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