Government Printing Works (Staatsdrukkery), Bosman Street, Pretoria
The Government Printing Works building captures a lot of cultural significance within its walls. The setting and its records need to be guarded for future generations. This red brick building is more than a century old and although the interior spaces are a bit neglected the structure still stands firm. It is important for younger generations to study buildings like the Government Printing Works in order to get a better understanding of our history as South Africans, and to admire the quality and detailing that was applied in 19th century architecture and with what precision the building was constructed. We should learn to appreciate, respect and retain the association between man and place by safeguarding our cultural heritage and conserving what we have left.
Current known heritage status
The Government Printing Works is older than 60 years and is therefore protected by the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999), which states that “No person may alter or demolish any structure or part of a structure which is older than 60 years without a permit issued by the relevant provincial heritage resources authority”.
Possible interested and affected parties
• Although the building isn’t currently occupied, it is still the property of the Public Works Department of South Arica
• The South African Heritage Resources Agency (due to the building’s heritage status)
• Pretoria Institute for Architecture (PIA)
• Tshwane Building Heritage Association
• Department of Architecture: University of Pretoria
• South African Institute of Architects (SAIA)
According to an article by Colonel S.A. Myburgh (1955:192-199) titled “The most modern printing works in South Africa”, the Government Printing Works was commissioned by the late President Paul Kruger. President Kruger felt that, due to the increasing demand for printing as well as stationery, the Republic of South Africa needed its own State Printing Works. This would benefit the economy and in turn would provide the Government with much needed confidentiality, which was not the case at the time with the awarding of contracts to private printing firms. This would also improve the printing industry in South Africa. The Government Printing Works were not only used for ordinary printing and stationery, but also for printing stamps.
The Government Printing Works ran smoothly until it was forced to shut down due to the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. During this time all forms of Government printing took place on a train that travelled between Pretoria and Delagoa Bay. As the War drew to an end, the Printing Works were re-opened, but this time with an entirely new staff under the leadership of Mr. P.C. Falconer.
Originally Government Printing Works were situated between Church Street and Bureau Lane, but due to increasing demand, the building grew too small and in 1896, the Government Printing Works moved to the red brick building on the corner of Bosman Street (then Koch) and Vermeulen Street.
This building was designed by Sytze Wopkes Wierda and construction was completed in 1896 under the leadership of W.J Geerts. Unfortunately this building later also grew too small to provide for the growing demand and all the equipment and staff were moved to a more spacious building on the adjoining site. At a later stage this building was used by the South African Police and to the end of its lifespan it was used as a publications department that was open to the public. The building isn’t currently occupied and is merely used as a storage place.
Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces
In their book "Plekke en geboue van Pretoria", Schalk le Roux and Nico Botes (1991:69) give a detailed description of the humble single-storey Printing Works building, with its red face brick finish on top of the stone plinth that forms the base of the building. The façade is covered with alternating plaster bands, keystones and decorative pediments made of sandstone. The timber window frames are painted a light dove-grey colour and are rectangular in form. These windows are slightly recessed under articulated masonry arches. The street front contains two entrances, each within gables. Louvered fanlights are placed at the same height as the arched windows, situated at the top of the gables and roof, to provide sufficient ventilation. The corners are emphasised by articulated corner columns and are finished off with profiled bands of sandstone.
Enla Marié Minnaar (2000:68-70) describes the building’s interior in her thesis ”Grondleggende argitekte van die Departement Openbare Werke in Transvaal tot 1910: hul werk en invloed”. According to Minnaar, the building was divided into a spacious office that was used by the public, and rooms for the director, an office for the foreman and a dispatch venue. In the technical wing there were various subdivisions such as the printers, setters, lithographic printing area, an engraving venue and a paper room. This government building design was kept quite simple and asymmetrical compared to a lot of the other Government offices and public buildings, especially with regard to the use of sandstone in the detailed work of the street facades and main entrances to the building.
The building has been broken down and built up so many times through the years that the original interior housing the administrative section of the printing works building, especially on the Bosman Street side, is almost unrecognizable. The structure of the printing and machine room is quite impressive, with steel columns forming the trusses of the roof structure. It is designed very well and provides ample light and ventilation, as well as adequate space for the machinery. Ample allowance is made for circulation.
Deppe, R. 2012. Discussion on the History of the Government Printing Works. [conversation] (Personal communication, 21 May 2012).
Greyling, P.T. 2000. Pretoria en die Anglo-boereoorlog. Pretoria: Protea Boekhuis.
Le Roux, S. and Botes, N. 1991. Plekke en Geboue van Pretoria: ‘n Oorsig van hulle argitektoniese en stedelike belang. 2nd ed. Pretoria: Municipality of Pretoria.
Stark, F. 1955. One Hundred years of Pretoria 1855-1955. Pretoria: F. Stark.