Building the ‘Old Castle Brewery’


Structural Aesthetic


This brewery is the second brewery of American design to be erected in South Africa.  The New York architect and Engineer, H Steinmann designed it.  The construction period was from 1900 to 1902, with the disarrangement of internal affairs, naturally interfering with the completion of the plant.

The structure is entirely fireproof, having skeleton steel frames, as buildings not built with this system were a constant fire hazard in Cape Town.  The steel frames, the building material as well as the entire brewing equipment were exported from the United States under the supervision of the architect.


H Steinman not only supervised the shipping, but the erection of the building and the installation of a complete vacuum fermentation plant, comprising “F.F” steel tanks, chip tanks and glass enameled steel tanks from the Pfaudler Company, of Rochester, New York. The total cost of this structure was £120,000.  The main material used is brick.  It is done in English bond and displays an understanding of the structural as well as the aesthetic properties of brick.

Castle Brewery, Woodstock 1902
Its resemblance to a ‘castle’ is more advertisement.  It is a deliberate design with its dungeons, rusticated stone base, turret, cannons and mansard roof.


The building was built to emulate a medieval castle with its rusticate base of Table Mountain sandstone and upper face brick load-bearing walls.   The South facing façade was the most important one and designed to face towards the recently completed railway line.  The railway was the most important means of transport.  This attention is unlike today when the building would have been orientated away from the railway line towards the North.








The façade consists of three main parts:

These divisions are made by the alternation of fine brickwork detail and heavy stone stringcourses.  These decorative corbelled copings are found at regular intervals.  This is done by means of projecting the headers of the bricks.  Where this is not sufficient to support the cornice wood is used as a means of bonding and strengthening the brickwork.

The North façade, faced on to Beach Road, the old Johannesburg road, and on to Papendorp (Woodstock) beach and bathing pavilion.   This was very much the secondary façade with only the Engineer’s residence with its terrace and balcony responding to the road and beach.



The East and West facades were given very little importance with the building being a long narrow building on the East – West axis.

By analyzing the façade it is clear that there is an ordered pattern in the design.  It consists of major parts, which are within themselves and with relation to others broken down by more detailed elements.
The basic proportions are simple.  The façade consists of symmetrical component parts that decrease in height by one floor as they move further away from the centre.  A heavy stone load-bearing base unifies these 5 units. The composition is further broken down, the main emphasis being upon the horizontal divisions.  This is done by means of stringcourses of stone and brick corbelling.

The overall proportion of the South and North façade give the first impression of symmetry – but, in fact, have a very balanced a-symmetrical system of volumes.



The interiors are simple.  They are clear in intention and functional.  The architect has used the new materials to good effect utilizing their structural and aesthetic properties to best advantage.

Each functional unit is roofed by means of a concrete and cast iron I-beam system.  One main structural column runs through each unit.  This column in turns supports a secondary beam, which carries the loads of the I-beams running at 90º to the façade forming the vaults.



This system could be manufactured in America and easily assembled in South Africa. It is functional and yet aesthetically pleasing.

All the window frames are cast iron with Victorian detailing. 


The spiral staircase, which runs the entire length of the building, forming the turret is a composite structure composed of pre-cast units which are hilted together with each new tread.              


Spiral stair within Turret composed of cast units


The silos were added in the early 1930’s and the boiler house was substantially modified at the same time.  The warehouse component was added in the late 1940’s.


Lower Woodstock and beach in the 1930’s – with the pavilion in the foreground and the Beach Hotel and Castle Brewery Buildingdirectly above


Continue to Departure of SA Breweries and thereafter

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