Chavonnes Battery Museum
The Chavonnes Battery Museum celebrates the life, death and rebirth of Cape Town’s oldest major fortification after the Castle of Good Hope.
Built at the instigation of Governor Maurice (or Mauritz Pasque, Marquis de Chavonnes), the Chavonnes Battery was the first of a series of lethal defensive works that, for most of the 18th century, deterred seaborne aggressors on either side of the Dutch East India Company outpost of Cape Town. When completed in 1726, the Chavonnes Battery was a massive fortification: its stone-faced wall reared up from the rocks at the water’s edge and the 16 mounted great guns between them had an arc of fire of nearly 180 degrees.
The battery continued in active service until 1860, when construction of the Alfred Basin in the harbour began. Part of it, including the left side-wall, was totally demolished, and the stone was used in the construction of the new docks. The rest vanished beneath warehouses and, later, a fish-processing factory. The Chavonnes Battery became a legend remembered by only a handful of Capetonians, apparently doomed to remain hidden forever.
However, in 1999 the Board of Executors obtained the site for its new head office. The company had the battery scientifically excavated by archaeologists from the University of Cape Town, led by Tim Hart. A magnificent museum was constructed in the basement, preserving this important but almost forgotten piece of early Cape history for generations to come.
The museum is a fascinating place for visitors to witness the firing of Cape Town’s traditional Noon Day Gun. Visitors who time their visit to end around noon might be lucky enough to have their photo taken in front of the flagpoles just as the Noon Gun’s smoke bursts out of the mountain behind them.
A 160-year-old two-pounder British ship’s gun, belonging to the SAS Unitie Trust, is still fired regularly. On special occasions the beautifully maintained 25-pounders of the Cape Field Artillery’s Saluting Troop have made the V&A Waterfront tremble from the ring road in front of the battlements. On various weekend re-enactments, gunners of the Cannon Association of South Africa fire their carefully restored (and in some cases newly manufactured) weapons from the battlements, to the enjoyment of passing visitors to the Waterfront.
The museum is open 7 Days a week from 9am to 4pm, Entrance is R35 for Adults, R25 for Seniors and R10 for kids under 12. Guided Tours of the museum and the V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tour are available by pre-booking. Special Rates for Schools and Social Group Outings. The unusual setting of the Heritage Site offers an unique venue for special events.
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