HCHS Provincial Heritage Site declaration



Harold Cressy High School was declared a Provincial Heritage Site by the Heritage Western Cape Council on 14 August 2014. 

Harold Cressy High School was found to display significance in terms of intrinsic historical, social, environmental, cultural and political value. The school represents resistance to apartheid laws and association to public memory of forced removals, segregation and academic excellence. Heritage themes identified are:

  • racial segregation and forced removals
  • Segregation and Education
  • Apartheid planning
  • resistance and uprising
  • Coloured Identity


Cape Town Secondary School was founded in January 1951, and renamed Harold Cressy High School in 1953 to honour the memory of Mr Harold Cressy (1889-1916). Cressy viewed education as key to the advancement of Black/ Coloured people and worked with zeal to improve education facilities for coloured people. He was also co-founder of the Teacher’s League of South Africa (TLSA).

The teachers of Harold Cressy High School established a cultural and intellectual environment which was being denied to their children; they were the city’s true defenders. Staying true to the ethos of the TLSA, they developed a range of formal and non-formal educational initiatives which sought to promote a consciousness and understanding of citizenship that was a counter to the official view.

The school was in District Six, where community structures were well established and citizens shared strong ties with family-members and their community. Under the Group Areas Act of 1950, however, it was proclaimed a White Group Area in 1966. From 1968 demolition of houses commenced, till approximately 60 000 residents were uprooted and forced to move elsewhere. The school was consequently placed under enormous pressure to move to the Cape Flats, where most of the people had been moved. They firmly resisted despite dire circumstances and elected to stay where they were (Soudien 2006). Moving would have amounted to a surrender to the state’s ideology of cl;assifying them as less than human beings. The school’s deliberation to stay was a lesson to pupils of their rights as citizens in the city. This civic-minded intellectual education system produced a generation of leaders who subsequently became prominent figures in government, in business, the academy and in the broader civil society (Soudien 2006).


Statement of significance

Harold Cressy High School is considered to possess to provincial social and historical heritage value whilst possessing high local landmark quality (Vidamemoria 2014). It excelled and thrived even in the face of adversity, an oppressive political system and depressing conditions.

History records the huge contributions, integrity, commitment and dedication of its teachers. They demanded a full democracy and weren’t prepared to settle for less. They were imprisoned and suspended without pay. But these hardships developed solidarity between students, parents and teachers.

The statement of significance is further described in the table below.

Categories of Heritage significance Harold Cressy High School Significance


  • Associated with an historic person or group
  • Associated with an historic event, use or activity
  • Illustrates an historical period
  • Segregation and Education superiority sustained through education
  • Dual education system:  injustice towards people based on race
  • The Group Areas Act of 1950 and forced removals in District Six
  • Harold Cressy, Livingstone, Alexander Sinton, South Peninsula, Groenvlei, Trafalgar and Belgravia vital in counter-official discourse


  • Contributes to the character of the street or area
  • Landmark quality
  • Harold Cressy School building and approach to school along Roeland Street
  • In relation to Archives and placemaking qualities
  • Rich historical context in proximity to sites of significance
High Local


  • Associated with economic, social, religious activity
  • Significant to public memory
  • Associated with living heritage
  • Injustice towards coloured teachers
  • Resistance: The teachers of District Six developed a range of formal and non-formal educational initiatives which sought to promote a counter-official consciousness and understanding
  • Neglect and withholding of Government support
High Local
Importance in the community or pattern in South Africa’s history.
  • The character of Harold Cressy High School
High Local
Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.Strong or special association with the life or work of a person, group or organisation of importance in the history of South Africa
  • Harold Cressy became an iconic figure representative of coloured community under the burdens of Apartheid
  • The African People’s Organisation (APO) aimed to promote unity amongst coloured people and was concerned with education reform
  • The Teachers’ League of South Africa organising coloured teachers for educational improvement and improving their professional standing.
  • Association with Dr Abdullah Abdurahman, Helen Kies, Edgar Maurice, Victor Ritchie, Neville Alexander and Vincent Kolbe


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