Drill Hall

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General term

A drill hall is a place such as a building or a hangar where soldiers practice and perform military drill. In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, the term was also used for the whole headquarters building of a military reserve unit, which usually incorporated such a hall.

A number of Drill Halls were built in South Africa under British rule.



Drill Hall, Cape Town


There appears to have been two buildings by this name.

F.C.L. Bosman (1980) refers to a Volunteer Drill Hall in Loop Street in which a few productions were done in 1883. This may have been a temporary facility, used before the well-known permanent building was built in Darling Street, on the northeastern corner of the Grand Parade in 1884. Otherwise it may simply have been a reference to a temporary space in the original barracks buildings, situated in the same spot.

Designed to serve the volunteer forces of the Western Division as headquarters as an indoor venue for instruction and for drilling in bad weather, it was initially also referred to as the Volunteer Drill Hall, and later known simply as the Drill Hall. Constructed in 1884 (designed by James Tennant, of the Royal Engineers, and built by a Mr Kitsch) it was inaugurated on 15 December 1885 by Sir John Gordon Sprigg.

In 1889 the Drill Hall was extended by architect Anthony De Witt, of the Volunteer Engineers and was finally declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 29 May 1987.

Today it is known as the Old Drill Hall), and the building houses the Cape Town Public Library

Use for performances and meetings

Utilized by a number of theatre companies from time to time.

Among them was the Rederijkerskamer Aurora II, which used the Drill Hall for special performances in the 1880s. For instance, on 31 May, 1833 they did Pierre de Galeiboef, of De Onschuldige Veroordeelde (Culp) and Eene Kapitale Erfenis, of De Corsicaansche Bloedwraak (Anon.) there and, on 21 August, 1883 , a special performance of Speculeren, of Misdadig uit Kinderliefde and De Onbekende Schoone (both plays by Broekhoff), performed under the patronage of members from both houses of parliament.

The same company also had its final performance in the Drill Hall on 12 July 1887, the programme consisting of Moederliefde en Heldenmoed, of De Gevangenis op het Slot 's Gravensteen (Ruysch) and De Verstrooiden (Van Holtrop).


Article in South African History Online (14-Jul-2011)[1]

Cape Town History: A Tourist Guide, online resource[[2]] (Accessed 5 March 2018).

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 473, 475

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg: p. 109.

Drill Hall, Johannesburg


The Drill Hall in Johannesburg was erected as a mark of British military might after the brutal South African War (1899-1902). In 1956-57, the Treason Trial brought 156 leaders of the Congress Alliance to the Drill Hall before the trial was moved to Pretoria. From the 1960s until apartheid’s demise, the Drill Hall was used as a conscription centre for the apartheid Government.

The military abandoned the Drill Hall in 1992, and soon after, homeless people began moving in. By 2001, 350 families lived inside the Drill Hall in makeshift shacks. As of 2003, through the efforts of the City of Johannesburg through the JDA, the Drill Hall stands as a renovated heritage sites with an open public square in the inner city. Drill Hall also houses the Joubert Park Project, the Rand Light Infantry, the Johannesburg Community Chest and the Johannesburg Child Welfare.

Use for performances and meetings




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