|Cape Town in the
| Cape Town steadily
grew during the 1700s to a population of several thousand Europeans and their
slaves. Travellers described it as a 'pretty' and 'neat' town with straight
streets on a grid pattern. A tree-lined canal ran from the Company Gardens down
the main street (Heerengracht) and around the Grand Parade, flowing into the
sea by the Castle.
Along the shoreline stood warehouses and shipyards and behind
them townhouses with white lime plaster walls, green shutters and thatched
roofs. Since the mid-eighteenth century a distinctive Cape style had developed
of a Dutch origin but with distinctive Asian influences. There were more than a
thousand houses by the mid-eighteenth century.
Each year, on average, 70 ships laid anchor in Table Bay,
usually remaining for nearly a month. As visitors came ashore along van
Riebeeck's jetty by the Castle, they found a town where the impressive double
storey townhouses of wealthy burghers and VOC officials stood alongside
taverns, lodgings and workshops.
The town lacked the sophistication of Amsterdam, or the exotic
attractions of Batavia, and visitors commented upon the problems of rough
roads, wandering animals and open sewage, but it was generally rated an
attractive town, and particularly welcome after months at sea.
Visitors were the economic lifeblood of the town and the locals
offered bed and board and developed a quiet trade selling exotic goods from the
privacy of their homes, for fear of the rules of the VOC
Wealthy visitors could find rooms in the finer houses and wrote
of the abundant, fresh food and the dancing laid on for their enjoyment. There
was also a wine shop, that offered tours of Table Mountain, complete with
hampers carried by slave porters.
Sailors found their way to boarding houses and tented camps,
and filled up the taverns, which had a reputation for prostitutes and brawls
with the local soldiers. 'The Scottish Temple' was a popular bar and brothel
and it prospered for much of the century. Cape Town lived up to its nickname
'Tavern of the Seas'.
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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History:
Cape Town in the
The Boom of the