Old Boksburg Gaol
The Old Boksburg Gaol is significant because it was the first jail on the East Rand. It was built as soon as people started moving into Boksburg to begin mining operations (1888). The building is one of the last sandstone buildings on the East Rand, with rare architectural qualities such as the sandstone, massive arches, wooden floors, and many small thresholds between the different spaces such as the yards, the extremely high walls, and the cells with small windows and views outwards onto Boksburg Lake. The Boksburg Gaol is also important as it was home to some prisoners that used to work in the old mines belonging to E.R.P.M (East Rand Propriety Mines).
Current known heritage status
The Current Heritage Status is unknown and it does not look like the government is too worried about the building as minor extensions have been made and the building is deteriorating quite significantly, with no attempts to restore it to a pristine condition. As the building is more than 60 years old, it is eligible for protection under the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999), Section 34(i).
Possible interested and affected parties
South African Institute of Architects, Boksburg Heritage Association, Salem Ministries, and the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria.
The Gaol, as mentioned in the sources, housed members that dug and created Boksburg Lake (adjacent to the Gaol), as well as members of the 1914 Rebellion, 1922 strikers (when 500 ‘Europeans’ were admitted to the Gaol), and the infamous Daisy de Melker before she moved to Pretoria. The jail underwent many alterations over the years, in both sandstone and brick. In 1938 an outlook turret was constructed on the roof of the Single Cells of the Old Gaol to minimise the chances of escapes taking place. The jail used to hold both 'European' and 'Non-European' prisoners, both male and female, but in the latter years it was designated only for females. Only short term prisoners were held here. The jail was decommissioned on the 31st of March 1983, almost a hundred years after it first came into existence. After this the S.A. Defence Force took over the building until about 1995/1996, when the Boksburg Regiment Local MOTH Society took residence but struggled to maintain the building due to lack of funds. It was in the early 21st century that the Salem Ministries took over the building and turned it into a care centre for the Destitute, Homeless, Dysfunctional, Substance Abuse, Orphans, Aids Victims, and other Abuses. The residents sleep in the old jail cells, some the solidarity cells where one or two stay, or in the larger communal cells where up to 50 can sleep in a room, with bunk beds stacked up to four beds high. Small wooden “Wendy houses” have been placed in the yards to increase the Centre’s capacity, and new alterations were made inside the yards to accommodate a television room for the residents. (During the Nineties there were discussions amongst the Boksburg Heritage Association about turning the Gaol into a Military Museum but nothing came of it. There were plans to place an Impala Jet at the entrance in order to replace the cannons that used to stand there.) Only about 18 of the 43 historical buildings on the East Rand are still standing as the rest have all been demolished to make way for newer developments like roads etc.
Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces
The jail is a sandstone building with wooden floors in the main office that is now the chapel of the care centre. There are communal and solitary cells, and everywhere barred original doors restrict movement, with 5 to 6 metre high walls surrounding each of the many small yards that have now been filled up with "Wendy houses". The building is more extensive than the exterior leads one to believe. Unfortunately it is starting to deteriorate due to lack of funds to preserve this historical building (wooden floors are damaged, sandstone is peeling off and cracking, original doors are starting to break, broken windows are not being repaired).
The solitary cells are very small and they are located around two yards whereas the larger cells are in a different section of the building. The main offices have now been turned into a chapel that stays locked and is used only when needed. One of the larger cells on the south side of the building has been turned into a library for the inhabitants.
Some of the cells have been merged with one door bricked up and then plastered to look like sandstone, but this is very noticeable and along with some newer alterations and ‘temporary structures’ harms the integrity of the building.
Author's own photographs
Plan Nr. 510, lodged in the archive of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria
Oral Sources: Pastor of Ministry, as well as current inhabitants