Church Square and the Slave Lodge

The Slave Lodge entrance. Photo courtesy Mervyn Hector

Church Square and Slave Lodge, at the top corner of Adderley Street, bear witness to the turbulent past of the Cape of Good Hope.

Located at the entrance of the Gothic-style Groote Kerk, Cape Town’s historical Church Square was the place where slaves would wait under a “slave tree” while their owners attended church.

In 1920 a statue of the parliamentarian Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr was erected in Church Square in recognition of his efforts to have Dutch recognised as a language (on the same footing with English) in the Constitution of 1910.

Despite its historical significance, Church Square was a car park from the 1970s to the 1990s. However in 2004 it was converted into a multi-functional “green” space.

The former Slave Lodge, +27 (0)21 460 8242, is a prominent building on Church Square and is open to the public (from Monday to Friday) for a minimal fee. It is one of the cluster of museums that make up the Iziko Museums of Cape Town. The Slave Lodge was previously known as the Cultural History Museum.

The Slave Lodge was built in 1679 on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. It housed thousands of slaves during its time, when slavery meant big business for the Cape Colony.

In its day the lodge also gained the reputation of being the Cape Colony’s biggest brothel. In 1810, after the British had taken over (and had auctioned off all the slaves), the building became the Supreme Court (until 1914). Slave Lodge was then used as government offices until 1966, when it became a museum.

Today, the old Slave Lodge is a monument that pays tribute to the past. There are fascinating historical displays on the Cape as well as a collection of antiquities and artefacts from around the world. The “186 Years of Slavery” exhibition is a highlight.

Slavery was officially abolished in the Cape in 1838.

Did you know?

Slavery was officially abolished in the Cape in 1838.

  • Phone: +27 (0)21 460 8242

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