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The British Era
(page 7)
The Boom Years
Without political will, little was achieved to alleviate the conditions in the slums. Instead large funds were invested in developing infrastructure.

Railways were built, connecting Cape Town to the winelands (1863), and the length of the Peninsula (1864). Telegraph lines were laid to Grahamstown (1863) and London (1885). Road building also continued, particularly the extraordinary construction of mountain passes by the Bains, father and son.

The building of the harbour from 1860, was particularly ambitious and a prison for convict labour and a broad gauge railway were constructed for the purpose.

The development of the Cape's infrastructure came just in time to capitalise on the great diamond boom that started in 1867, and the economy of the Cape grew fivefold in five years, 1870 - 1875 (more...)

Cape Town itself swelled, as immigrants settled in the city. The British and European populations grew substantially, and other ethnic groups became more numerous, including Jews, Indians and Africans (more...)

In 1865 the population was 28,400, in 1891 it had grown to 67,000 and in 1904 171,000. The villages and suburbs became dense urban areas and settlements spread to the north of the city along Table Bay. The settlements were racially mixed, although for the 'protection of public health' municipal officials began to consider moving non-whites into separate areas.

The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 led to further immigration and economic growth. Cape Town did not experience any fighting, although raiding parties did threaten the winelands. In economic terms the war was a great boom for the city as soldiers and huge quantities of equipment passed from the harbour to the railways.

The War, however, also created growing slum areas with an influx of refugees. Families arriving without possessions were installed in tents along Dock Road. When disease broke out, they were shifted to Maitland, and when evicted by the Maitland municipality they tended to drift into District 6.

An outbreak of the plague in 1901 heightened concerns for public health and municipal officials set about enforcing racial segregation. For this reason the first townships were developed (more...)
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Heritage Sections
· Culture ·
· Environment ·
History · Society
Personalities · Areas

In this period of Cape History:



Reform Movement

Afrikaner Reaction

A City Develops

Imperial Capital

The Rise of Prejudice

Boom Years

The End of British Rule


Bibliography & Contacts


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