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A TOUR OF FORT WYNYARD - Luke Stevens

20/7/2013

Fort WynyandEarlier this week, Jenny and I visited Fort Wynyard. The fort sits on a low hill above Granger Bay. The first battery, named ‘Kyk-in-de-Pot’, was built there in a great rush in 1795 to defend the Dutch Cape Colony against a squadron of British warships.

Following the alarming recent call by the SADF (via CSIR) for design proposals to erect a luxury hotel on the site, we wanted to reacquaint ourselves with the layout. Although the fort sadly remains closed to the public, a friendly and welcoming CO Kevin Ashton of Cape Garrison Artillery showed us around the many remarkable guns, underground vaults and passages and historic buildings including the old powder making laboratory.


What perhaps struck me most is the significance of the mound itself. Although it is relatively unobtrusive from outside the fence, it (still) offers magnificent views of Table Mountain as well as - more obviously for a coastal battery - a commanding view North  across Table Bay. The mound houses various fascinating vaults and a network of underground tunnels that might quite possibly have led to the Chavonne battery (in what is now the Waterfront). The shape of the mound is intrinsic to the narrative history of the entire site. It would be quite impossible to site any substantial new building there without utterly destroying that narrative.

Perhaps for that reason the SADF had suddenly, and without explanation, called a halt to their hotel project a few days earlier. We hope that this reflects a permanent rethink. Given that the rate of decay of the site artefacts clearly exceeds the pace of restoration, it would be nice to see the SADF rather spend their money on a study of how to transform the fort into the historic tourist attraction that it has the clear potential to become.

We shall remain vigilant and do whatever we can to get the gates open again!