Creating a centre of memories

An extensive refurbishment of the Castle of Good Hope is set to open up a number of the landmark’s lesser known venues.

These will be modified for use in line with the Castle Control Board’s strategy for the heritage site.

The renovations are set to cost over R80m, and are expected to be done later this year (“Castle to be made rock solid again”, People’s Post, 3 November 2015).

As part of the refurbishment project, the seven buildings within the Castle walls will be repainted and have new carpentry installed. The deteriorated waterproofing on the roofs and ramparts will be replaced and the stone moat walls and banks will be repaired. The project also includes the refurbishment of murals, renovations to the dolphin pool and specialist plaster repairs.

Specialist restorer Jan Corewijn, who researched and restored the original murals during previous restoration at the Castle, will repair murals that have been damaged.

The board recently completed a responsible commercialisation strategy, which found a lack of facilities to host events such as workshops, seminars and conferences.

The board CEO, Calvyn Gilfellan, says they have been inundated with requests for conference space in the oldest surviving building in the country.

“After a feasibility study, careful planning and the generous sponsorship from the Department of Military Veterans, we have put out a bid to install carpets, a speaker system, loose-standing screens, loose-standing tables and chairs – the core of a memorialisation and conference centre. This is a first for the Castle and will greatly enhance the public appeal of the Castle as a centre for education, cultural exchange and memorialisation.”

The conference facility is part of a Memorialisation Centre where a space is created for members of all communities and interest groups to engage with topical, historical and current affairs affecting society, Gilfellan explains.

“This is part of our Castle 350 commemoration objectives, namely to reposition and re-image the Castle as a place of inclusion, healing and nation building. We get weekly requests form cultural institutions, government departments, the tourism industry, churches and other community bodies for conferencing and seminar facilities. This is a very small step in the fulfilment of our mandate to enhance public access to the Castle of Good Hope.”

The state-of-the-art conference facility, as part of a memorialisation centre, will entail three venues that can seat 60, 18 and 10 people.

One of the rooms to be converted to accommodate conferences is the Adam Tas Hall, which will receive state of the art conference, recording, communication and educational equipment.

The hall is set to receive new carpeting, a sound and video system, removable drywall to create separate a smaller seminar room, and furnishing of tables and chairs. Cognisance will be taken of the heritage value of the venue.

The first stone of the Castle of Good Hope was laid in 1666 and construction was completed in 1679. It replaced the original clay and timber fort called the Fort de Goede Hoop, built by Jan van Riebeeck upon his arrival in the Cape in 1652.

Originally it served as a replenishment station for ships passing the treacherous coast around the Cape on long voyages between the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).

The Castle was declared a national monument in 1969 and the Military Museum officially opened there in 1995.

The public is able to submit comments on the hall’s refurbishment until Saturday 20 August to heritage@castleofgoodhope.co.za.

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