of them extended and this is now the church. It was inaugurated in 1978.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited
Ref 2.: The History of Deneysville, a booklet available at the library
Picture reference: all pictures are my own with the exception of the last of the St.Peter's church inside, which is by Piet Lombard.