I like to start my tours in front of the Castle of Good Hope. This gives us a broad view of the City;
The Parade in front of us, with the Drill Hall and imposing City Hall to the left of the Parade. The Old Mutual building beyond that, and the Post Office building at the far end of the Parade.
The towering Golden Acre building is on the far righthand corner of the Parade. It is built on the site of the old Railway Station.
The new Station is on our right. This was the shoreline when the first seafarers visited the Cape. The buildings beyond that
are built on land reclaimed in 1943.
When Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape, on the 8th April 1652, his first duties were to erect a fort for the protection of the settlers and to set out gardens for the growing of vegetables and fruit.
The fort was a four pointed mud walled structure, with a lookout tower and cannon on its ramparts. It stood at the extreme edge of what is now the Parade and overlapped the present Post Office site. In addition to housing, it contained a smithy, workshops and a hospital section.
The outer walls were originally of earth, and, even when overgrown with grass, they crumbled away under pressure, and in seasons of heavy rain. Constant repair was necessary. Inside the fort, buildings were of timber brought from Holland.
In the beginning most of the settlers lived inside the fort. Their cattle, too, had to be safeguarded from theft or wild animal attack and a kraal was established at the rear of the fort.
The original fort was sufficient to keep ‘Hottentots’ (KhoiKhoi) and wild animals at bay but was of little use against an enemy attack from outside.
When Holland was at war with England a few years later, it was decided that a larger, stronger fortress should be built, which could stand against any enemy trying to seize the Cape.
The site for this fortification, the Castle, was selected in August, 1665, by the Commissioner, Isbrand Goske, who decided that the new royal fortress will be laid out on a suitable level site about 223 metres further eastwards from the fort.
This fortification was built in accordance with the principles of the old Netherlands defence system, which had been adopted in the Netherlands Republic and its extra European settlements since the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was to be a pentagonal fortification with bastions at each corner.
Today the Castle is the oldest surviving example of European architecture in South Africa, and houses two of the country’s finest museums. It is worth setting half a day aside to explore it’s rich history.
We now walk acroos the Parade & enter the Golden Acre Shopping complex, built on the site of the old railway station. The old station was built in 1887 and demolished in the early 1970’s. This most valuable land, in the heart of the central business district, lay dormant for many years. In 1973 it was bought by the insurance giant SANLAM, who erected the shopping mall and office block on the site. At the time it was the first underground shopping mall in South Africa.
We stay on the left hand side of the Mall. On the right, behind is a glass enclosure is the ruins of a reservoir, built by Governor Zacharias Wagenaar, in 1662. It was a freshwater reservoir and was built to supply fresh water to the crews of the East-Indiamen, calling at Table Bay. A sluice was constructed at the lower end of the reservoir. The reservoir can be seen on old maps of Cape Town.
Part of the ruins was excavated by the SA Museum. The reservoir is the oldest remaining Dutch structure in South Africa.
Black tiles on the floor in the upper mall indicate the waterline, where land was reclaimed from the sea in 1935.
We exit the Golden Acre on Parliament Street. On our right, opposite the main entrance of the General Post Office is Trafalgar Place. This Square houses one of Cape Town’s most colourful attractions – the world-famous flower sellers. To ensure fairness of trade, the traders rotate their positions every two weeks, to give everybody the opportunity to trade on busy Adderley Street.
Also to be found here, facing the Post Office is the memorial to Archdeacon Thomas Fothergill Lightfoot, born on 3rd March 1831. He was a priest of the Anglican Church. Around 1860 he translated parts of the English prayer book into High Dutch, opened an adult school for mechanics and was legendary for his work among the poor of Cape Town. During the smallpox epidemic he regularly visited Somerset Hospital, to offer spiritual comfort to the sick. A ward in Somerset Hospital is named after him. He became a Canon in 1870 and Archdeacon in 1885. He died on the 12th November 1904. The drinking fountain, in red Verona marble, is a copy of a 14th Century original in the old market in Verona. The architects Herbert Baker and Francis Massey designed it.
One of the historical buildings that once stood on the site now occupied by the Grand Parade Centre was the Commercial Exchange building. It was demolished in 1893, to make way for the General Post Office building. For seventy-one years it had contained the town’s largest hall, which had been the scene of many historic gatherings and functions.
Opened in 1897, the General Post Office building has since made way for the Grand Parade Centre.
Overlooking the western side of the Parade is the lofty General Post Office building. It was completed in 1940 on the site of the old Opera House. The exterior displays some interesting carvings and the main hall has six outstanding panels around the walls executed by leading contemporary artists of the forties.
Mural No. 1 – “The Landing of Van Riebeeck at the Cape”, painted by J. H. Amshowitz. This shows Jan van Riebeeck landing at Table Bay with a band of 125 Europeans.
Mural No.2 – “Lady Anne Barnard at the Cape” was also painted by Amshowitz. Lady Anne Barnard was the wife of the Secretary to the Governor of the Cape Colony who resided in Cape Town from 1797 where she made her presence known as a leader in the social and cultural life.
Mural No.3 – “Mail Boat arriving at Table Bay Docks”, painted by G. W. Pilkington. For the past 120 years, the ships of the Union-Castle Company have carried the mail between the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Mural No.4 – “The Landing of the 1820 Settlers at the Cape Colony”, painted by Pilkington. These British Immigrants landed at Algoa Bay and settled in the Eastern Province.
Mural No.5 – An example of typical Cape Architecture painted by Sydney Carter. The distinctive design of the Cape homes with their gabled facades in the country districts and the more severe frontages of the town houses have become world-renowned.
Mural No.6 – “In the Malay Quarter” (Bo-Kaap) painted by Sydney Carter. This is one of the most colourful areas of old Cape Town and is being preserved as part of our heritage.
Today, the main hall is occupied by a thriving ‘flea market’, serving the commuters of the Cape Flats.
We exit the Post Office on the Parade side and walk towards City Hall. The Parade is inseparably associated with the Castle of Good Hope. Most of the garrison at the Cape were stationed at the Castle and a parade ground was essential for their proper training. It now retains only about a half of its original area. Today it is still one of the best known, most colourful and most interesting places in Cape Town.
The long, peach coloured, industrial looking building, on the corner of Buitenkant and Darling Street, is the Old Drill Hall. It’sfoundation was laid on 2 October 1884 by Thomas Upington, then Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. It was designed by James Tennant of the Royal Engineers, and a Mr Kitch was the building contractor. Sir John Gordon Sprigg inaugurated the building on 15 December 1885. In 1889 the Drill Hall was enlarged to its present size by the well-known Victorian architect, Anthony de Witt of the Volunteer Engineers. The Drill Hall was designed to serve the volunteer forces of the Western Division as headquarters, as an indoor venue for instruction and for drilling in bad weather.
Facing the Drill Hall on the Parade is a five-meter high, marble statue of a male and female soldier. It was erected by the Citizens of Cape Town in 1909 and bears the inscription.
“To the undying honour of those sons of the City who gave their lives for love of the Motherland in defence of the Colony during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1901. This memorial is erected by the Citizens of Cape Town”
The artist, W. Goscombe John A.R.A London signed the sculpture.
Further along Darling Street, opposite the City Hall, stands a six-meter high marble statue of King Edward VII. W. Goscombe John A.R.A London also signed the statue in 1904. It was declared a National Monument in 1962.
The imposing City Hall, next to the Drill Hall was built in 1905.
By 1900 the expanding municipal departments, had outgrown the limited accommodation in the Old Town House on Greenmarket Square. The Town Council authorised the construction of the existing City Hall. The Mayor of Cape Town, Councillor Thomas Ball, laid the foundation stone on The 29th of August 1900. It was designed by the architects Reid & Green in the Italian Renaissance style and built of golden Bath stone.
The organ in the Grand Hall was specifically designed for the hall by Sir George Martin, organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral London, and has over three thousand pipes.
The clock in the turret is modelled on Big Ben and is exactly half the size, the dials being 10 foot 6 inches in diameter. Originally consisting of thirty-seven bells it was first rung on the 30th April 1925 when the Prince of Wales visited this country. Each bell is inscribed to a brigade, regiment or group of men who fell during the Great War, or to the donor of the bell, including one, which bears the names of municipal employees who died on active service. Two extra bells (treble C and C sharp) were added in 1954.
The Nelson Mandela Plaque at the City Hall was erected in 1994.
This plaque, made of Robben Island slate, is set into the wall, below the steps, where he addressed the Nation for the first time after his release from prison. He was unconditionally released on 11 February 1990 having been incarcerated for 26 years. The emergence of the grey-suited, white-haired, dignified leader, on the balcony of the City Hall, was witnessed by millions around the world, and greeted with rapture by black, and many white, people throughout South Africa.
We continue our walk up Darling Street, towards the City Centre. The rose coloured building in Darling Street, next to the Old Mutual Building, was designed by one of the most influential architects in the history of South Africa, Sir Herbert Baker. Since the establishment of his firm in 1892, Sir Herbert Baker had been erecting buildings that were forerunners of things to come in the new century. 1902 saw the erection of this commercial building, with narrow frontages on both Darling and Longmarket Streets. (No. 29 Longmarket Street). It was originally built for D.lsaac’s & Co.
Adjacent to that is the Old Mutual Building. Built between 1936 and 1940, this building, on the corner of Darling and Parliament Street, remains the prime example of African-inspired Art Deco architecture in South Africa.
Together with the General Post Office building, opposite, it was for many years the tallest building in South Africa. It was designed by Louw & Louw Architects, in association with FM Glennis.
The design is a unique collaboration between architects, builders, sculptors and artists in its construction and decoration. It has one of the longest granite friezes in the world, stretching around the three sides of the building. The design, worked in granite, was made and supervised by Ivan Mitford-Barberton who was also responsible for the carvings in some of the function rooms in the building.
On the corner of Darling and facing Adderley Street, is one of Cape Town’s landmarks; the Standard Bank building.
In 1879, the City Council offered a site in Adderley Street, on a ninety-nine year lease at £150 per annum, to the Bank. Charles Freeman designed it, in the neo-classic style that was favoured so widely by the Victorians. Plans were completed in 1881, and a local contractor, T. J. C. Inglesby, completed the building at a cost of £27,000.
The two-storied design featured a colonnaded entrance, with a statue of Brittania on the dome. The carved heads over the entrance are of “Ceres”, goddess of agriculture and of “Poseidon”, god of the sea (and trade). In 1922 two extra floors were added and the dome and statue were replaced after the completion of the addition.
The new premises were opened on the 19th of March 1883
Diagonally across Adderley Street, stands the First National Bank building, designed by Herbert Baker.
Sir Herbert Baker was at the height of his career when he designed what was then Barclays Bank. His reaction to the commission was not one of enthusiasm, for he remarked, ‘I really do not feel that I much want to do the work except for a rather natural longing to attempt to remove some of the squalor of Adderley Street.’ It was designed in Baker’s London office, but carried out by the Cape Town architects, Forsyth & Parker. This was the last building that Baker designed in South Africa. It shows the approach of the mature architect, with the bold and dignified facade of grey granite and the domed banking hall within the great bronze doors. The sandstone that was used for the walls, were taken from a specially opened quarry near Ceres. The travertine and marble used for the walls and floors of the banking hall were specially imported from Italy. The furniture and fittings were also designed in London, but made in Cape Town.
The 4 circular plaques on the angles of the banking hall dome were placed in 1932. They are:
- Symbols of Great Britain
Gold lion with a crown: England
Red Lion: Scotland
2. Symbols of the Union Of South Africa
Lady with Anchor: Cape Colony
Ox Wagon: Transvaal
Orange Tree: Orange River Colony
Arms of Cape Town
The arms of Van Riebeeck, a shield with three rings is superimposed upon the anchor of Good Hope.
The signs of Lombard Street
Bell: 44 Lombard Street
Rose & Crown: 50 Lombard Street
Bible: 54 Lombard Street
Eagle: 56 Lombard Street
The midday pause. During the First World War years, when the noon gun was fired, the citizens thought of those on active service. It was an impressive sight to see every vehicle and pedestrian come to a halt. Silence descended on the main street and its surroundings, the men removing their hats during this pause, which was ended by a bugle sounding from Fletcher and Cartwrights’ balcony. It was a distinctive gesture that won Cape Town praise from far and wide, and a stone in Adderley Street, at the junction of Darling and Shortmarket Streets, commemorates the spot where the pause first was observed and where Cape Town gave thanks for Peace in 1918.
On the corner of Longmarket and Adderley Street, on the left, is a group of Victorian Buildings. Today these facades hide a modern office block and parking garage. No 27 Adderley Street was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
Almost at the top of Adderley Street, on the corner of Church and Adderley Steet, is the Groote Kerk. The entrance to the church is at the back, in Parliament Street. It is well worth spending a few minutes inside.
There is probably no building in South Africa that is better known than the Groote Kerk. On 16th December 1677, Commander Johan Bax and his Council set aside a suitable area in the Company’s garden as a burial ground. This was the land on which the Groote Kerk now stands.
In 1699 plans for a new church were drawn up and a contract was concluded for the building. On 28th December 1700, Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel and several of his councillors laid the first stones of the new church. The church was opened with great ceremony on 6th January 1704.
The new church had neither an organ nor a vestry. In 1737 the church bought its first organ from Governor Jan de la Fontaine. A vestry was added in 1744/45. In 1779 the remarkable Anton Anreith pulpit replaced the old pulpit. This pulpit still graces the church today. It 1835 it was decided to enlarge the church and in August 1835 the church was vacated, and services held in the Lutheran Church in Strand Street.
Before the work began, the beautiful pulpit was protected from damage, by building walls round it where it stood. When the roof was removed, Schutte found that the foundations could not bear the weight of the higher walls and new roof. There was no alternative but to demolish the entire building except the steeple and the vestry. When this was done, the burial vaults were filled in and many of the gravestones were lost. The style of the building was a peculiar combination of Greek and Gothic traditions. Schutte’s greatest achievement was the fine stucco ceiling with its impressive vault.
The inauguration of the building took place on 31st January 1841.
In front of the Groote Kerk on Adderley Street, is a statue of the Rev. Andrew Murray, 1828 – 1917. He was a missionary and minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Born at Graaff-Reinet, in the Eastern Cape, he obtained his degree in Theology at Aberdeen University in Scotland. In 1864 he moved to the Cape Colony and established the Huguenot Training College at Wellington, which offered, for the first time, local training for the Dutch Reformed ministry.
As we exit the Groote Kerk, we face Church Square. Directly opposite, in the centre of the Square, is the statue of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyer. He was born in Cape Town in 1845, and was affectionately called “Onze Jan” (Our Jan). He was the head of the Afrikaner Bond and editor of “Ons Land” (Our Land). He collaborated closely with Cecil John Rhodes, before the Jameson Raid, and recognised the equality of the Dutch and English languages. In August 1875 the Reverend S. J. du Toit founded Die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaaners, a body which aimed at making Afrikaans the literary language of the Dutch section of the population. It was due largely to the efforts of the Afrikaner Bond that Dutch was recognised as the second official language of the Colony in 1882.
He assisted with the drafting of the South African constitution and served as a member of the delegation, which took this draft to London. After a lifetime of service to his nation, this proved to be his last mission, as he died there in 1909. The statue was sculptured by Anton van Wouw.
Behind Onze Jan, is the Old National Mutual Building. The original core of this building, first known as the National Mutual Life of Australasia Limited, was erected in 1905 on a design of Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Masey. It was enlarged by the architects John Perry and WJ Delbridge between 1919 and 1933. Observe the 1905 on the left hand gable and 1933 on the right hand gable. The building style features both Cape-Revival style and Baker elements, with gables in the Flemish style.
On the left of the Old National Mutual Building is the old Civil Service Club, designed by John Parker, and refurbished by the Graaff Trust. It served as the Civil Service Club from 1866 to 1976.
Number 5 Church Square, next door was the site of the Union Chapel. This was the first Congregational Church in South Africa, built in 1821.
On the right of Church Square, is a plaque on the centre isle of Spin Street, indicating the approximate spot where the slave tree stood. This was the place where the slaves were sold. A piece of the tree can be viewed inside the Slave Lodge museum, opposite.
Across the street is no.6 Spin Street. This predominantly Edwardian building was erected in about 1902 and was designed by Sir Herbert Baker. The teak panelled lift car dates back to 1913.
We turn right towards Adderley Street, and turn left into Parliament Street. On the right is the back of the old Slave Lodge. In front of us is one of the gates to the Parliament complex. This is the entrance that the President of South Africa uses, during the opening of Parliament ceremony in February each year.
Inside the Parliament complex, on the left is the Marks Building, built in 1905. It was also designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Masey.
We turn right at the corner of the Slave Lodge, and walk up the lane towards Adderley Street. On our left are the Houses of Parliament.
Construction began in 1879. It was designed and supervised by Mr. Greaves of the Public Works Department. The Building contractors were Bull and Company of Southampton, who were at the same, constructing the new Law Courts in The Strand, London. Their work did a lot to raise the standard of building, in general, in Cape Town.
The original building was built mainly of materials brought from England, good Victorian Baroque components which have survived very well. Bays of red brick between giant pilasters, classically treated openings, balustrade, entablatures, cornices, Corinthian columns, excellent metalwork – all the outer casing of classical revivalism provides a dignity which is difficult to emulate in today’s time. The building was completed in 1884, and opened during the following year by the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson.
In 1987 a new wing was added. This building is situated on Stalplein, next to Tuynhuys. It houses the National Assembly Chamber. The architect’s brief was to maintain the building’s classic Victorian style. They achieved this by retaining the Victorian elements in the façade, while creating a vibrant African interior. Indigenous wood was used as far as possible, especially yellowwood, which contrasts beautifully with darker woods like Afromosis, imported from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
In front of the old entrance to Houses of Parliament, facing the City is a statue of Queen Victoria. It was erected by Public subscription in honour of her Golden Jubilee. T. Brock, A.R.A, executed the Statue in Italian marble. The Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, laid the granite pedestal in 1887, and the statue was unveiled 3 years later by the Governor, Sir Henry Loch.
We now reach Adderley Street. On our right is the entrance to the Slave Lodge museum.
he Old Slave Lodge at the top of the former Heerengracht (now Adderley Street) and adjoining Church Square is a remarkable building. Its history, its architectural merits and its symbolic significance make it unique in South Africa.
The proper housing of slaves in Cape Town presented a problem right from the beginning when the first slaves arrived. At first they were housed inside van Riebeeck’s fort; later a house called Corenhoop was built for them just outside the fort and in the 1660’s they were moved to a slave lodge nearer to their work, just below the Company’s garden, where the Slave Lodge now stands.
Soon, however, this lodge also became too small and in any case had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it was decided to build a large new lodge next to it. The new rectangular, single storey building was built, around an open courtyard, on the land recently cut off from the Company’s Garden. It was to house some 500 to 600 slaves and was intended at the same time to supplement the defences of the Castle.
Work on this lodge was started in February 1679 but during that year, and before it could be completed, the old slave lodge, was completely destroyed by fire.
The “new” lodge was a strong, solid building; even today the building stands partly on its original foundations.
As might be expected, this lodge, which is nearly as old as the Castle, has undergone important structural and functional changes during almost three centuries of existence. It was frequently allowed to fall into disrepair and was often threatened with demolition. The building housed the Company’s slaves for nearly 131 years.
By 1716 it had again grown too small for the large number of slaves that had to be accommodated.
After much delay, it was restored and enlarged in 1732, and the possibility of adding a second storey was investigated. In 1752 it was once again renovated and enlarged. The northern wall (Bureau Street) was shifted up to the boundary wall of the churchyard, while the eastern wall was moved up to the moat of the Company’s hospital in the Heerengracht.
At this time a second storey was added and the building was given a flat, plastered roof.
By these alterations the building acquired it present approximate form, but other changes were to follow.
First, the front facing the Heerengracht, of, which the present facade is an exact replica, was designed by the architect Louis Thibault and constructed by the builder Herman Schutte.
In 1807, on the recommendation of the Earl of Caledon, most of the slaves housed in the lodge were sold. It was then decided to convert the building into government offices. This meant important structural alterations, which were carried out in 1810.
On completion of the building, various public services were transferred to it in succession: the Supreme Court, the Master’s Office, the Receiver of Revenue, the Attorney-General, the Post Office, the Government Secretary, the Fiscal, the Bank, the Public Library and others.
The bringing together of so many services necessitated still more additions and on 31st January 1811, Thibault was instructed to design a courtroom in the middle of the building.
For a century it served as a courtroom. The building then became known as the Old Supreme Court.
Not only did the building become the seat of justice, it was also the cradle of the South African parliamentary system.
In 1885 an attempt was made to adapt it to the style of Parliament House by giving it Victorian balustrades and fenestration totally in conflict with the character of the Old Supreme Court.
In 1926 the Adderley Street facade was set back 13,4 m. The work was done most meticulously and it is claimed that the present facade is not only identical to, but just as good as Thibault’s work.
In 1950, the increase in vehicle traffic in modern Cape Town demanded that Bureau Street be widened. It was suggested that part of the Old Supreme Court be demolished to relieve the traffic bottleneck.
The Historical Monuments Commission, which had previously pleaded for the preservation of the building, now insisted that it be retained in its entirety and suggested that Bureau Street be widened by demolishing the consistory building on the opposite side.
In 1967 the Slave Lodge opened its doors as the SA Cultural History Museum.
In the courtyard, the tombstones of Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria de la Quellirie can be seen. These tombstones were discovered in Batavia, where he was buried. It shows the three rings of his family crest, incorporated in the original Cape Town Coat of Arms.
Steps to the only existing Dutch East India Company (VOC) slave cellar were recently unearthed. Delinquent slaves were kept here in dark and damp conditions.
In front of the Slave lodge in Adderley Street, is the “new” statue of the Statesman, Jan Smuts. It was unveiled on the 26th January 1974. Field-Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts was born near Riebeeck West in 1870. A Barrister by profession, he played an active part in the Boer War. He distinguished himself as a Guerrilla leader and took a leading part in the peace negotiations. He became a Cabinet Minister in the Union Government and resumed his role as a soldier in the First World War. After a distinguished career, including becoming a member of the British War Cabinet, he returned to South Africa and, on the death of General Botha, became Prime Minister. A varied political career followed until the Second World War, when he became Prime Minister once again, and, a close collaborator of Winston Churchill. He played an important role in the war. One of his major achievements was his contribution to the drafting of the Covenant of the United Nations. He was defeated in the General Elections of 1948 and died in 1950.
Opposite the Slave Lodge, on the corner of Government Avenue and Wale Street, is the St Georges Cathedral. In 1827 the Bishop of Calcutta, on a visit to the Cape, had asked the Acting-Governor for the grant of an acre of ground, and in 1829 an ordinance had given official sanction to building a church at the lower end of the Compay’s gardens. The design of the new church had been chosen from a set of drawings obtained from England. The choice had been the Church of St. Pancras in London, a building of classical beauty and dignity completed in 1822.
The St George’s Cathedral was designed by John Skirrow and built by Herman Schutte. In order the fit into allocated ground, the Colonial Secretary, Colonel Bell, had altered the plan, by making the building longer and omitting the porches. The Governor, Sir Lowry Cole, laid the foundation stone on St. George’s (Patron Saint of England) Day 23rd April 1830. To mark the event Berg Street was renamed St. George’s Street. The building was completed at the end of 1834.
The church attained the title of Cathedral in 1848, when Dr. Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town, arrived in Cape Town.
Towards the close of the 19th Century it was decided to build a new Gothic cathedral. Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Massey designed it, in 1897. The 13th Century French Gothic Style Cathedral was built of Table Mountain sandstone, quarried from Platteklip Gorge. In 1901, the Duke of Cornwall and York laid the foundation stone. (Later King George V).
Dates in connection with the building of the cathedral:
1897: Designed by Baker and Masey.
1901: The foundation stone laid by H.R.H. The Duke of Cornwall, later King George V.
1904-6 The foundations, crypt, sanctuary, choir and side chapel built.
1909 North chapel built.
1911 Nave completed.
1930 North transept built to design of F. K. Kendall.
1957-63 South transept completed to design of C. D. St. Ledger and work on the nave continued.
1953 The old Cathedral demolished to broaden Wale Street.
We cross over Wale Street towards the City. At the upper end of St George’s Mall we find the Bishop Gray Monument.
“Erected by Public subscription in memory of
Robert Gray D. D. First Bishop of Cape Town
Consecrated St Peter’s Day 1847 Deceased September 1st 1872″
The monument was originally over 7 metres high, and was entirely constructed of imported stone. It consists of a polished pink granite Ionic column surmounted by a ball and metal cross all set on a Portland stone pedestal withcorner urns, granite and sandstone pillars (plinth probably Cape granite).
The architect was William Butterfield. The statue was first erected in Wale Street in 1876. A plaque on the pavement in Wale Street, indicates the spot where it stood in front of the old cathedral until street improvement necessitated its re-positioning in the Cathedral grounds. The present metal cross is a replacement for the much larger original cross.
Next to the Bishop Gray monument, on the corner of St. George’s and Wale Street (125 St Georges Street), stands the Rhodes Building. It was built in 1902, and designed by Herbert Baker and Francis Masey for De Beers Diamond Mines.
This was one of the first of Cape Town’s modern buildings to be built of the coarse quartzite Table Mountain sandstone. The design too has a particular interest for it broke away from the usual kind of planning and treatment fashionable for office buildings in South Africa at that time. It was based on the lucid plan of the Roman palazzo, being built round a central courtyard and surrounded by arcades.
In the centre of the courtyard is a fountain of Verona marble, surmounted with a symbolic Zimbabwe reptilian-headed bird.
We cross Wale Street again, and walk up Government Avenue. Government Avenue can be described as the main road through the Company’s Gardens. The entrance is at the top of Adderley Street, and from Orange Street at the other end. It is now 1020 metres long.
Just past the old St Georges Grammer School, on the right, we enter the Public Gardens.
The Compay’s Garden was originally laid out to supply the needs of visiting ships for fruit and vegetables. Shortly after arriving at the Cape, in 1652, the aptly named master gardener, Hendrik Boom (Tree), began laying out the Company’s garden.
It was divided info rectangular blocks by hedges, which also served as windbreaks.
Three beautiful avenues, equally spaced, divided the garden lengthwise and also transversely. At the top of the garden was a water mill, that led the water of a mountain stream, in neat masonry furrows, as irrigation to the entire garden. A high wall with a fine entrance gateway enclosed the northern side, and Simon van der Stel had a small summerhouse built on the site now occupied by the President’s residence (Government House) (Tuynhuis today). Here he entertained and accommodated foreign visitors.The head gardener also lived here.
As we walk through the gate, we follow the footpathon the right. On our right is the National Library of South Africa. It is one of the best Iooking buildings in Cape Town. It was designed by the architect Kohlerit, and was built in the Greek Revival style. The design is said to have been based on George Basevi’s design for the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, built in 1845. It is an extremely handsome, straightforward rendering of a strong classical theme. It was completed in1860.
We should now be standing next to the statue of Sir George Grey, erected in 1864.
Sir George Grey arrived in Cape Town on the 5th of December 1854, and was sworn in as Governor and High Commissioner. He was the first civilian Governor since the Earl of Caledon. Sir George was a brilliant administrator who did all in his power to further the interests of the Colony. He won the unqualified respect and affection of the colonists and during the years that he headed the Government. He achieved more for the Colony than any of his predecessors.
To the right of the Sir George Grey statue, under a pergola of wisteria, is a stone Japanese lantern, erected in August 1932 by the Japanese Government in appreciation for the kindness and hospitality shown to Japanese immigrants.
National Monument 1962
We follow the path towards the Mountain.
On our right is the Safron pear tree. This tree is believed to be the oldest tree in the Garden and was presumably planted by Jan van Riebeeck. After the trunk was destroyed, four of its branches re-rooted. An iron band now holds it together.
On the righthand side of the Sundial, and set on the Tuynhuys axis, almost out of the public’s eye, is the Rutherfoord fountain. For many years it stood on Adderley Street in front of the old Commercial Exchange. It was moved to the Gardens, when the building was demolished in 1885. The fountain appears on many historic photographs of Adderley Street. His family, in memory of Howson Edwards Rutherfoord Esq erected it. The inscription reads:
“This fountain was erected by his family as a memory of Howson Edwards Rutherfoord Esq.,who was for the greater portion of his active and benevolent life, a resident in this colony and for five years at the close of it a member of the Legislative Council 1864″
It has a granite base steps, pink polished granite basin, painted cast-iron pedestal and figure (“Wills Bro South London”), brass lions-head outlets. It was declared a National Monument in 1965.
On the left of Government Avenue, on the axis of the Sundial and the Rutherfoord fountain, stands a magnificent Cape Dutch building called Tuynhuis.
In 1701The Governor of the Cape, Willem Adreaan van der Stel, constructed a ‘pleasure lodge’ in the Company’s
garden. At first it was a single story building. It later became a guesthouse for the VOC. (Dutch East Indian Company).
The front facade, facing the Garden, was an extravagant combination of decorative elements. Four elegant pillars supported the long balcony and flanked broad entrance steps. On the first floor, a pierced balustrade with decorative urns broke the upward journey of the eye to the figures of Poseidon and Mercury who supported a banner bearing the V.O.C. monogram of the Dutch East India Company. On either side of this splendid central feature, classical urns graced the roofline.
The ballroom is on the left hand side and this is where Queen Elizabeth II held her coming of age ball when she was Princess Elizabeth, visiting the country with her parents in 1947. The Royal Family stayed at Government House during their visit.
In 1971 the building was restored to its former glory by the architect Gabriel Fagan. Today it is used for formal Presidential functions.
Higher up from the Sundial and the Sir George Grey statue, is a statue by Henry Pegram A.R.A. of Cecil John Rhodes. It was erected in 1910.
Cecil John Rhodes became Member of Parliament for Barkly West in 1881, and Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1890.
The left hand of Rhodes is outstretched to the North and an inscription on the Pedestal of Table Mountain sandstone reads, “Your hinterland is there”.
Staying on the path is a welcome sight; the Gardens Restaurant. This is an ideal place to make a pitstop, and enjoy some refreshments in a tranquil setting.
Opposite the Restaurant is an aviary. Next to the Aviary is a Slave Bell. This bell is typical of the bells used on farms in the Cape, to convey various instructions. I.e. time to rise, breakfast, lunch, supper etc., to the slaves.
The bell was manufactured by C & G Mears Founders London 1855. It is probable that the bell tower is a 20th Century copy of the 18th Century tower at the Elsenburg wine estate in Stellenbosch.
Higher up, on the axis of the Rhodes Statue is a Round pond & fountain.
This is an early 20th Century replacement for an earlier Victorian Botanical Garden embellishment.
We continue our walk towards the mountain.On our left,in the centre of the rose garden, is the Aids Memorial. It reflects the worldwide AIDS awareness campaign aimed at preventing the further spread of the disease and to encourage compassion and understanding for those infected.
We now exit the Company Gardens. In front of us is a group of Military Memorials. The one in the middle is the Dellville Wood Memorial. It is dedicated to the soldiers that died during the battle for Delville Wood.
The bronze group “Brotherhood” is a replica of the group, which surmounts the South African National Monument, erected at Dellville Wood, in France. The inscription reads” Their name liveth for evermore”
The statue nearest to Queen Victoria Street, is of Major General Sir Henry Timson Lukin (K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., Commander, Legion of Honour, Order of the Nile). The inscription on his plinth reads: “He served his King, his Country, and was beloved by his fellow men.” Sir Henry Timson Lukin commanded the South African Forces at Delville Wood. He rose to the rank of Major General and died in 1925.
Abutting the Avenue is a 25 Ib. Howitzer, erected in e memory of the Officers, N.C.O.’s and men who fell in the First World War. It was further dedicated, on the 26th April 1970, by the South African Heavy Artillery Association and the Western Province Branch of the Gunners Association, to the memory of all Artillerymen who laid down their lives for their country in World War II.
On the axis of the War Memoriaks, on the left of Government Avenue, is the SA National Gallery.
It was built in 1928, to the designs of the Public Works Department. This permanent home for the art collection became a reality with the death of the benefactor, Hyman Lieberman, former Mayor of Cape Town. In terms of his will, a bequest was made for the construction of a gallery. On The 3rd of November 1930, the Governor General, the Earl of Athlone,opened the main section of the building.
With massive doors carved by H. V. Meyerowitz on the theme of Jewish history, the Lieberman Gallery, containing a Moses Kottler bust of the donor, honours the memory of a great Capetonian.
Throughout the galleries are panels executed in Burmese teak, by Meyerowitz, and also 9 panels 1.81m, carved by Ivan Mitford Barberton.
Diagonally across from the National Gallery, at 25 Queen Victoria Street, on part of the old Company Gardens, is the South African Museum. It is the oldest museum in the country, and was founded in 1825 with Dr Andrew Smith as its first director.
It was designed by, the Dutch-born Transvaal architect, J. E. Vixseboxse. The style is reminiscent of the transitional Gothic-Renaissance Antwerp town hall: a steep dormer-pierced roof over an imposing eleven-bay, two-storey facade, with a Renaissance gable over its projecting central section. It also houses the Planetarium.
To the right of the National Gallery is the Gardens Synagogue and the Great Synagogue. The Gardens Synagogue consecrated in 1863 was the first in South Africa. The “Old Shul” as it is now called, is a typical example of mid- Victorian architecture. Its design is a simple temple form with a stone and plaster front and an unusual mixture of Greek and Egyptian motifs for decoration.
In 1905 most of the fittings were dismantled and moved to the adjoining Great Synagogue, where they can still be seen, with their design carved to match the cast-iron work of the gallery in the Old Synagogue.
The Great Synagogue next door was designed by the architects Parker and Forsyth. It is a twin-towered, domed, baroque styled building. The building was consecrated by the Rev. A P Bender and opened by the Mayor Hyman Lieberman, on 13 September 1905.
Today the Gardens Synagogue serves as entrance to the new South African Jewish Museum. The museumwas completed in August 2000, at a cost of R9 million. It comprises an area of 1227m2, and is one of the most state of the art museums in the Country.
We continue our walk up Government Avenue. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Avenue ended at the zoo that was situated at the upper end of the Garden. During the Batavian regime in 1795, Government Avenue was extended to pass through the zoo.
To the left and right are whitewashed walls and gates, built by Herman Schutte, and designed by Louis Thibault, The gates divided the old zoointo two, and gave access to the aviary and an enclosure for antelopes on the left and predators on the right.
Two sleeping lionesses protect the western gate, which led to the predator’s camp, and opposite, lions held watch over the aviary and antelope.
Behind the predators gate, and not fully visble from our view is the Egyptian Building. It is situatedin the grounds of the University of Cape Town, and accessable throught the Hidding Campus entrance in Orange Street.This wasthe first building in South Africa erected for university purposes. The design, incorporating Egyptian columns, was planned as the three sides of an open square with an assembly hall at the back and three small classrooms in each of the wings. Characteristic of the building would be the heavy colonnade of Egyptian columns in accordance with the neo-Egyptian style of architecture which was so popular in the thirties and forties of the nineteenth century.
On the right and almost at the top of Government Avenue, in the grounds of the University of Cape Town, stands Bertram House. It occupies an important place in the history of South African architecture.
After the second occupation of the Cape Colony by the British in 1806, architecture at the Cape came under strong English influence. Between 1820 and 1837 it became fashionable to build Georgian brick houses in South African towns, and Bertram House is one of the few surviving examples of this style in Cape Town. It was built about 1820, very probably by Edward Durham.
Across the road from Bertams House is the entrace to the Mount Nelson Hotel.
The Mount Nelson Hotel, is one of the few end-of-the-century hotels still in use. It was originally a private house, owned by the Ross family, built largely of material brought out to the Cape as ballast.
The new hotel building opened on 4 March 1899. Already ahead of the times, the designs for the Mount Nelson were clear and uncluttered. The architects were Dunn & Watson of London, with Herbert Baker acting as resident architect in Cape Town. Four stories high, there were over 140 rooms (reception rooms, private sitting-rooms and bedrooms), all furnished richly and comfortably. The construction was thoroughly fireproof, electric light throughout, the most up-to-date lifts and ample refrigerating chambers. The handsome dining room opened out onto a conservatory whilst at the other end was a musicians’ gallery. The walls are oak panelled, and the moulded plaster ceiling with reliefs depicts from South Africa’s history.
In the heyday of the mail ships, the Mount Nelson Hotel, represented more than a hotel to seasoned travellers. It was a way of life.
Opened only six months before the AngloBoer War began in 1899, the Mount Nelson quickly became the headquarters of the English. The scores of rich, young officers instantly christened it the Nellie – a name that stuck.
Famous people like Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells and Conan Doyle flocked to the hotel.
General Buller, Lord Roberts and Kitchener in turn established their headquarters in the Nellie. Cecil Rhodes entertained there, and Winston Churchill’s mother enjoyed the strawberries.
Many women followed their fighting men to South Africa during the war but seldom, it seems, ventured further than the comforts of the Mount Nelson. Churchill himself, after his spectacular escape from the Boers, retired to one of the luxury, suites to continue issuing his war reports.
The Castle shipping line, which built the Hotel to rival the Union Steamships’ Grand Hotel, had the rich and leisured class, very much in mind when they created its 150 bedrooms, grand salon with Chippendale tables and chairs, domed dining room, acres of oak panelling and polished oak floors.
The imposing columns, which still dominate the entrance today, were built in 1924: they combined with the avenue of tall palms to create a fine air of colonial ease. By this time the hotel had its regulars, Britons who came year after year to escape cruel northern winters, and who continued to come as long as the mailships sailed. Extensions and modernisation have continued, yet the hotel has managed to retain its essentially Edwardian atmosphere of grace, spaciousness and leisure.
The Mount Nelson Hotel is owned by the Orient-Express and remains one of the finest hotels in the world.
At this point we turn around and walk back down Government Avenue, we turn left in front of the Museum, exit the Gardens on Queen Victoria Street, and walk towards the City centre.
On the left stands one of the finest Edwardian buildings in Cape Town: 62 Queeen Victoria Street. Today it is called “The Centre for the Book”. It was originally built to house the University of the Cape of Good Hope. This University examined the students of several colleges, like Victoria College Stellenbosch, and the South African College, Cape Town and others, which today are Universities in their own right.
It was designed by British architects W Hawke and WN McKinley. Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson laid the cornerstone of the original block on 24 February 1906. Unfortunately funds were insufficient and the design of the building was curtailed and modified. The twin towers, were not built as shown on the original drawings, nor was the drum of the dome so lavishly decorated as shown.
The Ceremonial Hall was based on a plan of an ancient Greek theatre and the dome above rose to a height of 56 ft. The base of the exterior is of Paarl granite. Spanish tiles cover the roof and the dome is coated with copper and topped by a cupola of teak.
An annex was built in 1910 and the cornerstone of the new university hall was laid on 5 November 1910 by the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn The entire building was inaugurated on 14 February 1913 by the then Governor-General, Viscount Gladstone of Llanark.
In 1918 the Cape University became the University of South Africa (UNISA) and shortly afterwards moved its headquarters to rented premises in Pretoria. UNISA retained ownership of the building, until it was sold to the State in 1932, to be the new home of the Cape Archives Depot.
The Archives moved out in February 1990, to new premises at the site of the old Roeland Street goal. The building was proclaimed a National Monument in 1990. As early as 1987, the Department of National Education had offered it to the South African Library, which planned to use it to house its special collections. The building nevertheless houses manuscript collections and several other valuable collections in environmentally controlled stores, as well as the Library’s Conservation and Book Repair workshops. The ground floor is managed by a project of the National Library, the innovative “Centre for the Book” which promotes access to libraries, the writing, illustrating and publishing of South African books in all languages which encourages both diversity and nation building at the same time as ensuring that all South Africans are able to share in the pleasure of reading.
Organisations involved with literacy, reading, publishing, and allied fields make use of the superb facilities of the building for conferences, symposia, training courses and exhibitions.
The Centre for the Book has been made use of in many different ways. A film shoot had a lion stalking through the main hall, while the King Commission of Inquiry into match fixing in South African cricket, had the building labelled for a while as the “Centre for the Bookie”.
Number 48 Queen Victoria Street was formerly known as the Huguenot Memorial Building. This predominantly Edwardian building was erected by the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church to commemorate the arrival of the French Huguenots in 1688. The foundation stone was laid on 24 August 1899 and the building was officially opened on 15 October 1903.
Further down, on the left, at number 18 Queen Victoria Street, stands Rhodes House, built in 1897, and designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Masey. It was designed in the pictorial, late 19th century manner, which was fashionable in London when Baker was working there. This building has a fine timber balcony on the first floor looking across the street to the Gardens.
Rhodes House was built to house the City Club. The City Club was modelled on a London city men’s club. The City Club and was formed in 1878 with Sir John Molteno as president, but it was not until Cecil Rhodes was elected a member in 1890 that monies were made available for a new building.
As Rhodes’ protégé, Herbert Baker was asked to organize an open competition for designs for a club building, the prize being £100. Baker won the competition! Costing in the region of £22 000 to build, every detail was of the best in both material and workmanship; Rhodes exhorted Baker to design meticulously with perfection in mind – even tasting the sand for salt to ensure that it was river and not sea sand.
At the corner of Queen Victoria and Wale Street we turn left, and walk up Wale Street. The building on our left houses the Provincial Legislature of the Western Cape.
We turn left into Keerom Street. On our left is no 14 Keerom Street. This is one of the finest examples of eighteenth-century townhouses, and is situated on land originally granted to Hermanus Smuts in 1751.
We turn right into Dorp Street, and left into Long Street. Across the road are a few of the more interesting Victorian buildings that have survived the onslaught of modernization.
140, 142, 148 Long Street.
No 140 was built c 1859, no 142 c1898, and no 148 in1902. These three buildings, with their Victorian and Edwardian characteristics, form an integral part of the historical and architectural character of Long Street.
A little further up Long Street, on the left, we find one of the oldest mosques in Cape Town, the Palm Tree Mosque.
It was originally built by the owner Carel Lodewijk Schot, as a residence, in the late 1780’s.
The Muslim community of Cape Town have been an integral part in the development of the community of Cape Town.
During the latter part of the Eighteenth Century Jan of Boeghies was brought here as a slave. He came from Celebes, known as Bughies, where he was born in 1734. He was an educated man. A wealthy woman, Salia of Macassar, a free slave, who bought her freedom at the Cape, purchased him.
When they were married Jan automatically received his freedom. When Tuan Guru settled at the Cape, Jan joined his school in Dorp Street as an Arabic teacher. He was a party to the establishment of the Auwal Mosque (situated in Dorp Street in the Bo-Kaap and the oldest mosque in South Africa) as member of the congregation. Jan, however, had great ambitions. He wanted to succeed Tuan Guru as “Kadi” and Imam of the mosque. For some reason or another Tuan Guru did not favour him. Jan left the congregation, and he and Frans of Bengal, acquired a property in Long Street (no. 185) as joint owners. On the death of Tuan Guru, Jan and Frans turned the upper storey of this house into a prayer room and appointed Abdolgamiet, the brother-in-law of Achmat of Bengal, as Imam. This property is today the Palm Tree Mosque. It became Jan’s sole property in 1811.
We now turn around and head back towards the City. At Wale Street we turn right, and then left into Burg Street.
The building on the corner of Church and Burg Streets is called Cape Heritage House. This fine Edwardian commercial building, with shops and office accommodation, was designed in 1900 by the architect E Seeliger, for the jeweller I Mendelsohn, and known as the Mendelsohn’s Building.
As we walk down Bree Street, we enter the hustle & bustle of Greenmarket Square.
This square developed quite naturally. Very likely the Company first brought vegetables from its adjoining garden to this place for distribution and sale. Farmers and freed slaves soon followed this example and brought their produce here in ox-wagons, one-horse carts and handcarts, so that the market square became a picturesque vegetable market under the shade of a colourful variety of sun-umbrellas and other shelters. Here, as on the parade, there was also a fountain where the citizens obtained water.
In the course of time, when the square became the administrative and social centre of the town, simple dwellings gave way to imposing and elegant buildings. The first of the new buildings was the lovely old Burger Watch House and Council Chamber (Old Town House) whose history is inextricably interwoven with that of Greenmarket Square.
By 1845 Greenmarket Square was the business centre where buying and selling took place. Wagons and carts for hire stood there. Their tariffs were fixed by municipal regulations. On the southwestern side of the square, trained workmen, messengers and porters waited to be hired. Later in the day and towards evening when the hustle and bustle had subsided, the square became the promenade of fashionably clad citizens with their elegantly dressed ladies, while others could be seen carried in smart sedan chairs by their slaves.
At the turn of the Twentieth century the square gradually began to lose its picturesque quality. When the new City Hall was built opposite the Parade in 1905, the produce sellers transferred their activities to that area. With the introduction of the motorcar, Greenmarket Square became a bleak, uninteresting parking area. Today the square is once again a hive of activity, with dozens of stalls selling a large variety of mostly traditional goods. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings of different architectural eras, like the gothic Metropolitan Methodist church, the art deco Namaqua House, Kimberley House and Market House and the impressive Park Inn Hotel. In order to prevent high-rise encroachment, the facades of these buildings have been included in the declaration of the square as a monument.
On the corner of Longmarket and Burg Street stands the Metropolitan Methodist Church.
Methodism first came to South Africa with the British soldiers stationed at the Cape Colony.
The early meetings and services were held in adapted buildings: a hayloft above the stable in Plein Street and a disused wine store in Barrack Street.
A key figure in the church in Cape Town at this time was the Rev. Barnabas Shaw who arrived in Cape Town in 1816. Together with the Rev. E. Edwards and the Rev. T.Hodgson, Shaw played a major role in the growth of the church in Cape Town and this culminated in the erection of the Wesleyan Methodist Church on the corner of Burg and Church Streets in 1829 (Methodist House now stands on this site). A memorial tombstone in memory of Barnabas Shaw, who is regarded as the founder of South African Methodism, can be found on the ground floor beneath the tile gallery at the back of the existing church.
The Wesleyan Church in Burg Street gradually felt the need for a larger church and in 1875 purchased the site on which the Metropolitan Church now stands for £1 850. The church was built under the supervision of the architect Charles Freeman and built by TIC Ingelesby, in 1878/79 at a cost of £17700 and opened on 12 November 1879.
The church was attended by many prominent citizens of Cape Town and was famous for its fine preachers and outstanding choirs. The Rev. Ernest Titcomb conducted the first radio broadcast of a church service in South Africa from the Metropolitan Church in 1928 and large crowds gathered to hear his fine preaching. Metro (as it was affectionately called) continued to attract large congregations until the 1960s when urban sprawl and other factors began to take their toll and attendance and membership declined. By the late 1980s only a few dozen people attended services.
In 1988 they decided to amalgamate with the Buitenkant Street church and formed the Central Methodist Mission. This commitment to be obedient to God’s call to unity has borne much fruit, and today a vibrant congregation with more than 200 members worship at the church on Greenmarket Square. The Buitenkant Street church accommodates a number of outreach projects to the people of the city, including the Ons Plek Shelter for Female Street Children, Stepping Stones Children’s Centre and the District Six Museum.
Apart from worship services, both Buitenkant Street Church and (since 1988) the church on the Square have been venues for protest and other community events. In 1990 the Metropolitan Hall hosted the first ANC press conference after the unbanning of the organisation. Protest meetings were held in the church on a regular basis until 1994 and large crowds gathered to hear speakers such as Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
The church hosted the launch of the Gun Free South Africa campaign where many children handed in their toy guns as a sign of their commitment to the campaign. CMM also hosted the World Methodist Council Peace Award Ceremony for Nelson Mandela in September 2000.
The Old Town House stands on the opposite corner of Longmarket and Burg Street.
This building stands as a proud example of eighteenth century architecture and symbolises the development of local government in Cape Town.
When free colonists were created, the Company granted them representation in the Council of Justice. In the course of time, however, as Cape Town developed, the Company wished these Burgher Councillors to play a part in the local government and considered that the streets should be patrolled at night by a burgher watch under the command of a sergeant and a corporal.
A vacant erf facing Greenmarket Square was acquired early in the eighteenth century and the first Burgher Watch House was built on this site in about 1716. It was designed in the style of an ordinary burgher’s dwelling, but, in view of the rapid expansion of Cape Town under the administration of Ryk Tulbagh, it was replaced by the present building. The foundation stone was laid on 18th November 1755.
This stately building enhanced the status of the town. It exhibits an imaginative but somewhat florid Baroque style.
An arched entrance reached by steps of Batavian bricks and surmounted by an ornamental balustrade, with four large vases gave access to the building.
This front elevation was somewhat altered during the early years of the nineteenth century. On 3rd July 1804, Batavian Commissioner-General J. A. de Mist presented a coat of arms to Cape Town. He decreed that it should be erected “on the outer walls”
About four years later Herman Schutte added the little bell-tower, which is now such a striking feature of the building, the upper balustrade was removed at the same time, and at a later stage a balcony with railings replaced the lower parapet.
For more than a hundred years this building was the administrative centre of Cape Town. The Burgher Senate was finally abolished in 1828 and for the next eleven years the central government itself took over the administration of municipal affairs.
During this time the Burgher Watch House served as the Magistrate’s Court and offices. It was only in 1839 that Cape Town was granted Municipal Council and the Burgher Watch House became its headquarters.
The old Burgher Watch House continued to watch over the development of the city until 1905 when a new City Hall was built facing the Parade. It then became known as the “Old” Town House and stood unused for a time.
The Park Inn on Greenmarket Square was designed by WH Grant and completed in two phases, the first section of this building on the corner of Longmarket Street was completed in 1929, and the second section was added in 1941 It was the head office of Shell Oil for many years until it became a hotel in 1980. This building, with its central clock tower, forms an important element in the architectural character of Greenmarket Square.
We now walk up Shortmarket Street, and turn right into Long Street. The beautiful Victorian building at 78 Long Street, used to house the YWCA. The Young Women’s Christian Association was founded in 1886. The original building was demolished in 1907. The four-storey Victorian building was rebuilt by J Parker of the firm Forsyth & Parker, and was dedicated to the memory of Minnie and Maria, daughters of JA Bam, who died in Germany. The original plans of the building are on display in the foyer. The Pan African Market now occupies the building.
A little further down at number 44 Long Street, stands an equally impressive Victorian building. This building was built for the YMCA. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Cape Town was founded on 24 August 1865. The original building was designed by the architect Charles Freeman, and was erected for the YMCA in 1883. Extensions, including an additional building, were undertaken in 1900 in accordance with the plans of architect John Parker and the present foundation stonewas laid by His Excellency the Governor Sir Alfred Milner on 4 October 1900.
We continue our walk down Long Street. On the left is the SA Sendinggestig Museum (Missionary Church Museum). This is the oldest indigenous mission church in South Africa. This church is architecturally unique in the country. It was the first building in the form of a basilica with an apsis, and it remained the only one of its kind till later in the nineteenth century. All the windows of the church are small-scale replicas of this ground plan. The church has the only surviving example: of a steeply pitched lime-concrete roof.
(This form of construction was developed at the Cape specifically for flat roofs.) The facade is unrivalled. It features Corinthian pilasters carrying a finely moulded cornice, surmounted by a gable: with a circular ventilator and carrying four urns. The pilasters are in fact the only Corinthian ones executed in plaster that survives in the Cape.
The interior of the church is an extremely handsome hall with one traverse and two side galleries resting on eight Ionian wooden columns. The imposing pulpit made by F. Kannemeyer in neo-classical style, the beautiful organ with decorated pipes, the carved oak pews and long teak balconies contribute towards making it the finest early mission church in the Cape.
The atmosphere is overwhelmingly serene and the acoustics widely acclaimed.
The church was built from 1802-1804 by the South African Missionary Society, which was founded in 1799 on an ecumenical basis. It was used for divine services, meetings of the directors and members of but more specifically for religious and literacy instruction of the slaves and other non-Christians at the Cape. The congregation, which developed from these activities, used the church for more than a century. In 1971 they sold the church-, which had become extremely dilapidated, to a business concern and erected a new church in Belhar (A suburb on the Cape Flats).
Through the intervention of concerned conservationists and the aid of the Cape Provincial Administration the building was saved from demolition and thoroughly restored. In 1977 it was declared a Province-aided Museum as well as a Historical Monument.
The theme governing all exhibits is: Mission work initiated and undertaken by South Africans. Apart from the church furniture a large number of original documents are exhibited. The main exhibit is a very professional thematic display on ten illuminated panels, through which visitors are introduced to the earliest missionary enterprise at the Cape and environs and the role it played in the development of the community.
As we exit the church we turn left and then right into Strand Street. The first street in Cape Town was Sea Street, directly opposite Van Riebeeck’s Fort of Good Hope, along the beach to the west of the Heerengracht. This street is today situated far from the sea and runs between the Cape Town railway station, and the Golden Acre Shopping Complex.
The well-to-do merchants of the seventeenth century had their large and tasteful houses here.
On our right at number 35 is the Koopman’s de Wet House. Willem Adriaan van der Stel granted the land to a rich merchant, Reynier Smedinga. Tradition has it that Smedinga was a ship’s captain who brought out building materials on his last voyage and in 1701 built a lovely thatched house on this erf. About the middle of the eighteenth century double-storied houses with flat roofs became fashionable.
It was probably then that this house was given a second storey. At the end of the century the architect Louis Thibault, along with the sculptor, Anton Anreith, rebuilt the front of the house in the so-called Louis XVI style and gave it its present form.
The beauty of the house lies in the strict classical lines of the facade and its harmonious proportions. The fluted columns, the panels between the upper and lower windows, and the pediment are the most striking features. The rooms are exceptionally large and the walls were finished in tinted plaster and decorated with conventionalised coloured representations of pilasters, mouldings and so on.
The De Wet family acquired the house at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Eventually Johannes de Wet inherited the house from his mother (1794-1875). He was an advocate and played an important part in public life. Johannes de Wet was a collector of Cape furniture and of historical information about South Africa.
Advocate de Wet had two daughters, one of them, Marie, married Johan Christoffel Koopmans who had come to South Africa after the Crimean War as an officer of the British-German legion. After the death of Mr. Koopmans in 1880 the two sisters occupied the house and it was then that Marie Koopmans de Wet came to the fore as a political figure. She not only added to the already valuable collection of furniture in the house, but also worked untiringly for the preservation of South African antiques and historical buildings. Indeed, it can be said that, acting on her own, she saved both the Castle in Cape Town and the Powder Magazine in Stellenbosch from being demolished.
In the course of time her home became an influential salon, frequented by consuls, judges, ministers and members of parliament as, well as prominent personalities like Paul Kruger, Cecil John Rhodes, Sir John Truter and Presidents Brand, Reitz and Steyn, who came to exchange ideas about matters of public importance with their talented hostess.
After the death of Mrs Koopman’s de Wet in 1906 and of her sister in 1911, the house and its valuable collection of antiques were in danger of being lost to the nation. By means of public contributions and government support the house with its most important contents was purchased and, on 29th October, 1913, handed over to the trustees of the South African Museum at Cape Town.
Today a superb collection of Cape furniture, Chinese and Japanese ceramics, Dutch Delft, paintings, glass and silverware can be viewed. One of the country’s oldest vines grows in the small courtyard.
We continue our walk up Strand Street towards Greenpoint. The facades of the two double-storey buildings at 76 and 78 Strand Street, across the road, are regarded as important examples of Cape Town’s early building heritage. No 76 were probably erected around 1860. No 78 probably dates from the same period, but have undergone some sensitive modernisation in the 1880’s.
On the corner of Bree and Strand Street, stand a unique group of eighteenth century buildings. They are: the Lutheran Church, Martin Melck House and Sexton’s House. These buildings were designed as an architectural entity to meet the needs of the Lutheran Church.
Martin Melck House (96 Strand Street)
When he built the “warehouse”, Martin Melck kept the eventual need for a parsonage in mind and took care to have possession of the land to the east of the church.
He later transferred it to the church and after his death a parsonage was built on it. Building commenced in 1781. The architect was Louis Thibault. The sculptor Anton Anreith was responsible for the moulded architraves of the middle windows, the swan on the front of the building and the carving of the front door.
The design shows the influence of the French Renaissance. It is one of the finest examples of eighteenth century architecture at the Cape and the only surviving example of a typical Cape Town house.
The first occupants of this large house were the Rev. Andreas Kolver, his wife Anthonia and their eleven-year old son. Except for minor renovations, the house stands today just as it did in Kolver’s time. It is characterized by large, spacious rooms, small Batavian bricks in the entrance porch and lobbies, broad teak boards on the ground floor and yellow wood on the upper floor, a great teak beam over the hearth and a cool, restful little courtyard behind the house.
Until 1891 the building served as a parsonage. The Church then let it as a house and in 1894 it became a boarding house. From then on it was known as Bloemfontein House, and in 1929 certain clubs and societies in Cape Town, fearing that it might be destroyed, formed a company to take over the lease.
Today it houses the Gold of Africa Museum. It has the largest collection of African gold artefacts, and has a working studio, gold boutique, wine cellar, and art garden.
The Lutheran Church
At first the Dutch East India Company allowed freedom of worship only to members of the Dutch Reformed Church.
From early on the German, Danish and Scandinavian officials and free burghers who belonged to the Lutheran Church, petitioned in vain, to the Lords Seventeen for permission to erect their own church, and provide for the services of their own minister. It was during the regime of Governor Ryk Tulbagh, that Martin Melck, a member of the Lutheran Church, succeeded unobtrusively in starting to build the church.
Martin Melck came to the Cape in 1745 as a soldier in the Company’s service. Four years later he became a free burgher and married Margaretha Hop. By this marriage, he became the owner of the show farm Elsenburg and soon became one of the richest and most influential wine- and stock-farmers in the colony. He bought a plot in the fashionable Sea Street (Strand Street). On On 6th April 1774 he erected a building which he described to the government as a warehouse. It measured 28,6 m long by 19,5 m, wide, and was built like a church with a domed ceiling, rows of thick, rectangular columns and large English sash windows.
In 1776 the hall was transferred to the congregation by Martin Mlelck and used for holding church services. It already contained an organ, a communion chalice and a lectern in the form of a swan with outstretched wings the symbol of Lutheranism, and another swan was proudly displayed above the entrance.
In 1779 the Lords Seventeen decided to give the Lutherans their own church and in the following year Andreas Kolver of Rotterdam began his ministry at the Cape as the first Pastor. During the next four years considerable improvements were made to the hall, but it was mainly during the year 1787 to 1792 that the building was transformed and beautified. The leading Cape sculptor of the time, Anton Anreith designed the front elevation. His main contribution was the decoration of the interior with his excellent woodcarvings. The most important of these works were the magnificent pulpit supported by two great male figures and the choir-stalls, with a carving of King David in high relief. The consistory was added during this time. In 1818 the church had to be rebuilt quite considerably, extent because of the poor condition of the walls and the roof. A spire was also built.
The new building was inaugurated on 20th December 1820. There have been few alterations to the church since that time. Anreith’s incomparable pulpit, the historic old pews, the lovely copper basins and font enhance the sense of devotion. Proclaimed 1949
The Sexton’s House
This building at the corner of Strand and Buitengracht Streets was probably built at the same time as the Parsonage, 1779 and 1783. It was originally separated from the Church by another house which the Church Council let out to tenants, but the two houses were later built into one and the facade of the letting-house was retained. When the first Lutheran teacher, Lourens Ersey, arrived at the Cape in 1791, he lived in this house. He also acted as the sexton.
Behind and on the Greenpoint side of the Luthera Church, on the triangle between Buitengracht, and Riebeeck Street, and Somerset Road, stands the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
The foundation stone was laid in October 1827. It was built by Henry Reveley the son of Henry Willey Reveley, a leading English architect and an enthusiast for Greek architecture. St. Andrew’s Church, designed in the Greek Revival manner, was his major architectural design: it is a solid, rectangular building, with a plain interior and a gallery supported on cast iron columns, large enough to seat eight hundred people. The most interesting part of the design is the tall, slightly projecting Doric portico consisting of two close columns on either side of an entrance doorway, supporting a correctly detailed entablature and pediment. Doric pilasters enclose the ends of the main facade.
As we exit the Lutheran Church, we cross Strand Street and walk up Bree Street.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bree Street housed the wealthy merchants of Cape Town. These well-proportioned houses were elegant, with windows, doors, ceilings and flooring made of stinkwood and yellowwood.
Today the surviving houses are amongst the city’s most beautiful buildings, and have been declared national monuments.
The Street blockbounded by Bree Street, Hout Street, Buitengracht Street and Shortmarket Street, is called Heritage Square. These buildings have all been declared National Monuments.
82 Bree Street, 95 Hout Street
The central pediment on Bree Street is dated A D 1904.
97 Hout Street – 101 Hout Street
It consists of 3 matching (though not identical) 2 storey warehouse facades.
The arched openings and timber joinery is possibly the original . It has fine plaster trimmings throughout, including applied miniature festoons, plaster escutcheons and ornamental keystones. The fine uniform cornice and parapet with matching pediment gables, all with plaster escutcheons, are dated 1903.
57 – 63 Buitengracht Street
This building was visible on Budricks panoramas c1900, and was built on a previous site of a 5 bay 2-story town house, which was visible on Millards’ panorama c1895.
67, 69 buitengracht Street
The basic site layout has been unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862, with the exception of the courtyard infill at the rear.
The upper facade is a fine survivor of a basic 18th century 5 bay format town house. The pilasters, quoins, cornice are possibly all 18th century. The upper facade is visible on Millard’s panorama c1859.
71, 73 Buitengracht Street
Budricks panoramas c1900 shows the building under construction. A 5 bay, 2-storey town house, previously occupied the site, which was visible on Millard’s panorama cI859.
108 Shortmarket, cnr Buitengracht Street
This is an old Central City site. The basic layout has been unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862. The building was visible on Millard’s panorama c1859. It was marked “Tobacco and Snuff Works” on a c1859 photograph. The inside shows a basic 18th century town house structure.
102 Shortmarket Street
This is also an old Central City site. The basic layout has been unchanged, since Snow’s survey c1862, including a right hand coach entrance way.
98 Shortmarket Street
Also an old Central city site. The basic layout has been unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862.
86 Bree Street
Old central city site. Basic site layout including narrow lane and courtyard unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862.
86 Bree Street
Flat roofs visible Millard panorama c1859. The present 3-storey building was probably renovated c1930.
88 Bree Street
Note the central 18th century heavy timbered and barred fanlight. This is probably a remnant of a previous central heavy warehouse door. Also an old central city site. The basic site layout is unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862.
90 Bree Street
The centre door and left hand doors are probably 20th century modifications. The lane door leads to rear an L-shaped courtyard, with a historic vine. The interior shows a basic U-shaped town house plan, heavy beams, some Georgian plastered ceilings, timber lintels and architraves. It is an old central city site. The basic site layout, including the stoep and steps shows on Snow’s survey c1862.
92, 96 Bree Street. An old central city site. The basic layout has been unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862.
The townhouses at 89, 89a, 87 Bree Street are of a similar era to number 93 (c1750). They were changed to pitch roofs c1900.
The double story town house, higher up, at 93 Bree Street once belonged toJan de Waal. Born in Amsterdam, he arrived at the Cape in 1715 as an employee of the Dutch East India Company. The land on which this doublestorey house stands was granted to him in 1752 by Governor Ryk Tulbagh The house and adjoining warehouse in Shortmarket Street are typical of eighteenth century Cape architecture The present teak Georgian windows and door replaced the Dutch-style originals during the first quarter of the nineteenth century c1830. Jan de Waal was also the founder of Walendorp or the Bo-Kaap as we know it today.
The parking lot just above Heritage Square is also a National Monument, and is called Riebeeck Square.
During the eighteenth century this square was situated on the outermost street of the City, on Buitengracht Street. It was first known as “Boeren Plijn” Farmers Square), then as “Hottentot Plijn and finally as Riebeeck Square. These three names reflect the history of the square.
In the olden days the roads from the interior joined at a point somewhere east of the Castle and the wagons with their long spans of oxen all had to pass through a tollgate. At first the farmers outspanned their wagons anywhere, but soon they had to be properly controlled.
They trekked past the Castle and up Sea Street (now Strand Street) to this large square, which thus acquired the name of “Boeren Plijn”.
Over time “Boeren Plijn” gradually became known as Hottentot Square, a name, which appeared for the first time on a plan of Cape Town, prepared by Geo Thompson in 1827.
Opinions differ on the origin of this name. Some say that the name came from the Hottentot kraals that were supposed to have been situated there in earlier times, while other ascribes it to the noisy shouting and babbling of Hottentot wagoners. But it is much more likely that it owes its name to the fact that the square became more and more the meeting place of Coloured people because of its proximity to the Malay Quarter (Bo-Kaap).
In the 1860’s it was re-named Riebeeck Square in honour of the founder of the City. By this time, too, it had become much smaller and, to prevent any further encroachments, it was proclaimed as a monument on l7th February 1961.
In the middle of the square on the Bree Street side stands South Africa’s first theatre, originally known as The African Theatre. During the first British occupation of the Cape the public, and especially the garrison, lacked adequate entertainment. The British Governor, Sir George Yonge, authorized the building of a theatre. In 1799 construction of the theatre was started. lt was designed by the architect Louis Thibault and built in 1801 by Sir George Yonge. Lady Anne Barnard often visited this theatre.
The theatre was opened on 17th November 1800. At street level there was provision for a number of shops, workshops and even storerooms. Above these was the theatre itself. The walls were of Table Mountain sandstone, rough-dressed and bonded in clay, but the upper courses of the walls were of stone mixed, with half-burnt bricks and plastered over. The exterior was distinguished by a low pitched roof, buttresses surmounted by urns, a row of oval windows and a covered colonnade of four columns reached by two gracious stairways. The stairways were demolished in 1824, but the building stands just as it was. Nothing remained of its “elegant” interior.
St Stephens Church. The building soon proved to be ineffective as a theatre and fell into disuse. In 1838, when the four-year period of indenture of the slaves elapsed, Dr. Adamson of the Presbyterian Church used it as a school for freed slaves. The Rev. G. W. Stegmann of the Dutch Reformed Church supported him and it was soon used as a school during the week, and as a Sunday school and a place of worship on Sundays. It is said the church, the only Dutch Reformed Church that bears the name of a Saint, was called after the first martyr, because the dissatisfied slaves stoned it on a certain Sunday while a service was in progress.
In 1936, after the years of depression, the building was in a fairly poor condition and there was talk of selling it. The danger was averted for the time being through the intervention of various cultural organisations with the support of the Historical Monuments Commission.
In 1949 a firm who proposed to build a parking garage on the site, made an offer ten times the amount offered in 1936. Fortunately, however, it was saved because the area proved too small for the project and the City Council refused to sacrifice an extra nine metres of Riebeeck Square.
The threat that the church might be demolished remained. It was only through persistence, tact and persuasion on the part of those who fought for its preservation that the building was eventually declared a National Monument.
Another Anton Anreith scupture, the remains of a pediment, can be seen at no 129 Bree Street
Number 131, was the residence of Johannes Mattheus Hertzog until 1812. His father, Johan Barthold, was the ancestor of the Hertzog family and the grandfather of Gen. J. B. M. Hertzog. He was a wagon-maker by trade, exceptionally prosperous by the standards of his time and a respected inhabitant of the town. A frequent visitor to the home of the Hertzogs was their compatriot, Anton Anreith, the well-know sculptor. The youngest of his sons, Willem Frederik, was a pupil of Anreith’s.
]ohannes Mattheus Hertzog could well afford the luxury of having the front of house decorated by Anton Anreith. Louis Thibault designed the house, in 1790; Anreith carved a pediment of two little figures the one above the other, of Mercury, god of mercury with a staff in his right hand and a bag of gold in his Ieft. It is the only remaining example of such embossment on a building in Cape Town, of which there were formerly at least 20. The lower of two original figures has disappeared, but the top figure of Mercury is visible. The dwelling was demolished in 1971, but the pediment was preserved, and has been placed, above the courtyard, between no 131 and 127 Bree Street. It is only visible from the opposite side of the street.
The building at 122 Bree Street, cnr Wale Street, is one of the few remaining Georgian double-storey houses in Cape Town. Declared a National Monument 1977
We now turn right into Wale Street, and head towards the Bo-Kaap. At number 70 Wale Street, stands another Georgian town house. It has sash windows and a fine double entrance door with reeded pilasters and decorated plaster frieze. Note the fine early 19th century plaster cornice. The raised side parapets probably have an old flat roof structure within.
This is an old central city site, and is a fine example of an old Cape structure with 19th century Cape Georgian detailing and a fine ornate fanlight. The basic site layout has been unchanged since Snow’s survey c1862.