Last 'Bez' to leave the Valley?

Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 18:01

A few weeks ago I joined the team from the Kensington Heritage Trust on a trip to visit Mrs Yvonne Collett, a direct descendent of the original Bezuidenhouts that owned the farm Doornfontein on which a large part of Johannesburg now stands. In 1982, in partnership with the Johannesburg Historic Foundation (now part of the Egoli Heritage Foundation), she organised a family reunion where Bezuidenhouts from all over the country gathered at the historic homestead and cemetery. The following article with the clever headline 'More Bezzes will Buzz in the Valley' appeared in The Star shortly before the event.

Johannesburg's historic eastern suburb Bezuidenhout Valley will, to coin a new phase, be buzzing and bezzing next week. There will be more Bezzes in Bez valley than ever before - some 200 of them - all in a family union of the Bezuidenhout clan [while it was a large gathering I don't think it hit this number]

The gathering from 10:30am on Saturday will be of the descendants of Barend Bezuidenhout, son of Frederik of the same surname, who owned the 7 000 morgen farm on which a large part of Johannesburg now stands.

"Of the 200 invited I only know about 30" said the clan's organiser, Mrs Yvonne Collett, great-granddaughter of Barend, a father of 12 children who died in 1925. "Most of Barend's descendants are now English speaking and some even live in England," she added.

All the Bezuidenhouts from Bez Valley (or originally so) will gather, naturally, in Bezuidenhout Park. The first part of the clan meeting will be formal with wreath-layings on the graves of the patriarchs and a prayer by Dr H J Steyn of the old Jeppestown Ned Geref parish. Then the little restaurant in the park will serve tea, but at the lunchtime braai, beer and wine will come out and at night some of Barend's great great grands will go jolly with an 'opskop' to a local band, headed by Bez Martin (original name: Martin Bezuidenhout).

Mrs Collett is working day and night to help Bezzes, who come from all over the country, but says another clan meeting 'will have to be organised by anybody but me, thank you" 

During our visit Yvonne could not think of any other descendents still living near the famous valley (she is up the hill in Kensington). Judging by the state of the cemetery, which made headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, I would say it has been a while since any family member visited.

Yvonne and her husband have just sold their house and as soon as the transfer is finalised they will be leaving Johannesburg to enjoy a peaceful retirement at the coast. Could Yvonne's departure signal the end of the Bezzes in the Valley? If you know of anyone else still in the area I would love to hear from you.



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