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Cape Town - V & A Waterfront, Buildings of Historical Significance

These are just a few of the historical buildings within the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. There are, however, numerous other historical buildings. A map detailing the locations of historical buildings is available from the Waterfront Information Centre.

The Historic Clock Tower

This Victorian Gothic style Clock Tower, which is located near the original Bertie's Landing Restaurant, was originally the Port Captain's office. This Clock Tower, which was completed in 1882 and restored in 1997, has become an important focal point in the Waterfront's recent urban design. Here you will find a tide gauge mechanism, which was used to check the level of the tide, and on the second floor there is a decorative mirror room which assisted the Port Captain in having a view of all activities within the harbour.

Time Ball Tower

The Time Ball Tower, which was built in 1894 and restored and officially recommissioned in November 1997, is located next to the Harbour Engineer's former residence, the Dock House. The Time Ball, which is a signalling device, enabled the ship's master to test the accuracy of his chronometer whilst docked.

Dragon Tree

This Dragon Tree (dracaeno draco), which is a species originally from the Canary Islands, was thought to have been planted here over 100 years ago by a sailor passing through Cape Town. Interestingly, the sap "dragon's blood" of these trees were used as a medicine to treat dysentery and diarrhea. Sadly, the Dragon Tree was severely damaged in storms in 2001, however, the tree is now in the process of regeneration.

Robben Island Embarkation Building

The Robben Island Embarkation Building, which is at the end of Quay 5 on Jetty 1, was the embarkation building for prisoners who were sent to Robben Island. The Robben Island Exhibition and Information Centre, which is next door to the historic Clock Tower building, is a unique museum which represents the history of Robben Island and the political struggle for democracy.

Seal Landing

As offshore islands are normally the preferred breeding grounds for seals, it is unusual to get a close view of seals. However, a colony of Cape fur seals are a familiar sight resting on the seal landing in the Clock Tower area, next to the original Bertie's Landing Restaurant and on old tyres along the quaysides around the Waterfront.

Breakwater Prison (Lodge)

The original Breakwater Prison, which was constructed in 1860, was used to house the convicts who were working on the breakwater. A dramatic reminder of the punitive penal attitudes, which were prevalent in the 1890's, is the remains of a treadmill which is still visible alongside the former prison building, which now houses the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business and the Breakwater Lodge.

S A Maritime Museum

Not only does the S A Maritime Museum show the history of Table Bay, but it also houses the largest collection of model ships in South Africa. It also has floating exhibits in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront which include the SAS Somerset - a retired Naval Defence Boom Vessel and the Alwyn Vincent - a coal fired steam tug.

Chavonnes Battery

Recently a preliminary excavation of the Clock Tower Precinct uncovered a portion of the Chavonnes Battery, which is one of the oldest European structures in South Africa, having been built in the early 1700's. A full report on the history of the battery was done after investigations were conducted by the Archaeology Contracts Office at the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town. It was apparently built between 1714 and 1725 by the Dutch East India Company. This battery was designed to further protect the Cape, together with Fort Knokke and the Amsterdam Battery.

The Chavonnes Battery had been put to a number of uses by the mid 19th century. Not only did it serve in a military role, but it was also used as an isolation and convalescent wing of the old Somerset Hospital. Crew and passengers of ships that were stricken with contagious illnesses, such as smallpox, were confined to the battery until they were considered fit. However, the battery was decommissioned in 1861.

V&A Waterfront
Buildings and Landmarks

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