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Memorial Park was established on 4th April 1945 on land donated by the Hickman and Johnson families in memory of their sons who died in World War II. The information below describes the early days of the area specifically in the vicinity and on the land which now forms Memorial Park.
The Pioneer Days
The first house that the first resident of what is today Kloof, John Coote Field I (“Old Jack”) built for his family was of wattle and daub, and situated where the Kloof High School is today, adjacent to Memorial Park. This house was built in about 1845. In 1854 a new house was built nearer to Field’s Hill on the site of present day Thaxsted in Hildray Road.
This house was taken over by John Coote Field II, Old Jack’s third son, in 1880 when he married Ada North. As it was in bad repair, he demolished it and built another of iron, wood and weatherboard.
Another son, Nicholas Jacobus Field chose a nearby large portion on which to build a house and farm where he lived with his wife Sophia Margaret Magdalene Field (née Swart). He called his section Springdale, because of the many little springs that covered the ground. These are most likely the wetlands currently found in Memorial Park. Springdale Road takes its name from the farm. The farmhouse itself was built in the area north of the Springdale Road near where it joins Kloof Falls Road.
The subdivision eventually inherited by Nicholas Jacobus Field, which included his home, was Sub O of Richmond No. 999, being 561 acres, 2 roods and 1 perch,(Deed of Transfer 1770/1903 dated 2 Jul 1903)
After the death of Nicholas Jacobus Field on 3 Apr 1912, his widow Sophia took transfer of, amongst others, Sub X of Lot O, being 360 acres, 1 rood and 14 perches (Deed of transfer 2439/1925 dated 26 Jun 1925). This land included much of what is Memorial Park today.
After her husband died, Mrs Sophia Field opened a dairy on the farm Springdale which she ran with her son, Padley John Field II. This was the first dairy in Kloof. It was very up to date, with milking machines and supplied Kloof with milk. After her son’s death in April 1934, Mrs Field sold the dairy, which consisted of the milk cows, the milking machines, and roughly 200acres of land for £600 to Mr Douglas Francis Johnson who bought it for his son Ronald Douglas Johnson who was 13 at the time.
The sale took place on 17 November 1934 and comprised the whole of Sub X (Deed of Transfer 3666/1934)
As he was already dairy farming on a farm in what is today Sherwood in Durban, Douglas Johnson asked his father-in-law, Russel Livingstone, to run the farm for him.
Russell Livingstone (Ronald Johnson’s grandfather) was originally from Scotland (a relative of the renowned Dr David Livingstone) and had come to South Africa from Tasmania where his family had emigrated. A qualified engineer, he planned to seek his fortune on the Highveld but met with an untimely accident whilst assisting a friend bale hay. His right arm was caught in the baler resulting in the loss of his arm and thus ending any prospects of a career in engineering.
Russell Livingstone lived on Springdale farm together with his wife Alice and their youngest of 6 children Joyce and Mickey. One of their older children Jean, had married Douglas Johnson and they had three children, Ronald, Olive and Ethne. The Johnson children often visited the farm at Springdale. In a recent interview, Olive recalled her carefree days with her brother Ronald and cousin Mickey during which they were often told to “go and play in the gorge”!
The last people to run Springdale Dairy were Mr and Mrs L Kirk. Eventually they had to sell the dairy because of tuberculosis in the herd. In 1960, Miss Eileen Bruce Millar bought Springdale, and ran it as a Riding School. To this day Miss Bruce Millar is remembered as a very stern instructor by one of her pupils, Mrs Pat Wallis who is the granddaughter of Russell Livingstone. The building burnt down after a few years.
World War II
World War II took its toll on young men from Kloof and two in particular are directly linked to land which became Memorial Park.
On 26 Jan 1942, John Reginald Hickman, the husband of Peggy Hickman (née Gosling), and son of Henry Reginald and Phyllis Hickman was killed in action at Antelat, Cirenaica (modern day Libya). At the time he was a Bombadier serving with the 2nd Anti Tank Regiment, South African Artillery.
On 25 August 1943, Ronald Douglas Johnson, the son of Douglas Francis and Alice Jean Johnson was killed in an air-raid whilst a prisoner-of-war in Foggia, Italy. He was a Private serving with the Technical Services Corps, Union Defence Force. He was 22 years old at the time of his death. Ronald’s Road and Ronald’s Kloof in the main Kloof Gorge are named after him, both area’s having been part of his childhood “playground”.
On the 4 Apr 1945 it was recorded in the Minutes of the Building Plans and Subdivision Committee of the Kloof Town Board with regard to “D.F. Johnson: X of O (and) Hickman, Dickens & Young: Lot Q ….. Committee recommends that ….. the whole area of 49 of Q and that portion of 30 of X of O accruing to the Board be designated the “War Memorial Park”. It was a requirement of the day that, to obtain permission to develop farmland, the developer must donate a portion of the land for roads, parks and cemeteries, to the loal council.
The following lots were included to complete the park
Lot 49 of Kloof Township (Ronalds Kloof Ext.) being 9.1004 acres, was transferred “in full and free property” to the Town Board of the Township of Kloof on 26 Feb 1947 (Deed of Transfer 1416/1947), and
Lot 129 of Kloof Township (Ext. 4), being 8.3439 acres, was transferred “in full and free property” to the Town Board of the Township of Kloof on 21 Jul 1948 (Deed of Transfer 6822/1948).
The core of Memorial Park was thus formed from land donated by the Hickman and Johnson families.
In May 1946, a Voluntary Parks and Gardens Committee for the War Memorial Park was set up. The aim seems to have been to keep it as natural as possible, with indigenous trees and freedom of movement.
The following Kloof men are known (there may well be more) to have died in World War II and it is to them that Memorial Park is dedicated:
Ronald Douglas Johnson, John Reginald Hickman, Noel John Cullum, Richard Leonard Ashburton Ellis, Harold Baker Stevenson, William Hawksworth Sutton, Raymond William Swales.
The stream that runs through Memorial Park and flows into the main gorge at Ronald’s Kloof is now commonly known as Ronald’s Kloof Stream. Many hikers walking the Yellow-trail in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, cross this stream at the weir in the vicinity of the Crowned Eagle’s nest which is located below Ronald’s Kloof.
Should you have any information regarding Memorial Park and in particular the names of other Kloof people that died in action in WWII or photographs of the early days of Memorial Park please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Origins of the Property on which is situated Memorial Park, Kloof. Researched and written by Adrian M Rowe (unpublished)
A History of Kloof, Natal by Meridith Mary Shadwell, 1984 Edited and printed in 1996 by Adrian M. Rowe – Kloof Public Library (unpublished)
Additional Notes from conversations with current and past residents
For more information on the history of the Upper Highway area contact the Highway Heritage Society: