Cape Town is one of South Africa’s most Historically important Cities. It was here, in the "Mother City", where the first European Colonists set foot in South Africa—which also marked the beginning of the South African slave trade. It was Home to perhaps the World’s most famous political prisoner—Nelson Mandela—who was held on the tiny Robben Island in Table Bay.
Roughly 300 Million Years ago, during the Karoo Ice Age, Table Mountain wasn’t a Mountain at all! It was at Sea Level but what lay beneath was layers of sandstone, set atop a granite base. Pressure from the underlying magma worked with the ice to harden the top layer, leaving the iconic flat slab we see today. As the Continents tore apart and collided, the City’s famous Landmark was gradually forced to rise and it now stands a Kilometer tall overlooking the Bay. The 'Table Mountain Aerial Cableway', is nearly a Century old. Before then, the only way up the Mountain was by foot. On 4 October 1929, after two Years of difficult and dangerous work, the first Cable Car chugged its way to the top filled with excited and probably very nervous visitors! It’s been upgraded a number of times since, and today the trip to the top is smooth sailing and the Cab actually revolves, slowly, giving the person a 360 Degree view of Cape Town!
Between 1814 and the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the Cape was constitutionally a separate colony of Great Britain. The term, 'District six', arises from the 1867 division of the "Municipality of Cape Town, Green and Sea Point, and Robben Island" into seven districts, which also formed the City of Cape Town voting districts of the Parliament of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. The southern suburbs from Woodstock southwards and Maitland to the north had already been established as separate municipalities. Many areas of central Cape Town that are today purely commercial, were then residential interspersed with businesses. Note, the voters' roll comprised' only property-owning males!
Despite the inclusion of later-to-be disenfranchised citizens on the lists, social class (and thereby indirectly racial) discrimination was at a peak at the turn-of-the-century. Anglo-Boer tensions were at a height and Municipal elections were fought on the English 'Clean Party' – Afrikaner 'Dirty Party' basis. Thereafter, racist legislation made its appearance. Hospitals became segregated, while the School Board Act of 1905 was to introduce segregation into education.
The farce had begun; your children and those of your neighbour could play together but not be educated together! In Juta’s Cape Town Directory of 1900 the addresses of all Whites in each street were listed with the names of the family living at the premises. Where an address was occupied by a citizen from a different group, the Directory callously states Coloured Occupants. In 1901, the first forced removals of Black South Africans to Native Locations took place and Langa was established. It is therefore arguable that the fundamental universal human right of "freedom of association" existed at the Cape until 1900, after which it was slowly whittled away until it was reaffirmed in the Bill of Rights of the SA Constitution of 1996. Cape suburbia displayed a 'mixed' occupancy until Group Areas attempted to end it forever.
The following comprises the racially-hybrid, cosmopolitan state of the divisions from 1900 until 1910 when the Cape Colony became part of the Union of South Africa. District Six retained that flavour more than any other district and in the 1930's a large portion of the Jewish refugees from Europe began their new life in District Six. Benkenstein, purveyors of yamalkes, Shabat candles and other Judaica artifacts was still located in Harrington St on the edge of the District into the new millennium. When the "Engineers of Apartheid" gained parliamentary ascendancy, they found an adjacent area that just had to be annihilated to preserve their inhuman ideology.
Roggebaai to Strand St and Adderley St to Signal Hill thus incorporating the present residential area known as _Die Waterkant_. Alonzo Ford, a jeweller, resided at 39 Jarvis St, while Thomas Constable, a bricklayer, lived at 30 Somerset Rd. Residents comprised artisans including many gasfitters, cab drivers, boilermakers, and fishermen who plied their trade from Rogge Bay at the foot of Adderley St.
Strand St to Wale St and Adderley St to Signal Hill, thus incorporating the lower section of what we now call the Bo-Kaap. Moos Moses, a labourer employed by R Wilson and Co of St Georges St, lived at 65 Chiappini St, while James Henry McKillop, a boot merchant, lived at 42 Shortmarket St. The employment spread was socially superior District One, as it was situated further from the Docks and Railway Area.
Wale St to Bloem St (crossing upper Long St) and Adderley St to Signal Hill, thus incorporating the middle section of current Bo-Kaap and the Queen Victoria St - Long St section of town. Johannes Elburg an undertaker, had a residence at 144 Loop St. Jalalodien Effendi a cow keeper, lived at 17 Bloem St. The employment spread is similar to the previous District.
Roeland St and Bloem St to Table Mountain thus incorporating older and lower parts of modern Devil’s Peak, Vredehoek, Oranjezicht, Gardens, Tamboerskloof and the upper section of the Bo-Kaap. More distant from the centre of Town and the industrial areas, a generally higher employment cross-section is encountered. James Douglas Nash an accountant, lived at Arlington House, Hope St. Arthur Newstead a florist, had his home in Courville St, Gardens.
Darling St along Constitution St (the principal thoroughfare through the later reconstructed District Six) from Adderley St and up to Roeland St and including the Parade, Railway Area and Docks.
In 1900 the Victoria and Alfred Docks stood where the Waterfront is today. What was later incorporated into District Six on the mountain side of Constitution St was part of District Five. The upper part of present day Zonnebloem also fell into District Five. Charles William Lloyd a mineral water manufacturer, lived at 7 Roeland Villas. Hendrick Servaas Meder a carpenter and joiner, lived somewhere on Constitution St.
Constitution Street to the Beach including the Castle, going as far as Searle St (City Tramways location on Main Rd) toward the Southern Suburbs. Today the area includes part of Zonnebloem, Walmer Estate and the parts of Woodstock from the Eastern Boulevard down to the Southern Suburbs railway line. Below the Castle was the sea; the whole of the Foreshore area was still to be reclaimed. Arthur Hudson Barnes a brewer, lived at 29 Constitution St, while namesake Charles Barnes, a painter, resided at 23 Primrose St. Thomas Henry Blate, a proof-reader, lived at 24 Chapel St. Abdullah Bedford, a hawker, owned 13 Van De Leur St.
The above six Districts comprised the City Bowl area. Camps Bay and Clifton were largely unsettled, Llandudno was not yet imagined, while nearby Hout Bay comprised a few farms, accessible via Wynberg and Constantia. The noted Hout Bay restaurant, Kronendal, was part of a farm of the same name, given to a freed slave in the late eighteenth century, whose ancestors had been part of Jan van Riebeek’s household.
The central part of the Atlantic area had been established as a general residential area and formed part of an additional District.
According to the introductory paragraph in the _Cape of Good Hope Voters’ Lists of 1900_, District Seven comprised sections of the “Municipalities of Cape Town, Green Point and Sea Point, and Robben Island" and included Somerset Rd and the whole of Green Point and Sea Point, which had been established as a combined municipality in 1839. Robben Island was in 1900 a penal settlement, lunatic asylum and confinement hospital for those with severely contagious diseases including leprosy.
Mainland District Seven, being further from town, shows greater affluence and a consistency of social status, generally found in modern suburbia. Arthur Mulliner, a stockbroker, resided at The Firs, Sea Point. George William Price, an organ builder, lived at 21 St Bede’s Terrace, Antrim Rd, Green Point. Reginald Richmond, an accountant, lived at 1 St James’ Terrace, Main Rd, Sea Point.
Those with a long family history in Cape Town may enjoy browsing Juta's annual Cape Almanacs, Directories and Voters’ Lists which are on the shelves at the National Library in the Gardens, finding names, employment and residential particulars of ancestors.
From flat-topped Table Mountain down to the blue waters of Table Bay, Cape Town is simply stunning, but the City doesn't thrive by its looks alone! Proudly multicultural, its flourishing arts, dining, and nightlife scenes are proof of this modern Metropolis, eternal creativity and innovative spirit. Table Mountain and the surrounding Area was Home to the Khoisan people long before the first Europeans arrived. They called the City :"Hui Gabe". They were skilled and industrious people with an unmatched knowledge of the local fauna and flora. They also gave Table Mountain its first name: Hoerikwaggo, or “Mountain in the Sea”. Today, Afrikaans is the second most common language spoken in Cape Town followed by Xhosa. English is the most common language. The first Settlement of Cape Town was situated between Table Mountain and Table Bay. It was bounded on the North West by the Mountain 'Ridges', known as Lion’s Head and Lion’s Rump (later called Signal Hill), on the North by Table Bay, on the South by Devil’s Peak, and on the East by marshlands and the sandy Cape Flats beyond. The nearest Fertile Land was on the lower Eastern slopes of Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain and, farther to the Southeast, at Rondebosch, Newlands, and Wynberg. From the Castel that protected the Settlement, a track led South past these lands to False Bay on the Eastern side of the Cape Peninsula and on beyond Muizenberg and Kalk Bay to Simon’s Bay, where the East Indian man trade ships could find shelter from North Westerly winter gales. The constraints of Mountain, Sea, and sand shaped the direction of Cape Town’s growth, and the pattern was followed in subsequent Road and Rail construction. A Railway Line reached Wynberg in 1864 and Muizenberg in 1883, and another Line ran Eastward from Cape Town across the Flats to the Interior.
It all started after the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias, became the first European to set eyes on what is now Cape Town after he rounded the Cape by ship in the late 1400's. But the Dutch colonist Jan van Riebeeck became the first European to set foot on its soil in 1652. He was sent by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), to establish a Supply Station for ships on their way from Europe to India. Jan van Riebeeck, stepped ashore to select Sites for a Fort and a vegetable Garden. In 1657 the company began to release men from its employ so that they could become free burghers (citizens) and farmers, and in 1658 the company began to import slaves. Inland from Table Mountain, a second company Farm was established at Newlands, and vines were planted on the slopes of Wynberg (“Wine Mountain”). Shortly after Van Riebeeck had established the Supply Station, the VOC brought slaves from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to work on the Farms that supplied the fruit and vegetables to passing ships. The Indigenous inhabitants provided cattle but not labour, so the VOC imported slaves, mainly from East Africa, Madagascar, and the Bay of Bengal Area. The slaves brought with them something of their culture namely, the Islamic faith along with the delectable Cape Malay cuisine.
Since it was only first colonized in 1652, Cape Town was tossed back and forth between two of the greatest colonial powers of the time, the British and the Dutch. The Dutch were in charge for the first Century and a half after Colonization. Mixed-race unions took place, but strong racial and ethnic characteristics remained. In 1781 the French established a garrison to help the Dutch defend the City against British attack, and the French presence influenced local Architecture and Culture. British occupation in the 19th Century brought new Parliamentary and Judicial concepts and freedom for the slaves! Cape Town was the gateway to Europe’s penetration of the South African interior, and close ties with continental Europe were maintained. Britain took over in 1795, only to lose the colony to the Dutch in 1803. Another three years passed before the Cape was back in British hands, where it stayed for the next Century and a bit. Finally, in the early 1900's, South Africa was granted independence, but it was another 90 Years before the first democratic elections took place! Today, Cape Town is the Legislative Capital of South Africa.
From the 1770s, Colonists came into contact and inevitable conflict with Bantu-speaking Chiefdoms some 800 km East of Cape Town. A century of intermittent warfare ensued during which the colonists gained ascendancy over the isiXhosa-speaking chiefdoms. In 1795, the British occupied the Cape as a strategic base against the French, controlling the sea route to the East.
In the 1820s, the celebrated Zulu leader, Shaka, established sway over a vast area of south-east Africa. As splinter Zulu groups conquered and absorbed communities in their path, the region experienced a fundamental disruption. Substantial states, such as Moshoeshoe’s Lesotho and other Sotho-Tswana chiefdoms were established.
One of the oldest traditions in Cape Town is still alive and well, startling visitors at precisely midday, every day. An old cannon at the top of Signal Hill is fired off, sending a resounding 'boom' around the CBD. It was originally meant to announce approaching ships, to let traders know it was time to haul their wares down to the harbour. The gun has gone off since 1806, and a second gun is always prepared in case of a misfire. The gun only failed once in those two Centuries—because a spider interfered with the remote signal.
The once bustling creative hub of District Six, on the outskirts of the City, became famous for all the wrong reasons. During the 1970's the then Apartheid Government forcibly removed more than 60,000 residents to other Areas outside the ‘white’ City limits, and demolished the Houses that made up the bustling Neighbourhood. However, in 1990, just two blocks from District 6 and the CBD, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech since being released from prison on Robben Island, from the Balcony of Cape Town’s, City Hall.
Cape Town is a modern City with high-rise office Buildings and pedestrian Malls. Although it is a major Political and Economic Centre, its reputation still rests on its beautiful situation between Mountain and Sea, its cosmopolitan population, and the liberal outlook of many of its citizens! It now exports World famous, wine from various wine Farms. It has also become popular tourist destination because of its different Cultures and History!
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