Old Government Printing Works, C/o Bosman and Madiba Streets, Pretoria City Centre, Tshwane

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Condition                                           Poor
Date of origin 1895-1896
Previous names Nieuwe Staatsdrukkerij/Staatsdrukkery/Government Printing Works
Place Pretoria City Centre
Street c/o Bosman and Madiba (formerly Vermeulen) Streets
Town Pretoria
Magisterial district City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality    
Province Gauteng
Country Republic of South Africa
GPS coordinates S 25 44.698,  E 28 11.119 
Planning authority name Public Works Department - Republic of South Africa
Architect/Firm Sytze Wierda, Public Works Department
Project architect/Designer John Stockwin Cleland, Sytze Wierda, W.J. Geerts(builder). Extension also by John Stockwin Cleland  
Commissioning owner Public Works Department
Current owner Government Printing Works - City of Tshwane
Current occupant Government Printers and Press
Previous uses Government Printing, Police Division, Publication Division
Current use None - Museum
Classification/Typology Storage
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The Government Printing Works buildt out of red-ochre face brick is a good example of Neo-classical architecture in the Pretoria CBD. Even though the building is more than a century old, its structure still stands strong, with its interior a bit neglected. In its prime the Government Printing Works building housed some of the most advanced printing systems in the Republic of South Africa, and in 1983 it was upgraded to computerised printing systems, a first in the country. Because of its age, the building is regarded as a heritage building and is culturally significant and needs to be protected. It is important to treat buildings like the Government Printing Works with respect so that future generations will be able to study and understand the history of South African architecture, and admire the quality of workmanship and detail that went into a building and its construction of that time. The Government Printing Works has contextual connections with Church Square and Central Government offices due to its share of stylistic qualities, that was trait of that era.

Current known heritage status

The building is subject to Section 34 of the NHRA (25 of 1999) because it is older than 60 years.

Possible interested and affected parties

The builidng is currently owned by the Department of Public Works. Other affected or interested parties are the following:


President Paul Kruger commissioned the erection of the Government Printing Works building in the early 1890s. As the economy of the Republic of South Africa grew, Pres. Paul Kruger felt that the country was in need of its own State Printing Works because of the increase in demand for stationery and printing. In contrast to the Government commissioning private printing firms, the Government Printing Works would benefit them greatly because their work needed to be confidential. This decision improved our countries printing industry. The Government Printing Works was used for printing stamps, stationery and other conventional printing material. When the Anglo-Boer War started in 1899, it was required for the Government Printing Works to shut down even though they ran efficiently. All systems of Government printing was done on a mobile train that moved between Delagoa Bay and Pretoria. Under the leadership of Mr P.C Falconer and his new staff, at the end of the war, the Government Printing Works was re-opened.

The former Government Printing Works was situated in the middle of Bureau Lane and Church Street. Due to the economic growth and the increase in demand for printing, the original site and building became too small. In 1896 the Government Printing Works relocated to the corner of Vermeulen Street and Koch(now known as Bosman) Street. The Government Printing Works building was designed by chief architect of the Transvaal Republic Styze Wierda and his team, who formed the backbone of the Department of Public Works. Under the supervision of W.J Geerts the construction was completed by 1896. Building costs were £ 24503. Because growth was inevitable by 1926 this red brick building also grew too small and the Government Printing Works needed to expand to a more spacious building to be able to house all of their equipment and staff. Later on the building was occupied by the SAPS and the opened up to the public as a publication department. In 1980 the Government Printing Works came to be part of the Department of Community Development. Currently the building is only used as storage space.

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

According to Plekke en geboeue van Pretoria, Nico Botes gives an in depth depiction of the single story Printing Works building, with the bottom of the building being surrounded by a stone plinth and a red face brick finish on top. Irregular plaster bands cover the façade and sandstone was used for decorative pediments and keystones. There are two entrances from the street face that are placed within gables. Timber was used for doors and windows, with the windows being rectangular in form, under articulated masonry arches, and painted a light grey colour. For providing enough ventilation louvered fan-lights are placed at the top of the roof and gables. The arched windows and louvered fan-lights are at the same height. Sandstone profile bands were used to finish off articulated corner columns that made up the corners of the building.

In Elna Marie Minnaar's thesis, ”Grondleggende argitekte van die Departement Openbare Werke in Transvaal tot 1910, hul werk en invloed”, she describes the interior of the building. The building was divided into rooms for the director, a office for the foreman, a large office that was used by the public and also a dispatch are. The technical wing was divided into different subdivisions such as setters, lithographic printing, printers, a paper room and an engraving area. An impressive steel column structure forming the trusses system for the roof can be found in the machine and printing room. It was designed in such a way that ventilation and plenty of light was provided as well as enough space for the use of machinery and circulation. Compared to other Government public buildings and offices the Government Printing Works building was unsymmetrical and quite simple and especially detailing that was done on the street facades such as the use of sandstone.


Government Printing Works:


Cleland John Stockwin:


Wierda Sytze Wopkes:


Government Building:


Department of Public Works/Departement Publieke Werken:



Andrews, T.E. 1985. A Walking Tour through Pretoria's Past. Paul Kruger & Boom Streets North from Church Square.

Deppe, R., 2012. Discussion on the History of the Government Printing Works. [conversation] (Personal communication, 21 May 2012).

Le Roux, S., 1983. Plekke en geboue van Pretoria: 'n oorsig van hulle argitektoniese en stedelike belan vol 3. Die Suidwestelike Kwadrant, Pretoria, Stadsraad van Pretoria

Meiring, H. 1980. Pretoria 125. Human & Rousseau. Pretoriusstraat, Pretoria.

Minnaar, E. M., 2000. Grondleggende Argitekte van die Departement Openbare Werke in Transvaal tot 1910, hul werk en invloed. Ph.D.. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.

Stark, F. 1955. Pretoria One Hundred Years 1855-1955. Eeufeesgedenkboek.


Vermeulen street
GPW 1.jpg

Bosman street

Original use
Steel structure

Book elevator

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