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Leisure, Learning & Societies in the British Era
The energetic mood that developed in the 1820s among the British middle class at the Cape produced, for the first time, a true 'civil society'. Under the VOC Cape Town had been a 'company town', controlled and stifled, but under the influence of an active middle class it emerged as a modern city.

Theatres, Music Halls and Circuses were built. Drama companies performed a great range of productions. The marsh at Greenpoint was drained and developed for sports. The army introduced rugby, football and cricket, and there were regular matches between the army and civilians. A racing track proved very popular. Stadia at Newlands and a horse track at Kenilworth were developed in the 1880s. Picnics, walking, swimming, riding and dancing also appear to have been popular pursuits.

George Greig established a printing works and opened book shops. He printed the Commercial Advertiser and shared with Fairbairn a drive to see the dissemination of knowledge and a taste for literature, believing these things would raise the 'tone' of society and encourage morality. Meanwhile libraries were established and societies formed to encourage literacy among the poor, such as 'the Literacy Society'. By 1857 literacy rates exceeded 50% in the city, there were six English newspapers and two Dutch, and the book trade was thriving.

Journals, such as the South Africa Quarterly Journal published papers to disseminate knowledge of cultural and science. Societies such as the South African Literary and Philosophical Society were followed in the second half of the century by formal institutions such as The South African Public Library and the South African Museum. The Royal Observatory, in particular, became a centre of scientific excellence, particularly under the astronomer royal, Thomas Maclear.



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