Tag Archives: Dutch East India Company

A Fort of History at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town (2020-02-15) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 JUL 2020

Back when the world was still mostly blue skies and smiles, with not a single Covid-19 mask in sight, I took the girls out for an exploratory jaunt around the Castle of Good Hope, otherwise known at the Cape Town Castle, a 17th century pentagonal shaped bastion fort standing in the heart Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city.

Built by the Dutch East India Company around 1666, the stone fortress that is the Castle of Good Hope served to replace Jan van Riebeek’s older wood and clay fort (Fort de Goede Hoop), and is currently the oldest existing building in South Africa. Built primarily in response to rising tensions between Great Britain and the Netherlands, the fort was seen as a way of safeguarding the Dutch Cape settlement which was responsible for replenishing ship supplies on the lucrative but long trade route between the Netherlands and the Dutch East indies, now known as Indonesia.

Although it seems out of place, originally the Castle of Good Hope actually sat on the coastline of Table Bay, but following extensive land reclamations that took place around the city, the fort, an historical monument (now a provincial heritage site) since 1936, now sits completely inland, with its five bastions (named after the main titles of William III: Leerdam, Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje) surround by the city it was once tasked with protecting.

In the past the Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, and today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments. The Castle is also the home of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, a mechanised infantry unit. Extensive restorations were completed in the 1980s, resulting in the Castle of Good Hope being one of the best preserved examples of a Dutch East India Company fort still left standing.

In its heyday the yellow painted fortress, that colour chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun, housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other military-themed facilities. A dividing wall was eventually added around 1695 to protect citizens in case of an attack, serving to split the courtyard and also to house the De Kat Balcony (now fronted by four legendary bronze South African warrior kings).

These days the Castle serves as a museum, with the public invited to stroll around the grounds, watch the ceremonial guards of the castle undertake the daily Key Ceremony, observe a signal canon being fired, browse around the top of the bastions, visit the military museum, take in the William Fehr art collection, peek into the torture rooms, or simply join one of the many guided tours to learn more about this bit of our shared City of Cape Town history.

Breakfast at Vergelegen Wine Estate (2015-07-06) Photo Gallery 16 JUL 2015

Our first day of our official July week of holiday saw Chantelle and I take a day for ourselves, leaving the kids in school while we got to gallivant around. Sure, we did have some great coffee at the Daily Coffee in Somerset West and installed the kids sandbox back home, but the best part of the day was actually the morning, which we decided to kick off with an impromptu breakfast at the historic (and now Anglo American owned) Vergelegen Wine Estate.

IMG_20150706_121235 chantelle and craig lotter at vergelegen wine estate in somerset west

If you aren’t familiar with this historic wine estate, Wikipedia gives us this (much less lyrical than Vergelegen’s own website of course!):

“The estate was settled in 1700 by an early Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel. Van der Stel used the resources of his employer, the Dutch East India Company, to improve the estate, and in 1706 a number of free burghers at the Cape drew up a formal memorandum complaining about van der Stel’s illegal activities. This memorandum contains some of the earliest images and descriptions of the estate. As a consequence of the free burghers’ complaints, van der Stel and other officials were sacked, and three-quarters of the original Vergelegen estate was sold off, drastically reducing the size of the property.

In 1798 the estate was sold to the Theunissen family, who planted extensive vineyards and concentrated on the production of grapes until an infestation by the phylloxera louse in the late nineteenth century wiped out most of Vergelegen’s grape production.

In 1917 Vergelegen was purchased by the millionaire mine magnate Sir Lionel Phillips as a present for his wife Florence. She remodeled aspects of the house and planted the magnificent gardens, but removed the few remaining acres dedicated to grapes.

IMG_20150706_123459 vergelegen wine estate in somerset west

Following the death of Lady Phillips the estate was purchased by the Barlow family, and Charles “Punch” Barlow oversaw the reintroduction of limited planting of grapes. However, by the time Anglo American bought the property from Barlow’s son in 1987, no grapes were being cultivated.

Anglo American concentrated on the production of high-quality wines from Vergelegen. The first vintage under the company’s stewardship was harvested in 1992. Within ten years the estate was recognised as producing some of South Africa’s finest wines, with the cabernet sauvignon blend Vergelegen, single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon Vergelegen V and semillon/sauvignon blanc blend Vergelegen White regularly achieving a maximum five stars in John Platter’s annual Guide to South African Wines.

Vergelegen’s Cape Dutch house, gardens and winery are open to visitors. Interesting features of any visit include a trip up the mountain to the winery plant, and a walk under the vast Camphor laurels (Cinnamomum camphora) planted by Willem van der Stel in about 1705 which have been declared a protected provincial heritage site. The winery is uniquely shaped in an octagon form that is mirrored on the vineyard’s labels.”

IMG_20150706_105052 breakfast at vergelegen wine estate in somerset west

Breakfast was of course amazing (always is – as is the lunch which we enjoyed on our wedding anniversary last year!), but this was the first time that we took the time out to wander around the estate, visit the museum house, ponder over the slavery issue highlighted by the fact that this was once one of the largest slave populations outside the Cape Town castle, stroll over the bridge and through the small forest, and take in the beautiful, ancient and majestic trees dotted around the estate.

IMG_20150706_124645 chantelle lotter in the forest at vergelegen wine estate in somerset west

What a truly enjoyable morning out and about, and certainly a great way to start one’s leave! :)

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Related Link: http://www.vergelegen.co.za/