Cape Town on Foot: Castle to Slave Lodge
Cape Town City Hall
Stop here and turn to your left. You should be looking directly at the front entrance of the magnificent City Hall, on the opposite side of the street.
The City Hall, with its Italian Renaissance style, opened in 1905. That's almost one hundred years after the beginning of British rule at the Cape.
Many unexpected difficulties slowed down construction. Early on, as the foundations were dug, the soil released poisonous gases which had to be dealt with. And at another point, a ship laden with stones destined for the building was shipwrecked in Table Bay. But no expense was spared during its construction. Bath sandstone, Aberdeen granite and teak from the east were all imported and combined with local materials such as Table Mountain sandstone.
The tower houses 39 bells, the largest carillon in southern Africa. But not all ring out to tell the time. Listen carefully, because the sound is an echo of Big Ben in London.
The first five bells were installed in 1905 but were increased later to their present number as a memorial to the fallen of the Great War.
The pride of the Grand Hall is the organ, designed by Sir George Martin of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Cape Town is proud of its own excellent Philharmonic Orchestra; memories of countless unforgettable concerts linger on.
The grandiose building continues to play a major role in the life of the city. For example, the traditional salute from the balcony has been retained for military parades such as the exercise of a regiment’s Freedom of Entry into the City.
Nelson Mandela delivered his first speech from its balcony after his release from prison. He did so again in 1994, as South Africa’s first black president. The Nelson Mandela Plaque, made of Robben Island slate, set into the wall below the balcony, commemorates the event.
Now you need to turn to face the Grand Parade. Can you see a statue of a man looking towards the City Hall? Walk over there and I'll meet you at his feet.