St Annes Hospital
The “old” St Annes hospital in Loop Street (now Jabu Ndlovu St) in central Pietermaritzburg was known to the earlier residents of the city as “The San,” or Sanatorium. Although it was never a part of the famous Old Greys Hospital a few hundred metres distant, the care and nursing meted out to patients was of the highest standard, and is remembered in that way by the now older members of the community. Few families of those times had not seen friends or family members tended there.
The hospital was closed down many years ago, and a new St Annes soon adorned the city’s landscape. This is a private hospital, and has no connection with its former namesake apart from the name. The buildings soon began to deteriorate and fall into disrepair, and nothing was done to arrest the decay. After a long period of uninhabited stagnation it was transferred into the dubious care of the government department of Arts and Culture who merely allowed the breakdown to continue. In between it had been unkindly used as police barracks, suffering yet more damage, eventually to be locked from public access as it fell apart with the inevitable consequence of an invasion of squatters and vagrants.
The following series of images was taken in 2013. The authorities refused to allow me access to the premises for my own good, they said, and the buildings had become dangerous, and I was restricted to photographing the remains from the street. It was a painful sight, and the indignation of the public on seeing the photos was loud.
A few months ago I decided on another foray into the area. Again I wasn’t allowed access. The property was then under the control of Museum Services, part of the Department of Arts and Culture, and so I was able yet again to photograph from the street. This provided and interesting commentary on the care taken of the buildings. That is, zero. The dereliction had progressed, and although there was a guard or caretaker wandering up and down the driveway, there was no other activity. The façade, standing as it does along the grubby pavement of a busy city street, is a potent reminder of the regard that the current administration has for the history of the city and indeed this country. The architectural environment of Pietermaritzburg should be a major tourism drawcard, but has been allowed to fester and deteriorate, along with serious concerns about the safety of visitors, particularly those brandishing expensive photo equipment. This series of images was taken a few months ago.
It seems now that the property is intended for development as the new premises of the KZN Museum which, in its present location down the street, had run out of space and has no parking area for visitors. If this comes to pass it will be a major plus for the city and its past and the museum is a highly regarded institution. The project will be a complex one, having to accommodate several forms of history as well as the legacy and future of a living museum.
We live in hope.