"Southern Hemisphere's largest red brick building!" Top 5 Page for this destination Pietermaritzburg Things to Do Tip by CatherineReichardt

Pietermaritzburg Things to Do: 11 reviews and 21 photos


(work in progress)
One thing's for certain: if you like red brick, then you're going to love Pietermaritzburg, and of all the red brick structures in town, the jawdropping City Hall is the hardest to ignore!

The city was originally founded by the Voortrekkers in 1837, following their famous victory over Dingaan's Zulu troops at the Battle of Blood River. It was named after two Boer commanders, Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz and was the capital of the fleeting Boer republic of Natalia before being taken over by the British in 1843. Thereafter, it was made it the seat of the Natal Colony's administration, and became the capital of Natal province after it was incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910, so it's been an important place for a long time by South African standards.

Its status is reflected by the Pietermaritzburg Town Hall is reputed to be the largest red brick structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and a National Monument. Build on the site of the original Voortrekker Raadsaal, it is a flamboyantly over the top late Victorian confection that is reminiscent of St Pancras Station in London, and boasts a 43m high clock tower and the largest pipe organ in the Southern Hemisphere.

As I wandered around Maritzburg, I often had to pinch myself to remember where I was. The ubiquitous red brick and architectural style is strongly reminiscent of other late Victorian and Edwardian colonial suburbs such as Albert Park in Melbourne, as are the verandahs and balconies decorated with white 'broekie lace' iron filagree. Well over a century on, the architectural hallmark of the British Empire is still unmistakable!

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Mar 14, 2012
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