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European Settlement
(page 6)
Cape Town in the 1700s
Cape Town steadily grew during the 1700s to a population of several thousand Europeans and their slaves. Travellers described it as a 'pretty' and 'neat' town with straight streets on a grid pattern. A tree-lined canal ran from the Company Gardens down the main street (Heerengracht) and around the Grand Parade, flowing into the sea by the Castle.

Along the shoreline stood warehouses and shipyards and behind them townhouses with white lime plaster walls, green shutters and thatched roofs. Since the mid-eighteenth century a distinctive Cape style had developed of a Dutch origin but with distinctive Asian influences. There were more than a thousand houses by the mid-eighteenth century.

Each year, on average, 70 ships laid anchor in Table Bay, usually remaining for nearly a month. As visitors came ashore along van Riebeeck's jetty by the Castle, they found a town where the impressive double storey townhouses of wealthy burghers and VOC officials stood alongside taverns, lodgings and workshops.

The town lacked the sophistication of Amsterdam, or the exotic attractions of Batavia, and visitors commented upon the problems of rough roads, wandering animals and open sewage, but it was generally rated an attractive town, and particularly welcome after months at sea.

Visitors were the economic lifeblood of the town and the locals offered bed and board and developed a quiet trade selling exotic goods from the privacy of their homes, for fear of the rules of the VOC (more..)

Wealthy visitors could find rooms in the finer houses and wrote of the abundant, fresh food and the dancing laid on for their enjoyment. There was also a wine shop, that offered tours of Table Mountain, complete with hampers carried by slave porters.

Sailors found their way to boarding houses and tented camps, and filled up the taverns, which had a reputation for prostitutes and brawls with the local soldiers. 'The Scottish Temple' was a popular bar and brothel and it prospered for much of the century. Cape Town lived up to its nickname 'Tavern of the Seas'.
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Heritage Sections
· Culture ·
· Environment ·
History · Society
Personalities · Areas

In this period of Cape History:


The First Years

A Town Develops

Simon v.d. Stel

VOC Control

Frontier Expansion

Cape Town in the 1700s

Cosmopolitan Cape Town

The Boom of the 1780s

The VOC Legacy

Bibliography & Contacts


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