Thu, 08 Apr 2004 00:00
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We profile one of South Africa's most famous schools - King Edward VII School of Upper Houghton in Johannesburg


We profile one of South Africa's most famous schools - King Edward VII School of Upper Houghton in Johannesburg

At the end of the Anglo-Boer War, rough old Johannesburg tried to get itself together, but did so quickly in keeping with the energy of the place. Education had virtually fallen apart during the war but Lord Milner set about putting things right. The first of the Milner schools was the Johannesburg High School for Boys, founded in March 1902 in a cigar factory on the corner of Goud and Kerk Streets with Captain Edward Sanderson, MA (Cantab) as headmaster. Sanderson did not last but the school did, moved first to Joel House, Barney Barnato’s mansion, and then in 1911 to its present site in Houghton, just off Louis Botha Avenue. They also changed its name to King Edward VII School in honour of the popular king who had just died. They did it with permission of George V. The school is known universally as KES.

There the school grew and prospered elegantly.

Name of school: King Edward VII School
Motto of school: Strenue (With effort)
Date of foundation: 1902
School address: 44 St Patrick Road, Houghton


Initially, as was the norm in Johannesburg, the school played soccer. When grass came to fields, KES turned to rugby in 1931 and has been one of the strongest schools in the country, year in and year out – as befits a boys-only school with a strong boarding department. Each year it fields over 20 teams.

Like other English-speaking schools in the old Transvaal, KES has not taken part in the Administrator’s Cup or any of its successors. In fact a meeting of headmasters, held at KES, was called by Jannie le Roux, the new president of the Transvaal RU, in 1964 to get the English-speaking schools to compete for the Administrator’s Cup. He did not succeed.

Traditional Rivals

Traditional rivals include, above all, Jeppe, near-neighbours St John’s, Pretoria Boys’ High, Potchefstroom Boys’ High and HS Monument.

Famous Old Boys

KES has had only one old boy Springbok – Henry Martin Forrest, who did not play rugby at school, as there was none. He took up rugby at Wits in 1929 and played for Transvaal that very year.

The first KES Test Springbok is Joe van Niekerk, a star at school, a most charismatic player, sadly troubled by injuries. The second is the rising world star, Bryan Habana.

Hugh Bladen is a well-known KES rugby man. He was a star sportsman at school, flyhalf for Wanderers, Transvaal and the Junior Springboks, a vice-president of the Golden Lions RU and, above all, one of the best television commentators in the world.

Other notable players in the KES 1st XV have been Gary Player, Lee Barnard, Ali Bacher, Adam Bacher and Kevin McKenzie. Cricket was the game at which KES above all achieved. The current South African captain, Graeme Smith, was a KES, a year behind Joe van Niekerk.