Salisbury House Johannesburg
Thursday, September 6, 2018 - 18:42
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Christine Meissner
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Salisbury House is one of the last surviving double storey Victorian town buildings of early Johannesburg. It embodies the social and economic life of early Johannesburg. It adapted to the changing environment with changed uses and survived in the fast development of Johannesburg and its temporal decline. Together with St Mary’s across the road it is a significant landmark still intact from early Johannesburg. This building will assist the future generations in their understanding and appreciation of the development of Johannesburg.

Salisbury House is located on the corner of Berg and Marshall streets (click here to view on The Heritage Register)


Salisbury House (The Heritage Portal)


Why is the site endangered?

At the turn of the 21st century this beautiful Victorian Heritage Building stood neglected, vandalized and in a serious state of decay. It probably would have been lost were it not for the intervention of the School of Practical Philosophy. 


The restoration of Salisbury House in 2005 (Christine Meisnner)


As the owners of the St Mary's Building (also a heritage landmark) across the road they decided to take on the challenge to fight for Salisbury House's survival.


St Mary's Building from above (The Heritage Portal)


From the onset it was clear that the intersection of Berg and Marshall Street was very problematic and prone to vehicular accidents, which ended up crashing into to Salisbury House.


Damage from the 2005 accident (Christine Meisnner)


Various factors that contribute to the problematic crossing are the following:

  1. The width of Berg Street
  2. The close proximity of the problematic crossing in relation to where Main Street turns into Berg Street, which allows traffic to speed on the downhill
  3. The close proximity of the entrance / exit from St Mary's Building (St James Preparatory School) to the problematic crossing
  4. The stops on either side of Marshall Street (vehicles are prone to jumping these stops). 

Other factors which make Salisbury House vulnerable are:

  1. The cast iron columns which stand on the edge of the kerb (from the time of horses and carriages)
  2. Protection of these structural columns is virtually impossible from vehicular collisions. 
  3. In the past these accidents have caused damage to the structure on ground floor and first floor, which is made up of cast iron members that are very expensive, time consuming and difficult to re- cast and replace.

A full timeline of accidents that have occurred since 2003 can be found in the comments section below. Unfortunately the city does not have the will or funds to address the dangerous crossing. Without action further incidents will occur putting the building and its occupants at risk.


A 2018 accident (Christine Meisnner)


Potential solutions

Some proposed interventions to address the intersection and the area around Salisbury House and St Mary's as proposed in the JDA BID are:

  1. The closure of Marshall Street between Salisbury House and St Mary's Building for vehicles only. This eliminates the East West traffic at the intersection. One could assume that the cause of potential vehicular collisions is stopped. 
  2. The widening of the pavement along the entire frontage of Salisbury House and St Mary’s Building allows the following: the space between the columns of Salisbury House and the kerb to be increased; reduction of the width of Berg Street which changes the character of the street i.e. making drivers more conscious of their movement through a Heritage Place, thereby slowing down traffic; the creation of a safe offloading area for the St James Preparatory School at the main entrance of St Mary's Building. 
  3. The erection of built in bollards along the edge of the new pavement adds further protection against vehicles.
  4. Introduction of off street parking bays as an additional barrier along the Berg Street pavement.
  5. A traffic circle at the crossing (Berg and Marshall) to slow down traffic creating a heritage node commemorating the original toll gates to the first housing enclave of Johannesburg which were located there.
  6. Speed bumps both sides of the traffic circle to slow down traffic.

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