Simon’s Town Marine Anchorage

The town and the South African Naval Dockyard share the name of Simon’s Town.

They have an  administrative record going back to the late seventeenth century until the middle of the eighteenth century, when it was finally decided to make Simon’s Bay the official winter anchorage. Not only for the ships of the Dutch East India Company but for all those other ships sailing to or from the East. What would have been the priorities of the authorities and what had led to the decision being taken?

Shipping suffered heavily in Table Bay during the winter months but although the local Council of Policy was ordered by the higher authorities in Batavia to act after the captain of the ship Isselsteijn had pleaded, in 1671, for some assistance for ships coming into False Bay, not much was done.  Governor, Simon van der Stel, gave the matter his attention in 1687 but although ships kept coming into Simon’s Bay and travellers would make the difficult land journey to the settlement at Table Bay, again not much was achieved. The area was not unknown.  The KhoiSan had long traversed this part of the Cape Peninsula. The Posthuys had been built at Muizenberg, a lime kiln operated at Kalk Bay, men made a living from catching fish along the coast and grazed their cattle wherever they could find a suitable spot. Nevertheless it took until 1743 before Simon’s Bay was made the official winter anchorage. A possible reason for the delay may have been that the only man with the necessary authority to issue such a command was Baron G W van Imhoff, governor general of the Dutch East Indies.

When the decision was taken, what was needed?  A  clean, continuous water supply. In winter this may not have been a problem. The waterfall in the present Waterfall Road suggests a supply which was not too distant from the coast. Neither was the water flowing from a spring nearby.  Fresh vegetables, fruit and meat were needed.  Suitable land had to be found for growing the first two items and other land for the grazing of the cattle and another place for their slaughter.  Provision also had to be made for sick sailors, the housing of visitors and to keep all of these details running  smoothly, some form of policing had to take place.    All of this did not happen overnight, it took time and was a gradual process over a long period.

A storehouse was built to house equipment ships might need, other supplies and a barracks for those who would see to its running.  This building still exists in the West dockyard, although additions have been added.  A postholder was appointed, the first being  Justinus Blas.  It took five years for a hospital to be built in the area of today’s Waterfall and Arsenal Roads.  Ground for the fruit and vegetables was found, although the soil, in time, proved to be somewhat poor.   Groot Tuin was approximately where Oatlands is today and Klein Tuin in lower Seaforth.  The resultant produce of the gardens was easily or inexpensively obtained. Grazing was found in the Glencairn valley and high up on Redhill.  There was an official cattle holding pen in the vicinity of Quarry and St George’s Streets. The slaughter area was about where there once was a  St George’s Hotel.

As time passed other postholders names appear: Adriaan de Nys died in 1761 and was succeeded by Johaan Friedrich Kirsten – who by 1758 was the owner of Alphen Farm, Constantia where he spent the summer months. Kirsten, it is known from records, offered hospitality to visitors as did Christoffel Brand.  In 1774  Brand succeeded Kirsten, only now the official title was Resident.  Brand, the fourth Postholder/Resident, at Simon’s Bay had joined the service of the DEIC in 1755.  Among his guests in that year were explorer and navigator Captain James Cook and naturalist Joseph Banks with whom he became friendly and carried on a correspondence long after they had left Simon’s Bay. In 1795 Brand acted as an intermediary during the negotiations of the first British occupation of the Cape.  The surname Brand would become well known in South African history. Brand’s son, Johannes Henricus, was a deputy Resident, Joseph Banks became the godson of a grandson, later Sir Christoffel Joseph Brand,  first Speaker of the Cape Parliament and a great grandson, J H Brand,  president of the Orange Free State, 1864-88 .

Today Simon’s Town, once a separate municipality, is in its entirety, an attractive suburb of Cape Town.