As we drive down H.F Verwoerd Street in the direction of the Kloof Spruit, we find a very important beacon or monument. It is situated in the play park close to the water stream across the Life Suikerbosrand Clinic. This almost sunken piece of construction, is not always visible.
In the conservation report of the University of Pretoria of 1988, Schalk le Roux and Roger C Fisher, the oven was described as a barrel oven. It is an irreplaceable structure of national interest and in its own right a National Monument.
This age old sandstone barrel oven was erected in the midst of the struggle. If you were then in charge of the water supply, you would be in charge of the town. Just think of the heroic capturing of Jerusalem through their water tunnel. The Kloof Dam provided Heidelberg with water. Residential stands would be so located as to reach the Kloof Spruit. Except for the Kloof Dam, a fountain next to the brook would feed it as well.
On 14 June 1900 Lord Robberts claimed that Heidelberg was one of the towns which should be controlled during the Anglo Boer War. This was to protect the railway line. The Boers had to make a plan to protect the water resources. Field ovens were seen everywhere and another one would not be out of place. “Boer maak ‘n plan”. To prevent the water resources being cut off, they built a bake oven on top of the fountain to hide it from the English.
To the north of town, the Boer Commando awaited the English by hiding in the hills surrounding the town. When bombs started to explode in the near vicinity of the town, the commander of Heidelberg, General Viljoen requested General Hart to stop the bombing. In return the Boers would withdraw to save Heidelberg from a bomb attack. He agreed and Viljoen got rid of all the excessive weapons in the storeroom. They left Heidelberg at midnight direction Greylingstad. The British, under Major General AF Hart, took control of Heidelberg in the early morning of 23 June 1900. At the time, they barely knew that Heidelberg would become a prominent town hosting both white and black concentration camps.
For this reason, the oven refers to our own “Boer holocaust”. In German, holocaust means a burnt offering. The Brittish followed a scorched earth policy and as a result, many women and children died in concentration camps. The protected fountain still provided water to the Kloof Spruit. It is a true monument of living waters. It symbolizes hope. After more than 118 year, it still feeds the Kloof Spruit with water.
It later served as a cooling tunnel for a cold drink manufacturer. The openings on the sides of the oven ensured cooled perennial water, which kept the cold drinks cool for much longer. This dates back to BF (before fridges).
Heidelberg is still on the cutting edge providing drinking water nationally. The Valprè plant, owned by the Coco Cola company uses water from boreholes in the Lagerspoort area and is distributed throughout South Africa. The Suikerbosrand is a good catchment area from the Witwatersrand, being purified by the Marievale Marsh. It is still uncertain who built this monument. The author suspects that Wilhelm Mangold, a German immigrant, who served in the Heidelberg Commando, was involved. He also helped to prevent the Jameson Raid. During the war, he was seriously wounded in the battle of Chrissies Meer. He returned to Germany via Lorenzo Marques, where he was treated. He returned to Heidelberg and worked as a monumental mason until his death in 1922. He was buried in the Kloof Cemetery and is this monument witness of the living waters.