The town was named after Simon van der Stel. Simon’s Bay was made the official winter anchorage for the Dutch East India Company’s ships in 1743. Baron G. W. van Imhoff, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, who touched at the Cape in the same year, chose a site for a magazine, hospital and barracks at Simonstown.
A small garrison was stationed there, and when a stone pier was constructed in 1768, a bakery, a slaughter-house, a carpenter’s shop and a smithy were erected, as well as a residence for the Governor (who always spent a few days there when the fleet arrived). The post was raised to a residency in 1786 on the representation of the local post-holder, Christoffel Brand. During the war with Britain two small forts, Boetselaar and Zoutman, were built in 1794. When the British arrived on m June 1795 the garrison, too small to resist, was withdrawn. The bulk of the negotiations with the British preceding the Battle of Muizenberg was conducted by the resident, Christoffel Brand. The little settlement first became known as ‘Simon’s Town’ after the Second British occupation in 1806. In 1810 a whaling station operated at Simon’s Bay, and there were about 40 houses, belonging to people who resided in Cape Town during the summer months.
In 1814 Simonstown was turned into a naval establishment, and a harbour was constructed, which became the base of the South Atlantic squadron of the Royal Navy. A road was built from Cape Town at a cost of £16 000. In 1895 Simonstown was ceded to the British Admiralty as a naval station. Extensive alterations were begun in 1899. The Second Anglo Boer War, which broke out that year, enormously increased the importance of Simonstown, and work went ahead rapidly on the Selborne Dock, as well as on a dry-dock and engineering and construction workshops. By 1902 the population was 4684, of which Whites numbered 3209 and Coloured people 1575. There were 450 dwellings in the town.
During the First World War, with the Suez Canal closed, Simonstown rendered important service as a British naval base, and during the Second World War it again became a key point. The dockyard staff then rose to 5000, and some 170 warships and 60 damaged merchant vessels were repaired there. Until 1957 the British dockyard was policed by a special unit, whose commanding officers were largely recruited
from the London Metropolitan Police and wore a special uniform. At an impressive ceremony on 2 April 1957 the naval base was transferred to South Africa by Britain under an agreement guaranteeing Britain the use of the naval facilities in peace and in war.
Simonstown is South Africa’s main naval base, and Admiralty House is the official residence of the chief of the South African navy. The naval base was adapted continually during the 1960′s and early 1970′s to meet the requirements of South Africa’s growing maritime defences. The developments included accommodation for the country’s submarines.
Simonstown has had its own municipality since 1883 and, after Cape Town, it is the oldest independent municipality in the Cape Peninsula. Probably the oldest building is the Residency, which was rebuilt in 1776 and later became the official dwelling of the Resident; today it is occupied by the magistrate. Admiralty House was bought in 1814 from the widow Maria Munnick for £10 833.6.8.
St. Francis’ Church, consecrated in 1814, is reputed to be the oldest English church in South Africa.
In addition to churches, schools and a public library, Simonstown has a provincial hospital. For many years an aerial cableway linked the dockyard to a naval sanatorium on Red Hill overlooking the town; but in 1932 a motor road was built and the cableway ceased operations. There used to be a fish-oil refinery in an industrial area at Dido Valley just outside the town.
The water-supply has always caused difficulties. In 1902 the entire supply was a concrete reservoir containing 131/2 million litres, an Admiralty reservoir containing R36m litres, and springs yielding 68 000 litres a day. Thirty years ago Simonstown had, in addition, the Neptune and Prince George reservoirs, with a joint capacity of 68m litres, the Lewis Gay Dam, opened in 1952 and holding R86m litres, and the Kleinplaas Dam, built in 1967, holding 500m kilolitres. Electricity is supplied by the Cape Town municipality.
Simonstown is the terminus of the suburban railway from Cape Town. It has many excellent bathing beaches, the best-known being Seaforth and the Boulders, south of the town, and the fishing grounds round Simonstown are an angler’s paradise. The town lies on the marine drive leading to Cape Point. A martello tower built in Simonstown in 1796, the first building erected after the British occupation and possibly the oldest British structure of its kind in the world, was declared a national monument in 1972. The following year it was officially opened as a naval museum by the chief of the South African Defence Force, Adm. H. H. Biermann.
District. Area 249 sq km, covering the southern portion of the Cape Peninsula below a line south of Chapman’s Peak eastwards along the mountains and across the Cape Flats nearly to Strandfontein. It in cludes the southern suburbs of metropolitan Cape
Town from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay and the municipality of Fish Hoek, as well as Glencairn, Noordhoek, Scarborough, the local area of Kommetjie, and the township of Da Gama Park. It also embraces Sandvlei and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Population 1970): White 20 663; Coloured 10357;
Asiatic 289; Bantu 686 . Source: Standard Encylopeadia of South Africa Copyright Naspers. Image: Acknowledgement Library of Parliament Cape Town.
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