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Groote Schuur Hospital Children's Ward
Cape Town, Western Cape

John Stockwin CLELAND: Design Architect

Status:Adaptive re-use
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Adaptively re-used as offices

Detailed description of the Children's Ward at Groote Schuur, transcribed from a contemporary article, published in the Cape Argus: 1938



One of the most attractive parts of the new hospital at Groote Schuur is the section which has been devoted to children. It is situated on the fourth floor away from the rest of the building, and here the city's youngest invalids will enjoy complete seclusion and peace. A few orthopaedic cases will be taken on this floor, but there are no operating theatres or anything of that description. Apart from the one exception, it is given over to Cape Town's children, of whatever race, creed, or colour, and one wing will be allocated to Europeans and the other to non-Europeans. There is accommodation for about 80 small patients all together, with 40 in each division. Both units are the same, so a description of any one feature will suffice for both.

Each consists of two large wards, with their own balconies, a number of single rooms, a playroom, a nursery for small babies, a solarium, and bathroom, sluice rooms, duty rooms, a linen room, a ward kitchen, and other utility rooms. The playrooms for the little convalescents are the most delightful apartments.

They are large airy rooms, lit by two big windows, and have the most fascinating tiled walls. The tiles were specially made in South Africa, and are an off-white shade. They extend to a height of about seven feet, and are bordered at the top and bottom with a gay band of yellow. On each wall there is a panel, again framed in yellow, depicting some English or Afrikaans fairy story or nursery rhyme. The principle of bilingualism has been adhered to most strictly, and in each room two panels are in English and two in Afrikaans. In one room the legend as to how Table Mountain got its cloud has been selected, and the meeting of Van Hunks with the stranger and their subsequent smoking match is shown. The four-and-twenty blackbirds who were baked in a pie form the theme of the other English panel.

The rhyme.

"Maandag moet ons Maandag maak,
Om Dinsdag in die werk te raak,"

is the subject of the third: while the fourth is concerned with an Afrikaans fairy tale in which animals figure largely. In the playroom in the second wing "The House that Jack Built," "Oranges and Lemons, said the Bells of St. Clements," "Setull, die doofstom klonkie," and illustrations of "Simbaba Mama se kindjie," and other games have been chosen. Single decorative tiles, showing an elephant, a pierrot, or a toy, enliven the walls.


The floors also are, calculated to please the very young. They consist of squares streaked in green and while in which black silhouettes of animals have been surprisingly inlaid at intervals. Giraffes, ostriches, kangaroos, cocks and other familiar friends appear, and should make the business of crawling an affair of exciting exploration. Tiny but sturdy little teak arm-chairs have also been made for these rooms.

Each wing has two large wards, and a portion of every ward consists of cubicles which are separately partitioned off. Glass has been used for the upper half of the partitions, so that young patients can see and be seen. This system is followed in many modern hospitals, including the Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children in Johannesburg, and doubtful cases can on admission be placed in one of these cubicles for observation and isolation.

Two shades of yellow, a lighter one for the walls, and a darker tone for the woodwork and windows, have been chosen for the colour scheme. All the wards have their own balconies, which have been fitted with specially high railings to make them completely safe for children. About half a dozen small single rooms have also been provided. These will be used chiefly by the young patients, but in emergencies the mother of a child may be allowed to spend the night in hospital in one of these.

Ref: The Cape Argus, GROOTE SCHUUR HOSPITAL SUPPLEMENT. Monday, January 31, 1938: Pg 11.

Submitted by William MARTINSON


Transcript of the two panels of text recording the folk tale, which formed the basis for the tiled panel, titled "HOW TABLE MOUNTAIN GOT ITS CLOUD". The tiled panel had been painted in 1935 by Thelma Gifford Gayton of the Ceramic Studio, and was originally installed in the Playroom of Ward E4 at Groote Schuur Hospital. The tiled panel was subsequently removed and framed and now hangs in the ground floor corridor of the new Groote Schuur Hospital. The two panels of text are mounted on the adjacent wall.

How Table Mountain Got It's Cloud

An old burgher van Hunks lived in a lonely house upon the eastern slopes of Devil's Peak. He frequented the Town Tavern and the Fisherman's Tap at the Salt River.

One fine day van Hunks disappeared – for many years he was not seen in his old haunts.

When all his cronies had given him up for dead he came back in a ship that everyone suspected was a pirate, dressed in a magnificent coat, breeches of chinese silk, carrying a great cutlass by his side and chests of gold.

He made his home in the lonely house on the slopes of the Devil's Peak – he sat on his stoep with a keg of Hollands or other potent spirit and smoked a large calabash pipe.

He would sit for days – and smoked – more than any other 10 watchmen put together.

Occasionally he went to his favourite seat on the lower slopes of the Peak and raised his spy glass and viewed the town and the wide ocean and the brave ships sailing in and out of anchorage.

One day sitting there a stranger came down the rocks towards him. He limped and was tall and gaunt and clad in a black velvet suit and carried an empty pipe in his hand.

He asked van Hunks to fill his pipe from his tobacco. He rammed nearly half a pound of leaf into the bowl and he commented on its quality. van Hunks enjoyed the compliment and boasted that he smoked more than any man alive. The stranger wagered him that he would smoke the most at one sitting.

The stranger's stakes were van Hunk's soul against the kingdoms of the world.

Van Hunks retorted – soul had he none, he'd seen enough kingdoms of the world and battles waged for them. He was content with what he had – he'd smoke against the stranger for the love of the thing.

Van Hunks divided the contents of his tobacco bag in two, they filled their pipes and the smoking began while van Hunks bragged to the stranger of all his experiences in other countries.

When the conversation was too much for the companion, van Hunks sang him a pirate's song and then silence followed, broken only by the puffing of the two smokers and the drinking from their keg of spirits.

The sun sank behind the mountain, the shadow of Lions Head fell across the Bay.

The moon rose from behind the Tygerberg, the waves shone like silver far below and the white houses of Cape Town gleamed among their dark green gardens like pearls in the depth of the sea.

Never a word from the smokers. Puff, puff, puff.

A cloud of smoke was above them; it covered the mountain top like a cloth, it swung this way and that and long shreds fell away and sweeped down onto the town below. The burghers coughed and choked and drank brandy within closed doors, and said never had there been such a south easter.

Day after day they smoked – the cloud grew larger. Van Hunk's face only took on a purple shade while the stranger's face grew first pale and then green.

At last the stranger was overcome, saying that "the fumes of hell are nothing to this, I am prostrate, I am vanquished, I am overcome." His pipe fell from his hand, he lay at full length on the ground.

Van Hunks seized the keg, and put it to the stranger's lips. As he did so he knocked off the hat that had been over his rival's eyes and it revealed the horns of the devil himself.

There was a tremendous clash of thunder as if the mountain split into two.

A blaze of lightning came at the same moment.

There followed a dreadful smell of sulphur.

Then the mist swept down upon the place, there was a cry and when it rolled away there was no stranger and no van Hunks.

Only a spot scorched bare of herbage, an empty keg, 2 empty pipes, a spy glass and 2 little heaps of tobacco were left.

To this day the place is called Devil's Peak.

When it is a black south easter with tumbling cloud, an old citizen will remark it is the devil and van Hunks.

(Submitted by William MARTINSON)

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.