Castle of Good Hope – Cape Town, South Africa

Castle of Good Hope – Cape Town, South Africa

The oldest surviving building in South Africa, the Castle of Good Hope was built by the Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679, replacing an earlier clay and timber fort erected by Commander Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. The castle overlooks Cape Town’s Grand Parade and is now home to a military museum, an art collection, and a banqueting hall; it is also the headquarters for Cape Army regiments.

THE WILLIAM FEHR COLLECTION

The castle houses the famous William Fehr Collection of paintings, decorative arts, and furniture. Dr. Fehr (1892-1968) was a local businessman who started collecting colonial pictures and objects at a time when the practice was unusual. His collection now forms an invaluable record of many aspects of social and political life in the Cape, from the early days of the Dutch East India Company (VOC in Dutch) to the end of the 19th century. In addition to landscape paintings by the English artists Thomas Baines and William Huggins, there is 17th-century Japanese porcelain and 18th-century Indonesian furniture

COMMANDER JAN VAN RIEBEECK

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Commender Jan van Ribeeck, founder of Cape Town

In April 1652, the Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape with about 80 men and women to establish a staging post for the Dutch East India Company This was needed to provision the Dutch ships plying the lucrative trade route between Europe and Asia. Despite setbacks (20 men died during that first winter), the station eventually flourished and began to provide ships with meat, milk, and vegetables. However, rivalry with the indigenous Khoina people over water and grazing soon turned into open hostility and bitter wars followed.

THE CASTLE

The design of the castle was influenced by the work of the French military engineer Vauban, who was employed at the court of King Louis XIV. Pentagonal in shape, it has five defensive bastions from which the outside walls could be defended by cross-fire. The original entrance faced the sea, but it was moved to its present position in 1684. From the beginning, the castle was intended as a base for the Dutch East India Company in the Cape. Over the years, buildings were erected inside the court­yard, and a defensive 39-ft (12-m) high inner wall was built across it. Today, this area is the site of the William Fehr Collection. The castle also housed facilities to support a community, with living quarters, a church, a bakery, offices, and a jail with a torture chamber. In the 1930s, a new banqueting hall was created from a series of rooms on an upper floor.

Castle Entrances

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The original bell, cast in Amsterdam in 1697, still hangs in the belfry . The coat of arms of the United Netherlands can be seen on the pediment above the gate.

Old Slate

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Slate was taken from a quarry on Robben Island in the 17th century and used as paving material inside the castle.

Torture Chamber

Below the Nassau Bastion was the site where prisoners were tortured, in accordance with the Dutch law that required a confession before sentencing.

Castle Moat

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Sections of the moat were rebuilt in 1992 as part of an extensive restoration program.

Dolphin Pool

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Descriptions and sketches made by Lady Anne Barnard in the 1790s enabled the reconstruction of the Dolphin Pool more than 200 years.

William Fehr Collection

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Reached via the De Kat Balcony, this includes historical paintings and period furniture. Other works give an insight into the lives of early settlers.

Entrance Gable

A teak copy of the original VOC gable features martial symbols: a banner, flags, drums, and cannon balls.

Leerdam Bastion

The bastions are named after the main titles held by Prince William III of Orange-Nassau-Leedram, Catzenellenbogen, Burren, Oranje, and Nassau.

De Kat Balcony

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Built in 1695 as a part of the inner wall, this has a bas-relief sculpture by Anton Anreith. During the Dutch colonial era, it was the site for greetings visitors and reading out judicial sentences.

Castle Military Museum

On display is an array of military artifacts, including weapons and uniforms from the VOC and British periods in the Cape.

DUTCH TRADERS

In 1602, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) was founded to trade with Asia, mainly for its prized spices. Hugely successful and powerful, by 1669 the company had a fleet of 150 merchant ships and 40 warships.

KEY DATES

1652: The first Dutch settlers, under the command of Jan van Riebeeck, land on the Cape.
1666-79: The settlers build a stone castle to replace van Riebeeck’s earlier timber fort.
1795: Rule by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) en ds an d British forces occupy the Cape.
1952: Part of the William Fehr art collection moves to t he Castle of Good Hope.

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