Fort Daspoortrant, Van Den Berg Str. Daspoort Ridge, Pretoria

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GISKEY (Input giskey if applicable)
Condition Ruin
Date of origin 1889
Previous names Fort Daspoortrant, Westfort
Place Daspoort Ridge, Pretoria
Street Van Den Berg St.
Town Pretoria
Magisterial district Tshwane
Province Gauteng
Country South Africa
GPS coordinates 25°43’59.16” S; 28°04’35.3” E
Planning authority name City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality
Architect/Firm Leon Grunberg for the ZAR Staatsartillerie
Project architect/Designer Leon Grunberg
Commissioning owner ZAR State Artillery (Staatsartillerie)
Current owner City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality
Current occupant None - Ruined
Previous uses Military
Current use None
Classification/Typology Military fortification
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Contents

Significance

This ruined fort is unique in the South Africa due to the fact that it was built in the French style, compared to the other three forts in Pretoria and one in Johannesburg, which are all in a German style. It is the biggest fort in Transvaal, not only in size but also in the number of rooms and cannon positions it has. It is the only Transvaal fort that has underground tunnels, built exceptionally beautifully in chiselled stone, as well as special shafts used to hoist ammunition from the basements to the cannon positions on the walls.

Current known heritage status

Fort Daspoortrand is protected under Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) as a structure older than 60 years.

Possible interested and affected parties

City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality

Military and history enthusiasts

The Westfort community

Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria

Tshwane Building Heritage Association

Pretoria Institute for Architecture

History

At the en of 1895 the air around Pretoria was filled with rumours of war and in November 1895 Cecil John Rhodes sent dr. Jameson to Johannesburg to help the “Reformers” perform the raid on Pretoria. Pretoria was unsuccessfully invaded on the 30th of December 1895 in what was later known as the Jameson Raid. Although Jameson was defeated the government of the Republic realized just how vulnerable Pretoria really was to attacks and raids.
A defense plan had to be designed for Pretoria and the proposition of two German engineers, Von Dewitz and Werner, was accepted, which was to build a defense network of forts around Pretoria, with Fort Daspoortrant guarding the western entrance to Pretoria, as it was located on the Daspoort ridge that lies between the Magaliesberg and the Witwatersberg, with views of Pretoria and the valleys on both sides of the Daspoort Ridge.
Construction started in July 1897, and the final hand-over to the government of the ZAR took place on the 12th of November 1898. The total construction cost of the Fort was 46 500 pounds.It was built by Italian craftsmen, namely: Carlo Prina, Petro Testan en Joseph Allias, and was designed by the architect Leon Grunberg.
Before the intended level of artillery for the four forts was achieved, they were already being disarmed. The main reason for this was a shortage of men on the frontlines on the side of the Boers during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1901). All of the soldiers manning the forts were moved to the front lines of the war.
Only skeleton staff was left in the forts and were in actual fact no more than guardsmen for unarmed forts instructed to peacefully hand these over to the enemy.
General Smuts eventually dismantled Fort Daspoortrant. Metal that was used in the construction of the fort was salvaged for re-use during the Second World War.

Description of alterations with dates affected

The first alteration occurred when the British took over control of the fort in 1899. They took down the motto of the Transvaal, which read “Eendracht maakt macht”. They also changed the name of the fort to “West Fort” and put that name up where the motto used to be.
The next very big alteration was around 1940 when it is said that General J. Smuts gave instruction for the demolition of the fort to reclaim all the heavy steel I-beams to be re-used. This was the biggest alteration and also resulted in a lot of damage to the fort.
Other than these specific events, it is just usual weathering and erosion as well as the activities of vandals over time that contribute to changes to the fort.

Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces

The plaster on the façade of the front entrance still clearly shows the print of the coat of arms of the ZAR. The print of the Republican motto “Eendracht maakt macht” is still clearly readable. Holes were drilled in between these, probably by the British to mount the name “West Fort” when they renamed it. British soldiers also made inscriptions in the stone. The steel doors of the double entrance portal are unfortunately not there anymore; vandals probably removed them for scrap metal. A room that seems to be a horse stable is situated in the entrance portal. The ceiling has caved in and it is filled with earth. The roof caved in in several places, and a sturdy steel column which was used as a roof support can still be seen in one of the munitions rooms. Pitch was used to seal the roofs and lots of it can still be seen on the slabs. At the eastern and western side of the fort, badly weathered steps terminate in the inner court. The crenellated structures that give the fort its military flavour are still present on the eastern façade, but the western ones are strewn all over the inner court. Against the southern wall of the fort most of the ramp is still visible. It seems that there were two rooms under this ramp, but their function is unknown and the roof here was also demolished to retrieve the steel reinforcements. The nine rooms on the northern wall of the fort and the headings above the doors are still clearly visible. All the doors and windows have been removed. On the walls inside these rooms are small porcelain channels which used to house the electrical wiring. Both the ammunition shafts are still visible. The passage that leads to the shaft on the eastern side is somewhat filled with earth, but it is traversable. It widens and it is possible to stand upright in certain places. The passage leading to the western shaft is easily traversable. There are two entrances to the left and right of this passage, which probably led to munitions rooms.
Outside the fort, on the south-eastern side, there are a few rock terraces, which were probably fortified with barbed wire fences to protect the fort. A small hill obscures the view from the fort towards the old wagon road, and a guard hole was created to overcome this problem. Just to the east of this hill a chiselled rock floor is visible which was probably a guardhouse. The wagon track is still visible in places and descends the mountain on the northern side.

Links

http://able.wiki.up.ac.za/index.php/Fort_Klapperkop_and_the_Pretoria_Forts
http://able.wiki.up.ac.za/index.php/Fort_Schanskop
http://able.wiki.up.ac.za/index.php/Fort_Klapperkop;_Johan_Rissik_Drive,_Waterkloof_Ridge,_Pretoria

Sources

En.wikipedia.org.1888.Zeitgeist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitgeist [Accessed: 21 Oct 2012].
Fourie, M. 1996.Westfort Renaissance'. Unpublished thesis. Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria.

Photo's

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Samilitaryhistory.org 1997.'N OORSIG VAN DIE MILITERE
FORTIFIKASIES VAN PRETORIA (1880-1902), South African Military History Society Journal. [online] Available at:
http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol093am.html [Accessed: 21 Oct 2012].
Unknown. 2012.Fort Klapperkop and the Pretoria forts. [online] Available at: http://able.wiki.up.ac.za/index.php/Fort_Klapperkop_and_the_Pretoria_Forts [Accessed: 21 Oct 2012].
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