Is it difficult to find the Chavonnes Battery Museum?
Not at all. Just go to the famous Clock Tower next to the swing bridge, stand with your back to the Tower and the Mandela Gateway and look towards Signal Hill. At the other end of the Clock Tower Precinct you will see five flagpoles, and behind them some grassed battlements with the muzzles of three cannon peering over the top; there might even be someone in 18th-Century uniform standing in front of the flagpoles.
Turn left when you reach the flagpoles and you will see the front door of the Chavonnes Battery Museum. Above it are the words “Chavonnes Battery and Auditorium”, and just inside the door is a ship’s gun on a red carriage. Step through the door and you’ve arrived.
Because the Chavonnes Battery is located so close to the Mandela Gateway, visitors often find it a convenient place to spend some time while waiting to catch the ferry to Robben Island. There are a number of historical links between the Chavonnes Battery and Robben Island itself, including one which is built into the very fabric of the battery. Like most of the oldest Cape Town buildings, the stones of which the battery is built are held together with mortar made from the lime obtained by crushing and burning the sea-shells deposited on Robben Island through the centuries before Cape Town was established. It just doesn’t get more intimate than that.
How long does a visit take?
That depends on you! Visitors can opt to join in one of the periodical short guided tours to some displays – taking up about 20 minutes, and free of charge – then wander around by themselves for as long as they like. Or they can pass up on a guided tour and just wander around on their own.
What are the rules?
The rules are simple. Please don’t smoke, eat or drink once inside. Don’t damage the exhibits or climb over the various railings, because some areas are archaeologically sensitive. Please control small children so that they don’t hurt themselves. Take pictures if you want to, and we keep some replica 18th-Century tricorne hats at the entrance in case you want to photograph yourself wearing one as a memento of your visit.
How much does it cost?
Not much. Adults pay R25 a head, and South African pensioners R20. Children 10-18 pay R10. Special rates are available for school groups!
What about the weather?
The Chavonnes Battery Museum has a great advantage over many other historical sites, in that almost all of it is under cover. In hot weather it’s air-conditioned, and on wet days it is dry. So it’s a good place to visit at any time of the year. And it is situated right next door to a restaurant and beer-garden, the Paulaner Bräuhaus, if visitors feel like a coffee, a beer or a meal before or afterwards.