The First Steps – The first restored gun - our resources - Our Magazine Magazineging the Guns – Preparing for services
The task ahead needed good background information and fortunately we soon got up to speed with our research via the Hout Bay Museum and via Cannon expert Gerry de Vries. The consensus was that we should explore the chances of restoring at least one of the guns to firing condition which would give the site the exposure that would be needed to raise public interest. The fire left much of the Fort devastated, but whilst the gun carriages at the lower battery were lost, the barrels remained virtually undamaged, so the plan was to fix up a gun so that we could demonstrate it to the community and the World so that we could approach sponsors for the next step.
Peter Gibb was a great supporter of the project and his untimely death in a motor car accident in 2002 was a tragic loss to us all. This small cairn in the form of a “Brass Monkey” was constructed at the site as a fitting tribute to him and the good work that he did for the Trust and for the East Fort Project.
Not long afterwards Peter contacted the Guinness Book of Records and discovered that potentially Hout Bay could boast the “Oldest working battery of original working guns in the World” and a very tempting incentive it was to spur the Trust’s efforts.
and (below right) Peter presents the first gunpowder charge to his colleagues.
Soon thereafter the Heritage Assn resolved to fully restore at least one of the guns and place it in a more prominent position. Until 1998 (pre TMNP) East Fort and its gun battery were considered part of the Hout Bay Community, hence in late 2000 the Trust embarked on the project to restore the guns. However, in their ignorance they were unaware of the ramifications of the then new “National Heritage Resources Act”. On the surface it added more clout to the heritage authorities by creating a tiered system of agencies at National, Provincial and local levels but its implementation was slow and ineffective. In practice, the effect was completely the opposite. Instead of adding greater resource it actually served to fragment the inadequate resources that already existed. East Fort was a designated Grade II (Provincial) Heritage Site in 2003 but although the Province functioned as a regulatory body, as a conservation body it appeared powerless and could not help us.
The National Agency (SAHRA) was sympathetic but similarly could not assist. Table Mountain National Park, although having National Park status did not have the funding or expertise to cope with cultural heritage sites (a situation that remains today).
So, to this day, the Association’s relationship with those who have the statutory responsibility responsible for our Forts is dynamic and varies from cordial to acrimonious. ………Read on