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Grand Parade, Cape Town

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Post date: 07/08/2012
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History: The Parade is inseparably associated with the Castle of Good Hope. Most of the garrison at the Cape were billeted in the Castle and a parade ground was essential for their proper training. Consequently steps were taken even before the Castle was completed, to level the large piece of vacant land to the west of the Castle bounded by what later became Keizersgracht (Darling Street), Heerengracht (Adderley Street) and the sea. In 1674 van Riebeeck’s fort was demolished and in 1685 the last vestiges of it were removed. In 1695 the terrain was surveyed and two years later slave labour was used to fill in the deep gullies and level off the humps. In spite of this, however, it remained a grassy meadow dissected by meandering streams during the eighteenth century.
The need to keep this land as an open space was very soon appreciated by the authorities. At the insistence of the Burgher Councillors, the Council of Policy under the chairmanship of the Commissioner resolved in 1710 that the Parade was to be preserved untouched and that no further encroachments on it would be allowed.
In 1763 the burghers of Cape Town gave further evidence of their regard for this area by planting oaks round it and in 1804 the Batavian Government protected these trees by a proclamation. To beautify the Parade further, the City Treasury voted money in 1806 for the erection of a fountain and for planting more trees. Old drawings suggest that the fountain was started in accordance with plans drawn by the well architect Thibault, but it was never completed and even the part that was built disappeared before 1814.
As Cape Town grew, however, it gradually laid irresistible claims to the area. The first encroachment took place in 1819 when the Commercial Exchange was built on the site adjoining the Heerengracht (Adderley Street) where a large retail bazaar now stands. But this was only the beginning. In the 1890’s a bank was built on the western corner, and later the Opera House, which was eventually replaced by the Post Office. On the east, a strip of some 60 metres was sacrificed for the use of the Railways.
By these encroachments and by the extension of Plein Street towards the railway, the north western part of the Parade was lost, so that it now retains only about one- half of its original area. Yet it is still one of the best-known, most colourful and most interesting places in Cape Town.
Proclaimed 1962"
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Catalogue: Rennie, Vol 2, No: 067.01, Significance Category:

 
 

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