Wynberg Features in ’20 South African Schools, A Pictorial History’

WBHS is honoured to be included as one of 20 South African Schools to be featured in this unique pictorial history due for publication in December 2019. ‘A magnificent volume of 224 pages and over 400 pictures portraying 20 institutions that have forged their legacy in this country’s history, the book makes for fascinating reading (see excerpt below) as it traces our Wynberg story over nearly two centuries while placing us in the context of the development of education across the country in the company of brother and sister schools.

While no proceeds of the sales accrue to the School, this volume is an ideal companion piece to our own anniversary publications ‘The Story of a School’ by DH Thomson (1961), ‘A School Reflects’ by AR Goodwin (1991), and ‘Brothers in an Endless Chain’ by N Veitch (2016), and ‘When the Wax Melts’ by KC Richardson (2018); we thank our former Librarian, Mrs Patricia Rogers, for the research and authoring included in this pictorial history.

Don Nelson Publishers are offering the book to parents, staff, Old Boys, and Old Girls of the featured Schools at the discounted price of R350 + postage. If you wish to purchase a copy or copies of this superb book please download the order form and email lucinda@donnelson.co.za with proof of your remittance.

Wynberg Boys’ High School is situated at the foot of Table Mountain about 12 kilometres from the centre of Cape Town. It is set in 20 hectares of parkland and offers facilities that are among the finest in the country. It is a traditional, values-based boys’ school which mentors young men by providing a wide range of educational opportunities in a stimulating, innovative and challenging environment. Although steeped in tradition, Wynberg is modern in outlook and proudly South African. Its emphasis is on understanding boys, its ethos is brotherhood and its guiding principle is ‘never give up’, which is in keeping with the school’s motto of Supera moras – overcome difficulties.

The school is something of a curiosity in that it has no definitive founding date. It changed its physical location twice before finally settling on land formally owned by Princess Labia, and during its early years, the school was championed by two unlikely people, namely Dr Philip Eduard Faure, who went on to become Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, and SACS Old Boy, Sir John Henry De Villiers, Baron of Wynberg and recipient of the only hereditary peerage ever created in South Africa. Another curiosity is the fact that with effect from 1863, the Cape Education Department insisted upon Wynberg remaining a free school, notwithstanding its position within an increasingly affluent area. The school’s inability to collect fees meant it could not develop at the same pace as other schools in the Cape Peninsula and was thus unable to obtain the coveted first-class grading until 1883. Wynberg has since gone on to earn the reputation of being one of the finest boys’ schools in South Africa.

Another distinctive feature of Wynberg is its celebration of diversity. Since its inception and as much as politics has allowed it, the school has been reflective of South African society and a forerunner in transformation. Ensuring that the boys work together, play together, serve on committees together and help lead the school together, helps prepare them to make a meaningful contribution to future South African society.

The school takes its name – and badge – from the magisterial district of Wynberg which, in turn, owes its name to the Dutch. Upon his arrival in the Cape in 1652, Jan van Riebeeck planted vines on the south-eastern end of the Table Mountain chain, giving rise to the name of Wijnbergh (wine mountain). In 1682, De Oude Wijnbergh became the first of four land grants made to Dutch burghers and, apart from the establishment of a military camp in the 1780s, these farms remained largely intact until 1795 when the British captured the Cape and settled a large number of troops in the area.

Wynberg became a very popular place in which to live and, as a result, grew quickly during the 19th century. The need for a formal school became increasingly apparent. Very little public education was provided in the Cape Colony in the early days, but in 1822, one of Lord Charles Somerset’s free schools opened in Glebe Cottage in Wynberg for boys and girls of all races. Some argue that this marks the birth of Wynberg Boys’ High because it was from 1822 onwards that a series of schools – or one and the same school – operated for a period from the same premises in Wynberg and with the same name (The Government Free School, Wynberg) until it was either abolished, closed by Government decision or simply ceased to function. However, 1841 is the most recognised date as it was in that year that the newly constituted and funded Department of Education recruited John McNaughton from Scotland to serve as the re-opened school’s first headmaster. He opened the doors of Glebe Cottage (the premises he shared with the School of Industry for Women) to his first pupils – boys and girls of all races – on 1 July 1841 and went on to develop and lead the school for the following 22 years.

Inaugural meeting of the Transvaal Branch of the Wynberg Old Boys’ Union.
The inaugural meeting of the Transvaal Branch of the Wynberg Old Boys’ Union.

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