The Castle of Good Hope is known locally as "The Castle". Its Dutch name is "Kasteel de Goede Hoop" and is a bastion fort built in the 17th century in Cape Town, South Africa. The Castle was originally located on the coastline of Table Bay but, following reclamation, the fort is now located a short distance inland within the Central Business District. The Castle was declared a historical monument (now a provincial heritage site) in 1936. Following restoration work in the 1980s, it is considered the best preserved example of a 17th century architectural structure in the entire world.
In 1652, the Dutch East India Company (DEIC) settled on the shores of Table Bay to establish a refreshment base for ships en route from Europe to East Asia and to maintain its monopoly over the Spice Trade. Built by the DEIC between 1666 and 1679, the Castle of Good Hope is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa. It replaced an older fort called the Fort de Goede Hoop which was constructed from clay and timber and built by Jan van Riebeeck, the first Commander of the Cape.
During 1664, tensions between Britain and the Netherlands rose amid rumours of war. That same year, Commander Zacharias Wagenaer, successor to Jan van Riebeeck, was instructed by Commissioner Isbrand Goske to build a pentagonal fortress out of stone. The first stone was laid on 2 January 1666. Work was interrupted frequently because the DEIC was reluctant to spend money on the project.
On 26 April 1679, the five bastions were named after the main titles of William III of Orange-Nassau: Leerdam to the west, with Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje clockwise from it.
The Castle of Good Hope in 1680
In 1682 the gated entry replaced the old entrance, which had faced the sea. A bell tower, situated over the main entrance, was built in 1684—the original bell, the oldest in South Africa, was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 and weighs just over 300 kilograms (660lb). It was used to announce the time, as well as warning citizens in case of danger, since it could be heard 10 kilometres away. It was also rung to summon residents and soldiers when important announcements needed to be made.
The fortress housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other facilities. The yellow paint on the walls was originally chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun. A wall, built to protect citizens in case of an attack, divides the inner courtyard, which also houses the De Kat Balcony – now with the “Kings of the Castle” statues in front of it. The original balcony was built in 1695, but rebuilt in its current form between 1786 and 1790. From the balcony, announcements were made to soldiers, slaves and burghers (town inhabitants) of the Cape.
During the Second Boer War (1899–1902), part of the castle was used as a prison, and the former cells remain to this day.
The Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, and today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments. The Castle is also the home of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, a mechanised infantry unit.