Glass factory preserved

2019-06-11 06:00
Robbie Smith. PHOTOS: Racine Edwardes

Robbie Smith. PHOTOS: Racine Edwardes

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Despite the chill in the air last Thursday, about 15 residents from as far as Green Point made their way to Glencairn to see the wonders of the historic glass factory.

Robbie Smith, who was on the hunt for a simple erf to build a home for himself and his wife, instead found a heritage gem that will continue to call people to his plot for years to come.

Fish Hoek Valley Historical Society were some of the first touring group to visit the factory since renovations began.

The property bought by Smith was once the old Cape Glass Company of Glencairn, which only operated for a few years.

“It was opened from 1902 to 1905, so it closed in 1905. Then it all got buried under the sand, and it was only in 1993 that Gordon Wilson bought it. He did an archaeology dig, and they uncovered it again. He donated the property to the museum in 1993,” explains Margaret Constant financial administrator and research clerk at Simon’s Town Museum.

It is reported that the museum did not have the funds to maintain the plot and it had become dangerous for the public.

They sold the factory shortly after a young girl fell through the floor and onto the sand and debris that was hidden under temporary flooring. The plot was well-known for attracting vagrants and mischief-making young people.

A little more than two years ago Smith bought the lot and began to renovate the property, digging up a number of findings that lay undiscovered for more than 100 years.

“When I first bought here, the neighbours were concerned about what I was going to do here, but the more I discovered, the more interested I became – and the more interested they became.”

Smith found tunnels directly below ground level and more tunnels leading further down, of which he has only explored about 40m. He found giant half-glass, half-stone blasted boulders and equipment that shows evidence of the foreign builders who were running the factory.

According to society member, Mark Robinson, who is very knowledgeable on the historical railways of the South Peninsula, the entire area tells the story of the work done at the glass factory. “There was a railway line that went up the valley that was used for three things. One was for firing the naval gun, mounted on the railway wagon, to test the guns before they use them. And the second was to transport the silica sand – for the glass factories.”

Trish Woods, a society member, suggested that Smith gets in touch with a historian who would be able to tell him more about the factory, but he had explained that his attempts to do so have come out with little information.

Smith told the group of visitors he plans to keep the site, which is zoned heritage, open for people to view on appointment even after his home is completed in the next two years. More information and pictures of the factory can be found at Fish Hoek Valley Museum.

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