Tag Archives: fort

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.

Things to See in South Africa: Old English Fort and the Cogmanskloof Tunnel to Montagu Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 JUL 2015

The Cogmanskloof Pass connects the towns of Ashton and Montagu. Its entire 6.5 km stretch through a majestic landscape of towering rock formations. Renamed after Cape Colony secretary, John Montagu, the town’s original name of Cogmanskloof is where this pass took its name from.

IMG_20150708_135549 Cogmanskloof (R62) Tunnel to Montagu

The original route through the mountain included two fairly dangerous river crossings (Kingna River), and so following a few disasters, famed road and pass builder Thomas Bain was commissioned to build the pass through Cogmans Kloof in 1877.

Using a combination of dynamite and gunpowder (gunpowder because dynamite was apparently relatively new and they quickly ran out of supply), Bain and his team ‘dug’ (fine, blasted) through the Kalkoenkrans and opened the route in 1879.

IMG_20150708_135919 Cogmanskloof (R62) Tunnel to Montagu

The unlined tunnel is 16 metres long, and has a five metre high arched roof.

IMG_20150708_135452 Cogmanskloof (R62) Tunnel to Montagu

The tunnel is the oldest solid rock (unsupported by concrete) road tunnel in South Africa.

(Thomas Bain’s father Andrew Bain, actually built the very first tunnel along the western ascent of Bainskloof Pass near Wellington in 1835, but that collapsed during construction so it doesn’t count)

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At the top of the tunnel, blink and you will miss it, is the remains of a well camouflaged English fort (declared a monument in 1999), accessible via a short little hike starting to the right of the tunnel entrance, heading towards Ashton side.

old english fort cogmanskloof tunnel montagu 1

Taken from the Internet: “1899 heralded the Second Anglo Boer War and saw the construction of the English Fort above Cogmans Kloof. This was built by stonemason William Robertson at a site selected by Lieutenant Colonel Sidney, Commandant of the Royal Field Artillery. The fort was garrisoned by a company of the Gordon Highlanders who were survivors of the Magersfontein battle, commanded by a Lieutenant Forbes.

They were camped on the original road construction site below Kalkoenkrans (Turkey Crag) the site which is now the parking area below the fort on the Montagu side.

The fort measures 9,3 x 3,8 m on the outside. It has a simple entrance opening at the west end and 21 ‘waisted’ loopholes formed in the masonry without steel plates. The loopholes are 700-800 mm above the concrete floor and the 400 mm thick stone walls reach a height of about two metres inside the building.

Inside the fort, near the south-east corner, is a roughly circular mortared stone platform (400 mm high), together with a drainage channel and hole at the base of the adjacent east wall, which seems to indicate the presence of a water tank and hence a roof.”

old english fort cogmanskloof tunnel montagu 2

Related Link: Old English Fort | Cogmanskloof Pass