Cape Town began its life as a
supply station for ships of the Dutch East India
Company, sailing between Holland and the East Indies to
trade spices. It was founded in 1652 by Jan van
Riebeeck, and you can find out lots more about its
fascinating history from the videos, photos and maps
Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck arrives in Table Bay,
to set up the Cape Town settlement & garden
Spice Trade shipping routes of the
Dutch East India Company
from the East Indies
The First Garden in South Africa Watch
this short video to learn about the
settlement of Cape Town
and the reason why it was built
16:23 to 19:52 (3 minute excerpt)
Dutch East India Company, from its base in
Amsterdam, brought valuable spices from
South East Asia to Europe by sea.
It took their ships 8 months to reach
their base in the Far East at Batavia (now Jakarta, capital of Indonesia).
Dutch ship in Table Bay, 1762
The sailors needed fresh food and water
during the long journey - so they needed to find
a place on the way to Batavia that could provide
It was also important that any local people were
friendly, and did not mind trading their meat
and vegetables with the sailors.
Dutch ships started stopping at Table Bay, near
the Cape of Good Hope, for food and water from
the 1590s. The Cape was about half-way to
Founding of Cape Town: Timeline
Khoi herdsmen move into Southern Africa from further
north (now Botswana). They keep cattle, moving with
the herds for fresh pasture, and live off seafood
around Table Bay.
explorer Bartolomeu Dias is the first modern
European to round the Cape of Good Hope.
famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sets foot
in South Africa on his way to India - the first
European to sail there.
seamen under Antonio de Saldanha are the first
Europeans to climb Table Mountain (they are part
of a fleet on its way to India). They also fight
with the local Khoi people.
Portuguese are killed in a battle with the Khoi.
the occasional fighting, ships from Portugal, and
later Holland and Britain, often call in at Table
Bay for fresh water and meat on the way to the
Spice Islands of the Far East.
Dutch ship, theNieuwe
Harleem, is wrecked in Table Bay.
The survivors live there for a year, growing food
and getting on well with the local Khoi people,
until they are rescued by ships returning to
The sailors suggest to the Dutch East India
Company that a supply station could be set up in
van Riebeeck arrives in Table Bay to set up the
supply station for the Dutch East India Company
(for ships travelling to & from Batavia and
the Far East).
The Company Garden is laid out, and a fort built
(of clay & wood).
Castle of Good Hope is begun - it is finished in
Cape Colony is properly begun, when land is bought
from the Khoi.
of early Cape Town
the star-shaped Castle of Good Hope (bottom left) and the Company
Garden (green rectangles, top middle).
The castle defended the settlement.
The garden grew food for sailors passing on
the long voyage to the Spice Islands.
This is where the fruit and vegetables were grown
for the Dutch sailors.
the photo above to download a
leaflet about the Company Garden
Castle of Good Hope
is the oldest building in South Africa.
Click the photo above to
watch a video about the castle