Road marker back in place

2015-11-10 06:00

Almost two centuries after the first mile markers were placed in Kalk Bay, the Kalk Bay Historical Society is placing a replica along Main Road.

The 17th mile marker will be unveiled at a ceremony tonight as part of the society’s 20-year anniversary celebration.

The milestones form part of Cape Town’s lost transport heritage, says the society’s Barrie Gasson.

“Milestones exactly like this one were first placed along Main Road in 1814 and 1815,” he says.

The markers were placed after the decision by the British in 1814 to make Simon’s Bay their naval station; which in turn necessitated the upgrading of Main Road from Wynberg to Simon’s Town.

With the roadworks came the milestones.

Installation of milestones along main roads had become mandatory in Britain fifty years earlier, and the practice was adopted here, Gasson says.

They marked the edge of the road and also allowed travelers to accurately estimate distances, travel times and fares for services running between Cape Town and Simon’s Town.

About 24 milestones spanned the road between Simon’s Town and Greenmarket Square, then considered the centre of town.

An original milestone appears clearly in a photo from the 1870s. They may have stood as late as the 1920s when major road improvements were undertaken, Gasson says.

“It may have been damaged or buried at this time, or perhaps even earlier. We were hoping it might be found during the recent roadworks and the contractors searched diligently, but in vain, to find it,” he says.

The replica stone is an accurate copy of the original, with Roman numerals marking the 17th mile, or 27.4km.

Stone used for the replica, known as Malmesbury slate, probably came from the Strand Street quarry. It stands about 1m high and weighs about 350kg.

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