|The VOC had issued
firm instructions that no town should be built. Van Riebeeck, however, could
not resist the insistence of Mrs Boom, the gardener's wife, who wished to open
a boarding house near the garden. She deserves the title 'the mother of Cape
Town'. By 1657 there were four taverns, providing respite to sailors for the
Some free burghers, meanwhile - struggling to establish farms -
gave up agriculture and turned their hand to crafts and professions. They too
persuaded van Riebeeck to permit workshops and buildings near the port. Very
soon there were four streets of buildings, which sailors referred to as 'Cape
The VOC was alarmed, and sent a message repeating that there
was to be no town, only a fortified trading post. Van Riebeeck assured them it
was 'more the name than the reality'.
When van Riebeeck left on board the Mars in 1662, to take up
command at the VOC post in Malacca, the Cape Peninsula had been transformed
forever. There were 200 Europeans, slaves from Asia and Africa, warfare, farms
along the Peninsula, a fort, jetty and the first streets of 'Cape Town'.
A hierarchical, diverse, multi-ethnic and stratified society
had been established. He had been sent to create a trading post, but had
directed the first chapter of colonisation by violent conquest, both of the
land and its people.
The power of the local Khoe had been broken, but there was soon
a more powerful threat to the colony. War was looming between Britain and
Holland. Van Riebeeck's fort almost collapsed after heavy rain in 1663. The VOC
directors (Heren XVII) ordered a castle built of stone.
In 1665 slaves were put to work at a site on the shoreline,
where the canons were in range of the anchorage. The large pentagonal fort,
with a bastion at each angle, became the centre of VOC government in the Cape.
It contained the residence of the governor and other officials, offices, the
bakery, garrison and dungeons. It was finally completed in 1679. The fort is
still in use as a barracks and open to the public.
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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History:
Cape Town in the
The Boom of the