Our salute to the old-fashioned homes of the Witwatersrand

Early mine workers homes on the Witwatersrand
A map of the minefields dated 1902. The CBA would have been in Pretoria!
Johannesburg's brick buildings in the 1890's
A typical post-war clay brick home on the Witwatersrand

A few days ago, the DJ's at a local radio station disparaged the city of Brakpan for its old-fashioned “facebrick” houses.
The brick homes found in Brakpan, Benoni and elsewhere on the Witwatersrand were moulded from South African soil, and built by South African skilled workers, for South African families. These homes have protected and served generations of hard-working miners.  Many were built and extended by owners and their families after a 12 hour shift underground!

While other suburbs contemplate electricity bills from underfloor heating, and huddled around caveman fires during loadshedding, Brakpan residents slept warm and cozy in their boring brick homes. That deep red brick was designed to absorb the warmth of the African sun all day, and release the heat inside during cold Highveld nights. Fired clay brick uses about 30% less heating and cooling electricity than other masonry materials.

During the rainy season, talk to the people who shiver in their porous concrete homes where the walls are always dark and slightly damp. Residents of Cape Town and PE who live in prefabricated houses would love an old-fashioned Cape Dutch red brick home. This summer, the Witwatersrand’s “old fashioned” double-skin 70-year-old brick homes will stay cool through the hottest days.  

Brick homes keep suburbs quiet – even when half the population works through the night to keep the wheels of our economy turning. They are also completely fire-resistant and built for total security.

Citizens of the Witwatersrand - be proud of your brick homes! You are in illustrious company. King Henry the 8th lived in a home of red clay brick - the world renown Hampton Court Palace. His descendants, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles have clay brick homes today. The Great Wall of China protected half of Asia from the Mongolian invaders, and many of the world’s most beautiful heritage buildings show off clay brick exteriors.

And if you think clay brick is outdated, then look at the latest trends in exposed brick walls in the most expensive apartments in New York and London.  The moulded ceilings common in older East Rand homes are high fashion these days.

The East Rand doesn’t boast Tuscan villas, glass skyscrapers or quaint French sidewalk cafes. It is an authentic South African town, with a strong work ethic, solid family values and a lively community spirit.  Like its brick homes its people are hardy, unpretentious and welcoming.

The Clay Brick Association would like to thank ALL the towns and cities of the Witwatersrand for their long-standing support of clay brick and facebrick architecture over the decades.  May your long-standing brick homes continue to support and protect you!