1841 – 1850

1841 6th October, The foundation stone of St Mary’s Cathedral, in Roeland Street is laid. St Mary’s Cathedral is located on the historical “Stalplein” (Stable Square) opposite the House of Parliament.

By 1842 speculative building really got under way both here and on the other side of the Castle, in District Six. In the early nineteenth century, most of Cape Town’s population still lived in the old centre of the town.

Many former slaves had set up as tailors, shoemakers, saddlers, caners of chairs, painters, bricklayers and masons, but the great majority of them worked for white employers.

The first shop window is installed in Cape Town and a lighthouse is erected at Mouille Point. The light was switched on for the first time on the 1stof July. 

By the 1840, commerce had begun to dominate the Heerengracht. In St. George’s Street, there were a few tailors, one or two hotels, newspapers offices and a few fashionable stores, such as the snuff and tobacco shop of Baron von Ludwig.

The post office in Cape Town moved to the part of the Old Supreme Court building that today border on Bureau Street. It only had two rooms at its disposal: one in which the public was served and another in which the post was franked and sorted. These conditions persisted untill 1851, by which time the activities of the postal service had grown to such an extent that the two rooms had become too cramped. Soon permanent post-masters were appointed, new post offices established and new routes introduced. By 1838 there were 22 post offices with full-time post-masters.

Things changed dramatically with the advent of adhesive postage stamps, in two values, 1 d. and 4d.

This was the first triangular stamp in the world, designed by Charles Bell. The inconvenient and expensive system whereby

The artist Thomas Baines arrives at the Cape.

1843 John Montagu (secretary to the Colonial Government between 1843 and 1853), initiate a vigorous roads program. He is assisted by the surveyor-general, Major C. C. Michell, and Andrew Geddes Bain, the construction engineer. Montagu was the man who initiated the work on the construction of Bain’s Kloof, Michell’s Pass, near Ceres, and Montagu Pass between George and Oudtshoorn. He also was the first to succeed in building a hard road across the Cape Flats. To control the drifting sand, matting was used and Port Jackson wattle imported from Australia was planted, along with hottentot fig.

1844 Maclear’s Beacon is erected on top of Table Mountain. It indicates a hight of 1087m above sea level.

1844 August, The Cape of Good Hope Gas Light Company is established with Baron von Ludwig as its first chairman. It called for tenders for the supply of a gasometer and cast-iron pipes. The mains were laid two years later. Mr. John Montagu laid the foundation stone on 6th October 1845, the Baron’s sixty-first birthday.

The Fountain Hotel in Hout Street and Baron von Ludwig’s house, Ludwigsberg, in Kloof Street, were the first buildings in which gas-lighting was installed.

1845 Construction of the SA Public Library in The Gardens is completed. Designed by the architect Kohlerit, and built in the style of the Greek Revival, based on George Basevi’s design for the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

From 1846 onwards various factors produced a more sympathetic British attitude towards self-government and Sir Harry Smith was asked for a report on self-government at the Cape Colony. A draft, to form Parliament, which had been sent to Westminster, was returned with the approval of the Privy Council.

The double-storey building at 109 Harrington Street is probably the only remaining Georgian granite-faced house in South Africa It was originally built as a dwelling for Sir Anthony Oliphant, Cape Attorney General at the time. Between 1839 and 1845 it belonged to Henry Sherman

1846 May The American ship Gentoo is wrecked near Struys Bay, and its survivors, amongst them a number of women emigrants, trekked to Cape Town, where most of them settle. Some of these women suffered from venereal diseases, and their general behaviour left no doubt as to how they had contracted them. As a result women who took to the streets was known in Cape Town at that time as gentoos.

When the new municipality was created, the buildings of the town extended towards Lion’s Hill and around the place of execution. The residents of Boer Plein ( Riebeeck Square) complained the flogging and hanging of criminals right outside their doors. The Government therefore removed it to a place near the sea (on Somerset Road, where the Cape town traffic department is today). It became known as Gallows’ Hill.

It was not until 1869 that the authorities decided to do away with capital punishment. Executions were confined to within the precincts of a prison.

1847 the Board of Commissioners and Wardmasters decide to demolition of the old jail, because it obscured the view of Table Bay from the town. At about this time, iron and zinc were being used in building materials, but concrete was not used until the early 1850’S. 

1849 The convict ship, the Neptune arrives in Cape Town harbour.

During the 1840’s, the Australian colonists had accepted the continuous shipments of convicts to their shores with increasing reluctance so that the British Government began to look around for an alternative place to which the convicts could be sent. In November 1848, Sir Harry Smith informed the Legislative Council that the Cape had been declared a penal settlement.

This sparked a violent reaction of the overwhelming majority of the people here.

In April 1849, news was received that Earl Grey had ordered the despatch of the convict ship Neptune to the Colony. The Governor realised that violence would ensue if the convicts were landed.

Despatches between Sir Harry Smith and Earl Grey now took on a note of urgency. The Governor, urged the latter to reverse his decision. In Parliament, the Secretary of State was severely criticised by C. B. Adderley, member for North Stafford.

On the 21st of February 1850, news was received that Earl Grey had revoked his previous decision. The Neptune sailed for on the 21st of February, leaving much bitterness against Britain behind her. The proposal that the name of the Heerengracht be changed to Adderley Street was excecuted.

1849 July Horse-drawn cabs are introduced. 

1849 A lighthouse is erected at Cape Agulhas.

Due to the better design and rigging of sailing ships, and especially to the introduction of steam, communications with England had become quicker and easier. Steam gradually took over from sail, but the appearance of a steamer from overseas was still the signal for crowds to gather on the beach. The iron-hulled Nemesis, a paddle-ship with two masts carrying sail, drew thousands of spectators who would not believe that a vessel built of iron could float.

1850The contract for the Mail Packet Service is awarded to the General Screw Steam Shipping Company for the monthly 

transportation of the mail between Britain and the Cape. The Bosphorus inaugurated this mail service. Letters from England 

now only took between forty and fifty days to reach the Cape.

By 1850, the most fashionable streets were Strand and Roeland Streets.

During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bree Street housed the wealthy merchants of Cape Town. These wellproportioned houses were elegant, with windows, doors, ceilings and flooring made of stinkwood and yellowwood. Today the surviving houses are amongst the city’s most beautifull buildings, and have been declared national monuments.

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