Court Buildings are generally places where litigation and prosecutions take place and are not generally accepted as places which invoke historical or architectural interest. They are often not maintained properly and overcrowded.

The fact is that every court building is unique and adds to the character of the places in which they are erected. They are often steeped in history and there are many fascinating stories to tell of what took place within the confines of these buildings over many years.

I had the pleasure of working in many of these buildings and share my memories of them here. The descriptions are taken from 'Born a Travelling Man'.


Goodwood is a suburb of Cape Town situated about 10 kilometres from the City. At the time, the Goodwood Magistrate’s Office was the nearest magistrate’s office from my home in Goodwood. The town of Goodwood was initially established in 1905 strangely enough, as a centre for horse racing after its namesake in England. Although it never really achieved any measure of success, I found myself adding meaning to its creation on my first working day, as I raced through the streets to get to work on time. 




Magistrate's Office Goodwood- 1973


In the sleepy coastal town of Hermanus, which is a popular tourist and holiday destination, I stayed at a boarding house and worked daily at the Magistrate’s Office. Although my family was in Cape Town, the journey of just over one hundred kilometres from Hermanus to Cape Town was an absolute breeze compared to the distances I had travelled from other places. The town situated on the southern coast was a pleasant place in which to live and work, with a host of activities especially during the holiday season.

 The town was once known for whaling, but this practice is now a part of its history, which is exhibited in the Old Harbour Museum. There were a large number of very lively hotels active at the time including the Royal, the Windsor, the Grotto, the Esplanade, the Bay View, the Birkenhead and the Marine and a number of very popular beaches. 


Magistrate's Office Hermanus-1977


After packing up all our possessions, we withdrew our roots from the sleepy shores of Hermanus and settled into living in the picturesque town of Graaff-Reinet. I was fortunate that my travels to date had taken me to places within South Africa that were steeped in history and culture. The town of Graaff-Reinet was no exception.

The Dutch East India Company founded the town in 1786 and it was named after the governor and his wife. The history of the town reveals that it was the centre of much political and military activity between 1795 and 1900. This included the fact that the local magistrate was expelled in 1795 when the citizens declared the area an independent republic. When the British made the town their military headquarters in the region during the Second Boer War, a number of Boer rebels were executed at the town for high treason, murder, arson and robbery.

The town is situated on the Sunday’s River and is host to a farming community. Mohair, ostrich and sheep farming are the main activities.


Magistrate's Office Graaff-Reinet- 1978


Aberdeen has numerous Victorian style buildings and the highest church tower in the country. As part of the “perks” for being appointed as the Magistrate of the district, I was allocated the Magistrate’s residence or “Drostdy” as it is called. It stood majestically in the centre of the small town across from the Mayor’s residence. It was a very large old Victorian style house with towers and a balcony facing the front entrance. The grounds were large and there was evidence that my predecessors had done some vegetable gardening. In one corner of the grounds, there were numerous fruit trees. 



Magistrate's Residence Aberdeen-1979


The Magistrate’s Office was an impressive sandstone building annexed to the local Post Office. It is reported that the building was in fact built erroneously in Aberdeen. The griffins or dragons on the roof of my courtroom often fascinated me. Although they were of heraldic value, I trusted that they did not add to any mischief that took place within the courtroom itself.

The building was erected in 1898. It reflects a mixture of Scottish Baronial, Japanese and Flemish revival styles. This is quite impressive for such a small town. The courtroom including the Bench and other furniture were painted white and in the sunlight which filtered through the windows displayed a sought of radiance which seemed to add to the atmosphere of the court. 


  Magistrate's Office Aberdeen


Nestled between mountains and land-marked by a natural shining beacon is the town of Paarl. It is situated some 60 kilometres from Cape Town. Its landmark is “Paarl Rock," a huge granite rock formed in the Paarl Mountain. I could imagine the scene in 1657 when Abraham Gabemma saw it for the first time after a rainstorm. He was on a mission for the Dutch East India Company and gave it the name.

The presence of the Berg River and the fertile soil made it ideal for farming and its Mediterranean climate a perfect place to plant vineyards and produce wine.

  Although the Regional Court was based in Paarl, it served an extensive area in the Boland. The court would frequently go on circuit to Stellenbosch, Strand, Wolseley, Tulbagh and Ceres. I spent many hours travelling by car to these towns to hold court sessions.

Fortunately, the towns are situated in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world and included to the south a magnificent glistening coastline to fields of golden grain, lush open meadows and majestic mountains perforated with row after row of fruit trees to the west. Crammed in the centre were the fertile green valley’s yielding delicious fruit from which golden and ruby liquids are produced in order to stimulate the palate and christen the senses.


Regional Court Paarl-2000



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