PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT (PWD) IN THE TRANSVAAL REPUBLIC
In 1877 the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) made provision in revised constitution for PWD, but Britain annexed the Republic in 1879. In 1881 when the Republic was re-instated the Public Works Department was then omitted from constitution of the reinstated Republic.
It was only in 1887 that a Government engineer and architect was appointed, first Klaas VAN RIJSSE in temporary capacity. He was followed by his mentor, Sytze Wopkes WIERDA.
The Departement van Publieke Werken (DPW) was founded in Pretoria in 1887, serving the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) under the Presidency of Paul Kruger. The staff was principally made up of immigrant Hollanders purpose-employed, most of whom appear to have remained in the country even after the Anglo Boer War. The DPW ceased to function during or towards the end of the War (1902), but during its approximate 15 years of existence it was responsible for the design of a number of public buildings throughout the ZAR of a pronounced character broadly based on European continental design characteristics. The artisans, architects and engineers formed a team under the chief engineer and architect SW WIERDA and provided the core expertise of the reformed PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT, Transvaal Colony based in Pretoria after the War, under the directorship of GH FOWKE, a Royal Engineer.
Bridges of the ZAR DPW
The Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek undertook an extensive road and bridge building programme which commenced in the 1890s.
Before gold was discovered in the Transvaal there were no bridges worthy of mention. Indeed, the whole system of communication by road was extremely primitive. District Councils had to see to the maintenance of roads to the best of their ability. Flooded rivers constantly impeded travellers and transport riders and caused serious delays. Eleven years after the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand the Landdrost of Lydenburg, speaking at the opening of the Steenkamp Bridge over the Spekboom River, was able to say with justifiable pride:
"Ten years ago there were no bridges worthy of the name in the State and what do we see now? There is no country other than this Republic that can show such a remarkable advance and improvement in ten years."
The remarkable road and bridge building programme which the Republic undertook in the 1890s, was planned and carried out by the ZAR Department of Public Works which was established in terms of a resolution passed by the Volksraad on 24th June, 1887. At first the Department was directed by Sytze WIERDA, the 'Government Engineer and Architect', whose title was changed in 1895 to 'Chief of Public Works'. Under his energetic leadership the road transport system was completely modernised by 1898. No fewer than 21 large road bridges were designed and built between 1889 and 1898, and this provided a sound basis for communications between the country districts and the capital, Pretoria. Flooded rivers no longer delayed the travelers, transport riders and the mail coaches, and communications with the capital were now assured throughout the year.
Bridges that were erected in the various districts came to be built in the following way: memorials or petitions requesting that a bridge be built across some river were signed by the voters of the district concerned and submitted to the Second Volksraad. If the Second Volksraad was satisfied that a need for the bridge really existed, it passed a resolution requesting the Government to have the bridge built provided that the financial resources of the State permitted it. Specifications were then prepared and an amount of money placed on the estimates. The Department of Public Works then called for tenders. The tenders were then referred to the Auditor-General who recommended to the Executive Council that a suitable tender be accepted. Only when the Executive Council had approved the particular tender, was the contractor allowed to commence building the bridge.
With few exceptions, the bridges were built by private contractors who were nearly all foreigners, as shown by their names: GB GILETTI, T KNOOP, Max LAGOIS, Celso GIRI and MCA MEISCHKE. At first only steel bridges were erected in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. Many were manufactured by the 'Actiengesellschaft für Eisenindustrie und Brückenbau' of Duisberg, imported from the firm of Harkort of the same city, Germany, while others were of British, chiefly Scottish, manufacture. The Wierda Bridge over the Six Mile Spruit near Pretoria is one of these and the first in the bridge construction programme, the Bridge over Marthinuswesselstroom at Wakkerstroom another.
However, WIERDA, in his annual report for 1895 argued strongly for building stone bridges, especially where exposures of rock offered firm foundations for the pillars, since they would eliminate the need to import "pre-fabricated steel bridges" from overseas. The authorities accepted this recommendation and immediately began to design and build stone bridges, and by 1898 five such bridges were already in use:
The Grobler Bridge over the Komati River between Machadodorp and Carolina the Meyer Bridge over the Little Olifants River at Middelberg the Joubert Bridge over the Blyde River between Pilgrim's Rest and Lydenburg the Begin der Lijn Bridge over the Vaal at Ermelo the bridge over the Pivaan River in the Vryheid district.
Practitioners listed on this site who worked for DPW ZAR
BASSLÉ, Jan GG
BREYER, Jan Hendrik
BURG, Johannes Rienk
DE JAGER, PJ
DI GAZAR, Jan Christiaan Dirk
GERRITSEN, Johannes Cornelis
HAGER, Johan Carel Maximillian
HOFMAN, Paulus Johannes Cornelius
HOLLENBACH, Jan Hendrick
JOLINK, Willem Gerrit
KRAAN, Johannes Gysbertus
LEIER, Jacob Christiaan
LINDHOUT, Simon Pieter van Wijngaarden
LUITINGH, Hermanus Cornelis
LUTZ, Ludewick Ernst
NIJENES, Reiner Willem
OBERMEYER, Charles Ferdinand
ORENEN, Jan Arend
REISIGER, Johannes (Jan)
RUTGERS, Jan Hendrik
SKINNER, Octavius Pieter
SKINNER, Thomas Edward
SLUIJTER, Hendrikus M
STOOP, AA jnr
TEN HAGHUIS, GJ
THEIJSSEN, Johannes Willem
VAN BEEST VAN ANDEL, Hendrik
VAN BEUSEKOM, ?
VAN DER KAMP, Jacob
VAN DER MAAS, ?
VAN DER STADT, Jan Willem
VAN EXTER, P Jacob
VAN NECK, Cornelis Adriaan
VAN RIJSSE, Klaas
VAN SPALL, CA
VAN VEEN, ?
VAN WIJNGAARDEN, MC
WENTINK, Dirk Egbert
WIERDA, Sytze Wopkes
WYERS, Jan Brink
All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
Articles citing DEPARTEMENT PUBLIEKE WERKEN - ZUID-AFRIKAANSCHE REPUBLIEK
|Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek. 1893. Departement van Publieke Werken. Staats-Almanak. 1894 161-164|
|Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek. 1895. Departemant van Publieke Werken. Staats-Almanak. 1895 153-156|
|Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek. 1896. Departement van Publieke Werken. Staats-Almanak. 1897 243-245|
|Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. 1897. Departement van Publieke Werken. Staats-Almanak. 1898 264-266|
|Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. 1898. Departement van Publieke Werken. Staats-Almanak. 1899 108-111|
Books citing DEPARTEMENT PUBLIEKE WERKEN - ZUID-AFRIKAANSCHE REPUBLIEK
|Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pp 4, 7, 14, 17, 22, 23, 35, 40-43, 47, 53, 67-89, 91, 136, 138, 140, 146, 147, 148, 150, 157, 161, 168, 170, 173, 175, 194-197, 198, 204, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211|
|Erasmus, Koos and Friebus, Hein. 2008. Vergete padbrûe van die ZAR : 'n oorsig van die padbrûe wat gebou en beplan is tydens die regering van die Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek. Centurion: Koos Erasmus and Hein Friebus: . pp All|
|Fisher, Roger & Clarke, Nicholas. 2014. Architectural Guide : South Africa. Berlin: DOM Publishers. pp 11|
|Gunner's Association. s.a. [1978?]. Fort Schanskop 1897 - 1978. Pretoria: Gunner's Association. pp All|
|Kuipers, Marieke for Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. 2015. 'Mapping' Westfort Village at Pretoria, Tshwane. Amersfoort: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. pp All|
|Rex, Hermann Moritz. 1974. Die Lewe en Werk van Sytze Wierda in Nederland met verwysing na sy betekenis vir die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. Pretoria: Unpublished Ph.D. pp 357-450|
|van der Waal, Gerhard-Mark. 1987. From Mining Camp to Metropolis - The buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 53, 56, 58, 84|