The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa. Built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, this pentagonal fortification replaced a small clay and timber fort built in 1652 by Commander Jan van Riebeeck, founder of the maritime replenishment station at the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1664 there were renewed rumors of war between Britain and the Netherlands and they feared a British attack on the Cape. During that same year Commander Zacharius Wagenaer was instructed to build a five-pointed stone castle. On 26 April 1679 the five bastions were named after the main titles of Willem, the Prince of Orange. The western bastion was named Leerdam; followed in clockwise order by Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje. In 1682 the gateway replaced the old entrance, which faced the sea. The bell tower, situated above the main entrance was built in 1684. The original bell – the oldest in South Africa – was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 by Claude Frémy and weighs 670 lbs. It was used to tell the hours and warn citizens of danger and it could be heard about 10 km away. It was also rung to call residents and soldiers to the Castle for important announcements.
Inside the Castle:
The Castle Military Museum depicts the military history of the Cape, the Castle and Cape Regiments. The Willian Fehr collection consists of artwork reflecting many aspects of cultural life at the Cape from the early VOC days until the middle of the 19th century. Exhibitions of a contemporary nature are occasionally presented.
During the restoration of the inner courtyard, the foundations of the early 18th century bakery and pool were discovered. The building, currently known as Het Bakhuys, has been reconstructed on these foundations. The original Dolphin pool was named after the impressive fountain in the form of a dolphin in the middle of the pool. Het Bakhuys also caters for functions and conferences.
The Castle forge is located in the earliest blacksmith workshop in South Africa. The Castle’s forge was initially built for the upkeep and maintenance of the Castle’s hardware and steel goods.
Although today the Castle is far away from the sea, it was originally built on the beach, Strand Street, which passes the structure is translated as “Beach Street”. The area where the cape Town station now stands was originally under the ocean and has been built on land reclaimed over the years so that today the ocean is a couple of kilometers distant.
Visiting the CastleThe castle is open daily from 09h00 to 16h00, Monday to Saturday (open Sundays during December) except Christmas day and New Years day. Daily tours are conducted at 11h00, 12h00 and 14h00. The changing of the guard is held Monday to Friday at 12h00. Admission is charged, there is a snack shop and restaurant on the premises.