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Houses of Parliament
Cape Town, Western Cape


Henry [Harry] Sidon GREAVES: Architect


Type:Parliament Building

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33°55'32.92" S 18°25'10.95" E Alt: 27m
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(A&B Nov 1985:2-5)

Consulting architect was WHICHCORD, John.

This noble building, standing in its own grounds, at the entrance to the beautiful avenue of oak trees at the top of Adderley Street, is a fitting home for the Legislative Council and Assembly of the Cape Colony. The building is of red brick, with white stone facings and Corinthian columns. It measures 264 feet (80.47m) by 141 (42.98m); its height to the top of the portico being 63 feet (19.2m).The cost of erection was £150,000.

Ref: Photographs of South Africa comprising Representative Views etc.; The South African Photo-Publishing Company, Cape Town, 1894: pg 5

[Submitted by William MARTINSON, January 2011]

The oldest section of the buildings of Parliament, which today houses the National Council of Provinces, was completed in 1885. The original design was by Charles FREEMAN. Various financial and building problems were experienced and the project was re-allocated to the Scottish architect Henry GREAVES, who had just joined the DEPARTMENT OF THE PUBLIC WORKS. In the end the building took 10 years to complete, from 1875 to 1885, and cost £220 000 - more than five times the initial budget of £40 000.

The building was used from 1885 to 1910 for the two Houses of the Cape Parliament. They were the Cape Legislative Council (the Upper House in terms of the Westminster Parliamentary system) and the Cape Legislative Assembly or Lower House.

With the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910 the Cape Parliament ceased to exist. The chamber of the old Cape Legislative Assembly became the Senate, first of the Union of South Africa from 1910 to 1961, and then of the Republic of South Africa until 1980, when the Senate was abolished. The chamber was used again from 1983 to 1994 for plenary sittings of the House of Representatives, comprising coloured members who were part of the tri-cameral Parliament established in terms of the 1983 Constitution.

In 1994 the Senate was re-established as one of the two Houses of the first democratic Parliament of South Africa. In 1997, the National Council of Provinces replaced the Senate.

The Chamber underwent extensive renovations in 2001, changing the seating from a rectangular to a semi-circular layout. However, it still has its original deep red colour from the days when it was the Upper House of the Cape Parliament and was modelled on the Upper House of the Westminster Parliament.

[Our Parliament - pocket guide: nd. Parliamentary Communication Services. pp 29-31]

Writings about this entry

Fisher, Roger & Clarke, Nicholas. 2014. Architectural Guide : South Africa. Berlin: DOM Publishers. pg 25
Radford, D. 1979. The architecture of the Western Cape, 1838 1901. A study of the impact of Victorian aesthetics and technology on South African architecture. Johannesburg: Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Dept of Arch. University of the Witwatersrand. pg 116
Rennie, John for CPIA. 1978. The Buildings of Central Cape Town 1978. Volume Two : Catalogue. Cape Town: Cape Provincial Institute of Architects. pg 273 item 78.2
Walker, Michael. 2012. Early architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 - 1926) with postcard illustrations, The. St James: Michael Walker. pg 25, 26 (ill.)

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