Prison, Corner of Church and Cloete Street, Ermelo, Mpumalanga.
The old prison in Ermelo, designed in the Public Works Department (PWD) of the ZAR, is the only remnant known structure from the Eclectic Wilhelmiens in this town. Significantly is as constructed to the ZAR plans and specificaitons, after the Anglo Boer War. It has historical, eastehtic and architectural significance and forms part of the oevre of an importiant architect, Sytze Wierda and the PWD he headed.
Current known heritage status
As a prime example of Wilhelmine Architecture in South Africa, and as it is older than 60 years, the building is subject to Section 34 of the National Heritage Resouces Act (No. 25 of 1999).
Possible interested and affected parties
SAHRA - The South African Heritage Resources Agency
NHC - National Heritage Council of South Africa
The Ermelo Magisterial District, Msukaligwa Municipality and the Tourism Centre of the town as well as the municipal library.
Members of the families of the involved parties' descendants.
Members of the general public who interact with the street space and possibly the building.
Architectural institutions including the South African Institute of Architects, universities and other similar institutions and bodies.
"Modern Ermelo was founded (in February 1980) by Dutch Reformed Church Reverend Frans Lion Cachet (1835-1899) ... Cachet had met and been influenced by Hermanus Willem Witteveen from Ermelo in the Netherlands as a young man, and named the settlement in honour of Witteveen" (from 'Ermelo, Mpumalanga', Wikipedia). The town was founded on the Nooitgedacht farm in the Middelburg district. Once known far and wide for it's agriculture and academic excellence, very little of the former glory of the town remains, with it's streets and public spaces bearing evidence of neglect.
The prison was costructed shortly after the Second Boer War and was still in use as late as 1990 (Lombard, 1990:165). One of the most famous crimes committed in the town, and probably the first serious, violent crime in the area, was the murder of O.J. Lombard and his widowed mother, D.E. Lombard in 1973. After they had been reported missing for 5 days, their bodies were found down a mine-shaft close by. Later, four of the Lombards' farm workers were convicted of the murder and ultimately executed.
According to a 1990 survey, no known alterations had been made to the prison building, apart from the sealing off of the the exterior gateway in the northern courtyard. Since then it has fallen into disuse rendering it virtually unsalvageable. The recent plans to renovate and reappropriate the building as a guesthouse were nipped in the bud when prospective buyers established that the cost of replacing the rotting floorboards would be more than the building's value.
Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces
The building is set back fom the street and originally featured a well-maintained garden on the roadside. The garden slowly fell into neglect and today consists of only dust and building rubble. The building follows a standardized British Military Prison plan and thus has only a few cells - ten, seperated by a central corridor.
The building subscribes to the Wilhelmine architectural style which was characterized by an eclecticism and revival of particularly Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque architecture. The style's name relates to both the German emperor, Wilhelm II, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands who were both in power at the time. The first forms of the style were actually seen in German architecture in the Cape, but later it was re-appropriated by the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek by especially the Departement Publieke Werke (Department of Public Works).
The Department of Public Works, headed by Sytze Wopkes Wierda, was the administration that orchestrated the construction of most government buildings around the turn of the 19th century in South Africa. Wierda was responsible for the design and facilitation of most of the buildings within the spectrum of the Department's work and personally signed a large number of the construction drawings of these buildings himself. It is supposed that he used many contemporary influences, especially those found in Dutch design journals, as precedents in conceiving the designs for the Public Works buildings. The Department was responsible for most infrastructure-related buildings and Wierda's hand can be seen in many post-offices, courthouses and similar buildings constructed at the time.
Lombard, R.T.J. 1980. Ermelo 1880-1980. Ermelo: Ermelo City Council.
Lexicon - Wilhelmine. 2012. Lexicon - Wilhelmine. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/style_det.php?styleid=33. [Accessed 21 May 2012].
Ermelo Mpumalanga. 2012. Towns: Ermelo Mpumlanga. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ermelo,_Mpumalanga. [Accessed 21 May 2012].