December 19, 2013 0 Comments


In 1901, the Diocesan College boys at Feldhausen moved to the newly built School House at Woodlands. The Feldhausen school premises was taken over by another St Saviour’s Church School and its principal, Theophilus James John Beechey, became principal of what was now known as Feldhausen School – the forerunner of The Grove Primary. Girls first joined the Feldhausen School in 1901 when Beechey’s school (which had always admitted girls) relocated to the Feldhausen premises.

Ch3Pic1. CAPTION: None

First principal


Theophilus Beechey, the first principal of the school we now know as The Grove, was held in high esteem by the Claremont community. The highest honour which The Grove has bestowed for many years is the Beechey Award, presented each year to the Grade 7 girl and boy who exemplify the strong moral values on which Beechey founded the school.


Beechey’s school


Though girls first became part of the Feldhausen School in Beechey’s time, the principal called all his pupils ‘son’, whether conducting a formal interview or simply chatting to them as he strolled across the fields during playtime. The children were drawn to his warm personality and the school soon became known as Beechey’s School. Not too far away was the Claremont Public School, known as French’s School after the principal, Mr French. Competition was fierce between ‘Beechey’s Beetles’ and ‘French’s Frogs’. Games and sport were encouraged, and cups and shields were presented to winning teams and players. Cadets continued to play an important role at Feldhausen, and the school even had its own rifle range near the Obelisk.

In the classroom


The Department of Public Education announced minimum school hours in 1903: in Sub-standards A and B and Standard 1, the minimum was three hours, and all classes above Standard 1 received tuition for a minimum of five hours a day. In 1905, the curriculum was specified in the Syllabus of the Elementary School Course. Class time was spent on writing and spelling, reading and recitation amongst other subjects. Great importance was attached to handwriting as there were only a few typewriters in existence at the time. Through a special arrangement with the Claremont Public School, older girls could attend cookery classes there and boys took woodwork classes at the school. This entailed a long walk to and from Claremont Public School several times a week. Only boys could attend woodwork lessons; needlework and cookery classes were for girls.


In order to move to the next standard, pupils were required to pass examinations at the end of each year, and those who passed the examinations at the end of Standard 7 (the final year of primary school at that time) were awarded a certificate by the Education Department. If their families wished, these children could then proceed to high school.



Hart becomes head


Having worked closely with Beechey for three years, Joseph Hart became principal in 1923. In a difficult economic climate, which would only worsen throughout his tenure, Hart worked hard to ensure that the school excelled at athletics and other sports. He was also the chief organiser of the Peninsula Primary Schools’ Athletic Championships held annually at the Newlands Rugby Ground.


Well-rounded education


Sports were not the sole focus of the principal’s energies. Hart worked hard to raise academic standards throughout the school and was a keen supporter of the arts. His enthusiasm for singing and drama was reflected in school plays and concerts presented at the Claremont Town Hall. Exhibitions displaying pupils’ class work for their parents to see – a new educational idea – were held annually. These exhibitions continued into the 1980s.


Correct speech


An Education Department Inspector, Alexander Sinton, conducted the annual inspection of the school in 1927. He noted:


A marked feature of the school is the attention paid to correct speech. From funds collected by means of concerts, a visiting teacher is supported, and she visits the school for a whole day once a week and gives instruction in elocution and correct speaking. The results obtained have repaid the principal and his staff for their commendable effort.


Sinton also noted that Geography, History, English and Afrikaans teaching were satisfactory at Feldhausen, although in one or two classes the Dutch reader was too difficult. Arithmetic was satisfactory in the lower classes but very weak in Standards IV and V.



In attendance, out of sight


In 1930, Sinton reported that ‘the building and the precincts were in very good condition’ and that ‘work generally was of good quality’ although in some cases ‘written work appeared better at a first glance than it turned out to be on close examination’. The inspector noted that Hart did not permit coloured pupils in the higher classes to attend the woodwork and cookery classes at the Claremont Public School because the principal ‘[did] not wish it to be known that these pupils attend this school’. The report goes on to state:


Of course if [Hart] admits them as Europeans and a subsidy is paid in respect of them as Europeans, he is condemning himself by setting them aside as being Coloured. There seem to be a good number of Coloured pupils attending this school. Without them the grade of the school would be lowered.


There is nothing in the records to indicate Hart’s true motive for keeping these children out of the public eye. It seems, however, that coloured children stayed at Feldhausen until Hart retired in 1939.

Hope in adversity


Despite great difficulties, the school provided a good education, and inspectors often remarked on pupils’ responsiveness and the high standard of written work. Singing, art and handwork were also highly regarded. Inspector RJ Baigrie’s 1937 report praised the enthusiasm of the staff, the end-of-year physical drill presentation and the fine record held by the cadets. A special class was started for children requiring more remedial help than the class teachers could provide.


Space and sports


An unresolved problem for the school was the lack of enclosed grounds of sufficient size and the lack of facilities for physical education and sport. In addition, there were no trained physical education teachers. Miss MM Logeman, Deputy Instructress in Physical Education at the Cape Education Department, wrote in 1937:


The school has no hall and the physical culture lessons are taken out of doors on the netball pitch. Unfortunately this is situated across the road from the school. This means waste of time in getting the classes to and fro…The boys are badly in need of a qualified [physical education] teacher. At present the lessons are far too lifeless and formal to be of much benefit…The girls are doing a little better, but here also more life and joy are necessary in the lessons. Teachers will obtain much help and benefit from the study of the Board of Education Syllabus and should try to follow the lessons and tables suggested therein.


During the winter soccer and netball are played but the percentage of pupils participating in games is not high. It is advisable that every child should take an active part in some form of outdoor sport and it is hoped that the numbers taking part in games will increase. Efforts should also be made to introduce some form of sport during the summer terms.


Dr Hermanus Wilhelm Smith 1939-1947

A world at war


In his eight-year tenure, against the background of worldwide upheaval and local difficulties caused by the Second World War, Smith implemented important changes at the school.


Leadership style


Smith was a disciplinarian who encouraged a strict approach to academics, but he was also interested in each individual child, and particularly those in the special class whom he tried to integrate with the rest of the school. John Mantell, a pupil at The Grove from 1939-1941, remembers that Smith was not really a sportsman. Although the principal was keen on athletics, boxing and handball he invested more time in academics, particularly reading, general knowledge, neat writing and arithmetic. Like Hart, he was also enthusiastic about music concerts. Grove children always performed well at the Cape Town Eisteddfod due to the skills they acquired through the hard work of the elocution teacher.


Smith studied psychology during his time at The Grove, and his pupils recall the IQ tests he administered regularly. John Mantell remembers even more clearly the times tables tests which Smith set each week, followed by punishment in his office for those who performed badly.


The principal was a family man whose two children attended The Grove and whom he walked to school each morning from their home in Feldhausen Avenue. His daughter, Ellen Smith, later became principal of Ellerton Primary School in Three Anchor Bay.




Feldhausen becomes The Grove


It was in Smith’s time that the Feldhausen Public School was renamed The Grove Primary School. Although there is no written evidence to suggest the motivation for this change, it is possible that a new name signalled the school community’s intention to usher in a new period of progress after the difficulties experienced in Hart’s time. It was also possibly linked to the school’s emerging status as a whites-only school. Once the decision had been made to change the name, ‘The Grove’ was an obvious choice – Sir John Herschel had named the area around his twenty-foot telescope ‘The Grove’ because of the grove of pine trees which stood nearby, and it was on this site that the school was built.


A whites-only school


Pupils from Smith’s time remember that the remaining coloured children were forced to leave the school, which was distressing for the families and incredibly upsetting for the children. In later years, legislation such as the Group Areas Act forced these families out of Claremont to the Cape Flats.

M Jongsma 1947-1961

Challenging times


When Jongsma arrived at The Grove in 1947, there were only four teachers on the staff and 147 children attending the school. It would take time to regain the number of pupils it once had. Slowly, the school began to expand again with the end of the Second World War, which had affected the teaching profession and living conditions for Claremont families. Under Jongsma’s leadership, the school took on a new lease of life.


A Grovite’s recollections


Robert Matzdorff, a boy at The Grove between 1955 and 1961, remembers the school well:


The hall, Standard 3-5 classrooms, and the principal’s and secretary’s offices were in a magnificent sandstone building dating back to, I think, the 1880s. It had a dignity and grandeur and sense of history which added to the educational experience. The Obelisk…stood in a separate piece of park-like ground, lush with shrubs and trees, directly next to the school. (This was a patch of municipal land.) On the other side of the road (a continuation of Osborne Road) which bisected the school grounds were the Subs – Standard 2 classrooms, which were wooden prefab buildings on raised concrete bases.

On the south side of the school, on the other side of upper Grove Avenue, in thickly-wooded rambling grounds, was the magnificent, classic Cape Dutch Feldhausen manor house. This was a boarding house, where the school principal, Mr Jongsma, stayed. He was an austere-looking and remote figure who kept a low profile – and maintained high standards and gathered a fine bunch of dedicated teachers to the school.


Increasing pupil numbers


Although the standard VI class had been moved from The Grove to Westerford High School, the number of pupils continued to increase during Jongsma’s time. By 1959, there were twelve staff members at The Grove teaching 372 children. Girls and boys shared the same classrooms but sat separately and played in different parts of the playground. The enlarged school necessitated the addition of seven new classrooms and new toilets. The section of Obelisk Road nearest the school buildings was closed, and the grounds were enclosed by a fence and tarred.



Filed in: Our School