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BUILT IN SANDSTONE

Ficksburg was founded in 1883 and n 1885 sandstone was used in structural design for the first time in a bay window which can still be seen at what is now known as McBride’s House. Some of the country’s most important buildings, including the Union Buildings in Pretoria, were built from sandstone originating in Ficksburg and surrounding areas. From the early 1800s sandstone has been hewn from quarries to be used for building. Famous architects, including Sir Herbert Baker, even planned buildings around sandstone.
 
Today, sandstone from the Eastern Free State is in great demand. The traditional blocks, which weighed up to 200 kg, are no longer used. Smaller blocks are cut and sandstone cladding is a popular way of decorating buildings. Ficksburg was founded in 1883 and in 1885 sandstone was used architecturally for the first time in a bay window which can still be seen at what is now known as McBride’s House, situated in McCabe Street opposite the police station.

Because sandstone was freely available and labour extremely cheap, residents of the town were quick to utilise sandstone for their homes and other buildings. From 1885 to 1917 more than 10 sandstone buildings were commissioned in Ficksburg. These were Wesleyan (Methodist) Church in 1896, the Town Hall in1897, the Old Magistrates’ Court in 1899, the NG Church in 1905, the Old Post Office in 1907, the Gereformeerde Kerk in 1917 and, later, the then combined Ficksburg High and Primary Schools and Pellisier Hall. 

At that time, buildings all over the country began to be built with sandstone, much of which was quarried in the Ficksburg district. In 1907 the railway line was laid and sandstone was railed as far afield as Cape Town. For the past century, sandstone has been quarried by hand, with skilled stonemasons then carving intricate designs in the stone. 

Some of these designs can be seen in the chapel on the farm Prynnsberg and in buildings in the town. Nowadays, however, the stone is quarried by machine and the art of the stonemason is lost forever. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common hues are tan, brown, yellow, red, grey and white. Since sandstone beds often form highly visible cliffs, certain colours of sandstone have been strongly identified with certain regions. Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-size mineral or rock grains.