A part of old Cape Town that refused to die
The Chavonnes Battery Museum celebrates the life, death and re-birth of Cape Town’s oldest major fortification except for the Castle of Good Hope. Built at the instigation of Governor Maurice or Mauritz Pasque, Marquis de Chavonnes, it was the first of a series of lethal defensive works which for most of the 18th Century deterred sea-borne aggressors on either side of the Dutch East India Company outpost which was later to be called “Cape Town”.
When completed in 1726 the Chavonnes Battery was a massive fortification, built in the shape of a splay-legged “U”, whose stone-faced wall reared up from the rocks at the very water’s edge and mounted 16 great guns which between them had an arc of fire of nearly 180 degrees.
The battery continued in active service till 1860, when construction of the Alfred Basin began. Part of it, including the left side-wall, was totally demolished, the stone being re-used in constructing 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, doomed to remain hidden forever.
Or so it seemed. But in 1999 the Board of Executors obtained the site for its new head office. The BoE had the battery scientifically excavated by archaeologists of the University of Cape Town led by Tim Hart, who re-discovered the exact location of the site. Then it created a magnificent museum in the basement, thereby preserving this important but almost forgotten piece of early Cape history for generations yet to come.