When the French came in 1781, together with the Dutch, they made some improvements to the Cape’s defences. Subsequent to the 1795 British occupation, General James Craig took over as “Acting Governor” also taking charge of the Cape’s defence security. The “French Lines”, in what is today Woodstock, fortified the western approaches to the Castle and Cape Town and Craig, having successfully taken the Cape with minimal resistance, realised that additional defences were needed, similarly Simon’s Town as well as Hout Bay were equally vulnerable from a sea attack.
A nation that turns its back on its history, the lessons and experiences of the past, good or bad, undermines the foundations of its future.
In most cases the table Mountain Blockhouses remain an enigma to most Capetonians and overseas visitors rarely visit them. However, the Hout Bay Heritage Association feels that East fort has great potential to attract tourists both international and domestic but in order to preserve the site and at the same time accommodate visitors, restoration work will be necessary which will require a business plan which will cover the long term maintenance and running costs of the site. With such an approved plan a Heritage Agreement between the “Owner” the “Relevant Heritage Authority”, the Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Association and possibly other participants will be necessary to fulfil the requirements of the NHRA. This section of the website makes comparisons with other local historic sites both in and outside the Table Mountain National Park in order to assess what limitations must be applied.
Simons Town’s Martello Tower was one of the first fortifications built by the British in 1796. A larger Tower was built in Cape Town which no longer exists. The towers were modelled on a similar gun tower at Cape Mortella in the Bay of St Fiorenzo, Corsica. In 1794, armed with two guns it successfully kept at bay HMS FORTITUDE (74 Guns) and HMS JUNO (32 guns) with spirited fire which impressed the British with its effectiveness for over 2 hours. Knowing how formidable such towers were, when Adm Elphinstone and General Craig arrived in the Cape they had no hesitation in constructing similar towers.
Simon’s Town’s Martello Tower
The Table Mountain Block Houses
Left: Kings Blockhouse. Craig wanted to put a block house on top of Table Mountain, but soon realised that the frequent cloud cover and supply logistics would make it impractical. He therefore settled for the position where now Kings Blockhouse stands on the flank of Table Mountain overlooking False Bay as well as Cape Town.
Queens Block House seen Rt:- below Tafelberg Rd, links the line from Kings Blockhouse to what was the “York Redoubt” and then the “French Lines” en route to the Castle.
Far right: The Block houses were armed with heavy guns. Seen here is a 24 Pdr Swedish gun typically used for defence. Mobile field guns were usually much smaller and less powerful.
Left: Very little remains of the Prince of Wales Blockhouse and its likely that much of the stone work went into the more modern forestry building which shares the site but was burned down many years ago.
Right; all that is left of the “French Lines” which were constructed built by the French/Indian Pondicherry Mercenary Regiment survive at Trafalgar Park Woodstock.