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  • History Of The Rand Club


    To visualize the conditions under which Rand Club was founded, one must picture the community in which it came into being.

    In the mid 19th century there was a piece of land that stretched for 30 miles south of the little village of Pretoria and it was an almost treeless upland approximately one mile above sea-level.

    The Boers in President Kruger’s South African Republic called it the Witwatersrand (White Waters Ridge) because in summer it was covered with lakes and ponds. However in winter it was a dry and windswept highland from which the farmers moved their cattle into warmer pastures. On this 30-mile stretch of land there was a farm known as Langlaagte and in February of 1886, traces of gold were found on the farm property just a few miles from the centre of modern day Johannesburg.  Samples of the gold-bearing rock were sent to Kimberley which was then the most important mining and financial centre in South Africa.

    Cecil John Rhodes checked samples of the gold-bearing rock and was satisfied with the results. He asked Dr Hans Sauer, the first district surgeon of Johannesburg, to return to the Rand and obtain options for ground. In December 1886, after completing some business, Rhodes suggested to Sauer that they should take a walk and select a site for a club.

    After wandering about for some time Rhodes suddenly stopped and said, “This corner will do for the club”.

    It was at the point where Commissioner Street met a street running from Marshall’s township into Market Square. The chosen area consisted of four stands and Sauer was instructed to find out who these stands belonged to and buy them. Sauer discovered that two of the stands belonged to a certain Ikey Sonnenberg, a financier and speculator. Sauer told him that Rhodes wanted to buy the stands as a site for a mens’ club, and Sonnenberg immediately offered Rhodes his two stands as a gift for this purpose. The other two stands belonged to a certain H.B. Marshall, a Scotsman. Sauer had to pay Marshall the full £72 for his two stands. The stand numbers were 185, 186,189, and 190. The first club was built with shares of £10 bought by every candidate wishing to become a member of the club and thus the money required for building the club house was raised. The first club consisted of one ground floor and was built of brick and thatched. It served its purpose for 18 months at which point it was levelled and a more commodious Club House was erected.


    The second Club House was built on the same place as the first and was a two-storey structure. It accommodated a bar, billiard room, large dining room, four small rooms, a kitchen, scullery, and various offices. The members took possession of the second Club House on February 1st, 1890. The style of architecture was English colonial with wrought iron work on the balcony.


    It was also in the second Club House that the foundations of the present library were laid.

    An Africana section was built following the enthusiasm of Henry Stratford Caldecott, whilst the English books were in charge of a committee under Frank Lowrey.

    After the Anglo-Boer war ended on May 31st, 1902, a valuation of the second Rand Club building was made. Whilst the Anglo-Boer War was in progress, there had obviously been an underlying feeling amongst the club members that the second Club House would not meet the needs of the future. The Committee had subsequently been planning ahead and during the last quarter of 1902 definite action was taken. Four sets of plans for a new Club House had been obtained before the war at a cost of £400. These were considered by the Committee and it was decided that Leck and Frank Emley, the architects of the Johannesburg National Bank Building, had drawn up the most suitable plans for the third Club House.



    As it stands today was occupied in December of 1904. The present Rand Club has a metallic base structure that is clad in concrete. The base structure was fabricated in the United Kingdom before being dismantled and shipped to South Africa. Before the present Rand Club was completely finished, the members residing in the club had to endure some minor inconveniences before the contractors finally handed over the building.

    However on closer inspection of the club, one is still able to find some systems that were ahead of their time. A central vacuum cleaning system was installed in the club and one can still see the vacuum connection points throughout the building. Even in today’s modern era, this integrated cleaning system that is actually built into the walls of a building is still regarded as a luxury item in any household. The lift was installed in 1904 and even though the motor has changed, it is still in its original form. Up until the fire of June 2005, the lift was still manually operated.

    Two new benches were presented to the club in 1907 by Dr Schultze and these were much enjoyed by the Front Porch Benchers, who liked to sit and watch the passers-by. The benches were destroyed by striking miners in the year 1913, but were immediately restored to their original form and can still be found in front of the Club today.

    The exterior of the present Club House has changed very little over the years and is very much as it is was in 1904. The whole club has been given a complete refurbishment following the fire of June 2005 and some would say that the club has never looked as good as it does now. The central point of the club is a magnificent stained glass dome that covers the first floor surrounds. This dome was completely destroyed during the fire of June 2005 and the Rand Club committee decided to have this dome restored complete with new stained glass designs.

    In modern times, it is wonderful to have such a magnificent building that still functions as originally designed.

    Rand Club is a part of South African history nestled in the heart of the biggest and wealthiest city in Southern Africa. One might be so bold as to say that Rand Club is Johannesburg.