18 December 2005

Barton Keep

One of Pretoria's loveliest heritage homes may soon have a new owner. The present owners, the Hervormde Kerk, are looking at selling Barton Keep, the home of Pretoria's first elected mayor, to Dansa International College. Barton Keep is 'n declared national monument and its owners are legally bound to preserve it. The house has stone walls, a tower and balconies. It is at 218 Jacob Maré Street and was built in 1888 for Edmund (Eddie) Bourke (Jan 1852-30 Aug 1926) who was mayor from 1903 to 1904. It is one of the few remaining examples of the pseudo-Middle Ages style with Victorian elements. The plans were drawn up in the Netherlands and the house was built by Dutch builders. Anton van Wouw decorated one of the larger rooms.

Edmund Francis Bourke was born in Pietermaritzburg, the eldest son of John Bourke, early Natal settler who was the third son of Patrick Bourke of Kentuck, County Mayo, Ireland. After school, Edmund became a clerk at Messrs Fass and Co., learning accountancy. He took charge of Henry Russell's business in Pretoria in 1877, and returned to Natal in 1878 to assume temporary charge of the Fass business in Durban. In 1879 he was back in Pretoria and opened a general merchant store, Bourke and Co.. He sold the business which had grown by another store, to John Jack. Bourke also owned Black Mill on the corner of Queen and Vermeulen Streets. With George Heys, he was co-owner of a gold-mine at Mamre (Slaaihoek) near Machadodorp. On the establishment of the Pretoria Chamber of Commerce in 1891 he was elected its first president. Generous in his patronage of hospitals, schools, and sporting bodies, he contributed to the founding of both the St Ethelreda School for Girls (1893) and the Staatsmeisjeschool (1894). He was a founder of the Pretoria Club (1885). His will provided various bequests to the Pretoria town council, the Pretoria Public Library, the State Library and to several benevolent and Wesleyan organisations in Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg. He married Eleanor Griffin of Pietermaritzburg in 1881 and had five children. Bourke Street in Pretoria is named after him.