The Castle of Good Hope For the Lucky Few

The Castle of Good Hope For the Lucky Few

You know I’m a sucker for castles right?  It’s the history buff in me as well as the die hard romantic.  So when I heard there was a castle in Cape Town, we had to go visit.

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The Castle was built by the Dutch East India Company as a rest stop in their travels in the late 17th century.

Why would a company build a castle? Who does that?? Well to give you an idea of the wealth and importance of the Dutch East India Company, this graphic shows that the company was worth $7.9 trillion in 1637 (adjusted for inflation). In their day, the Dutch East India Company was worth 20 of the world’s biggest companies today (including Amazon, Microsoft and Apple).

So money wasn’t an issue and the Castle of Good Hope was built well. It is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. When the castle was first built, the Castle went right to the edge of the water as this diorama shows.

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The moat for the castle is still intact.

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Once you got past the moat, you were met with these nasty looking doors with nails.

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The Dutch, however, were experts into building on water.  They reclaimed the land in front the castle from the sea and now the Castle is quite far in the centre of town.  Possibly the Dutch were just suckers for punishment because I don’t understand why they didn’t just build their settlement on the land side because there was an entire continent back there.

castle of good hope

 

Perhaps they were just bored of the sea after having sailed all around Africa and wanted some extra time on land.  This map shows the route the early explorers took to reach the Cape of Good Hope before they ventured further onwards to India.

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The castle is shaped like a star for ease of defense in the old days.  Nowadays, its fabulous for children who like to explore!

castle of good hope

From the ramparts of the castle, there are fabulous views of Cape Town and Table Mountain.

table mountain seen from good hope castle

The Castle was the centre of the old Dutch and English settlement.  As such, it housed the governor and his family.  The governor’s house is very nice and they even had their own swimming pool.  Well, the Dutch had a swimming pool but the ever-practical English covered the pool up to use as a parade ground.  The original pool has now been restored.

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On the other side of the social ladder were the prisoners who were brought to the Castle to be interrogated.  They were tortured until they confessed to their sins.  Under Dutch law, people couldn’t be sentenced until they confessed.  Checking out this nasty hook and the viewing window above it, I believe confessions did come about fairly readily.  Post-confession, prisoners were transferred to another garrison or the prison at Robben Island.  We were told no one made it more than 24 hours in the torture chamber.

torture chamber

Today the castle is the seat of the military in the Cape area as well as being used as a military museum.

Details:

The Castle of Good Hope is open 7 days a week except for Christmas and New Year’s Day.  There are guided tours in English, except on Sundays.  Admission is ZAR 30 for adults and ZAR 15 for children up to the age of 16 and under 5’s are free.

 

 

Sixteen Centuries of History at Pevensey Castle

Sixteen Centuries of History at Pevensey Castle

I took my daughter to see Pevensey Castle, an English Heritage property, in East Sussex.  We were in the area and I thought it would be a nice way to spend some mother-daughter time.  Much to my chagrin, she has little interest in history.  She does like the romance of castles though.  Although a world away from Disney castles, the ruins of Pevensey are impressive.

pevensey castle ruins

Pevensey started out as a Roman fort called Anderida around 293 A.D. and built to guard the coast.    It was the largest of the Roman forts built to guard the southern coast mostly against raiders who came through the straits of Dover.  You can still see most of the old Roman walls.

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Roman walls in the distance

Although now surrounded by countryside, during Roman times, the fortress was built on a slip of land projecting onto tidal marshland.  On one side, there was a natural harbour.

countryside

William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey in 1066. He defeated the Saxons on October 14, 1066 and was crowned King of England in December.  After thus establishing his control, he built a large castle at Pevensey partially overlapping the existing Roman fortress.  When William returned to Normandy in 1067 from Pevensey, he left the castle with his half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain.  Over the succeeding centuries, a number of noble families as well as Kings held Pevensey.

Pevensey Castle is merely a shell of its former self and, yet, it looms over the countryside.  In its heyday, the castle must have been truly impressive with its large keep and gatehouse.  Most of the keep is now destroyed.  During World War II, American soldiers were garrisoned in some of the towers.

gatehouse

gatehouse

The castle has dungeons on each corner.  They were dark and creepy and full of water.  You can easily imagine how awful conditions were if you were a prisoner chained up in the dungeon.

dungeon stairs

dungeon stairs

The castle has lots of these stone balls which were retrieved when the moat was drained.  They were used in sieges during the middle ages.

medieval munition

The red cannon remains on site from the times of Elizabeth I.  Its twin is on show at the Tower of London.

We both enjoyed using the audio guides which were really informative.  The English Heritage website indicates there is a shop on site.  Yes, but it’s tiny!  I was hoping to have a snack with my daughter but the only ones available were some drinks in a mini fridge and a few candy bars.

pevensey castle moat

The grounds are extensive and we would see the occasional rambler or dog walker.  It was a beautiful crisp day with blue sky and we enjoyed having an amble ourselves.  I’ve promised my daughter I will take her to a castle that is still standing! Her interest in history has been piqued which I consider a big bonus to a nice day out!

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