Robin Lamplough delves into the history of this suburb.
The Upper Highway suburb of Winston Park has an interesting history. Bordering on Hillcrest’s Springside Nature Reserve, it is a smallish, L-shaped conurbation between Hillcrest and Gillitts, and at the last census, which was in 2011, it had a population of just under 3 000. Properties are relatively expensive and range in size from small condominiums to mansions, of which there are several, and even a retirement home.
Created after the end of the Second World War in 1945, the suburb was named in honour of the British wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, and many streets in the suburb were named after other allied and South African wartime leaders. Interestingly, the original spellings of some of those names in the suburb were incorrect: for example, Rooseveldt for Roosevelt and Hofmeyer for Hofmeyr.
The land on which the suburb was built had originally been part of William Gillitt’s farm, Emberton, on which what is now Hillcrest emerged in the late 1800s. But the part which became Winston Park lay to the southeast of Hillcrest, and many of Gillitt’s workers had their homesteads and gardens on this section.
The construction of the M13, however, cut off this section of Gillitt land from the main farm. Cliff, son of William Gillitt, had inherited the homestead and his wife, Jane, (nee Harborth) – the daughter of settlers from New Germany, who later farmed in Forest Hills – had made its gardens a spectacular landmark on the route inland. So Cliff Gillitt was open to offers for the section of his property that he had lost through the building of the highway.
It must be remembered that for many years the R103, or Old Main Road, was the main route to the interior. Upcountry motorists from the Transvaal and the Free State, and as far away as the Rhodesias – as Zimbabwe and Zambia were once known – often stayed over at the Hillcrest Hotel – either for refreshments or to make an overnight stop before taking the last lap to the coast.
There is nothing on record to reveal who the investors who contributed to the development of Winston Park were, but one of the street signs may help give a 21st-century investigator some direction. As you drive into Winston Park from Hillcrest, you see a sign reading Trevenyn Lane. Does this help at all? There is an old English rhyme that may give us a clue, too – it goes like this: By the names ‘Tre, Pol and Pen, you may know the Cornish men’. Does this perhaps give an indication that at least one of the investors involved in the development of Winston Park had Cornish roots? And does that take us any further?
There was at the time on the Natal north coast a well-known and well-to-do family with the surname Polkinghorne. Was Trevenyn Polkinghorne either one of the investors in the development project, or perhaps a close relation of his – maybe a son? This is a puzzle to be tackled another time.
As one climbs up the hillside in Winston Park, Jan Smuts Avenue leads to a grove of massive trees. Local legend, impossible to check, says that these trees were planted by an early resident who had been born in a railway carriage while his mother was on the way to the nursing home. His father, in recognition of the circumstances, gave him three names, making his initials N.G.R. – the original acronym for the Natal Government Railway.
Today, Winston Park boasts a primary school of which staff, pupils, parents and grandparents are especially proud. It describes itself as “a small school with a big heart” and performs well in a variety of spheres, even when compared with larger establishments.
With a variety of trails in the surrounding hills, Winston Park is attractive to exercise enthusiasts. There are trails for running, hiking and walking, as well as trails designed for riders of mountain bikes, so all interests are catered for. The trails are well used, especially over weekends.