Page 7 of the History of Camps Bay .  Holiday Rentals in Cape Town  specializes in Camps Bay accommodation on self catering villas and apartments

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The history of Camps Bay, Cape town is brought to you by Holiday Rentals in Cape Town; the Camps Bay accommodation specialists in luxury self catering apartments and villas

Soon after, the Cape of Good Hope passed into the hands of the British.42 General Janssens rode out with all the honours of war, the Waldeck Regiment was sent back to Cape Town in disgrace, and the Camps Bay defences lost their brief place in history. The battery in ‘Camps Bay’ (no longer called ‘De Baai van Von Kamptz’) and the transitory fortification in the kloof between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head were included in an inventory of the fortifications of the Cape made for the Second British occupation.

In 1807 the Earl of Caledon was sent out to the Cape, accompanied by Andrew Barnard. Unfortunately Barnard died before his wife, Lady Anne, could join him again. Caledon moved into the only house in Camps Bay, the dilapidated farmhouse which had originally been the home of J.J. Wernich and then of Von Kamptz, but he found it too isolated and communication with his offices in town too difficult so he moved to Cape Town. The area was still untouched and undeveloped and few ventured there. It was so secluded that the British Government used it in 1812 as an isolation camp for smallpox patients.

The botanist William Burchell who visited two years before reported that there was only one house in Camps Bay and it was very dilapidated and “the path down towards Camps Bay (was) said to be more difficult and seldom used except by slaves in search of firewood.”43 There must have been some others who used it because a Mr Schmidt was reported to have had a farm on the Kloof between Lion’s Head and Table Mountain in 1818. Visitors to his farm often paused on the kloof near the military block house to admire the Town below nestling under the mountain and Jan Carel Horak, a butcher of 33 Plein Street, the director of the Shambles (butcher’s slaughterhouse) who later became a member of the Burgher Senate, probably stored his meat on the hoof up there, an easy ride from the land he had bought in Sea Point in 1813. Horak was granted title to the Roodekrantz estate on perpetual quitrent tenure on 4 April 1814; the Deeds Office files of the previous year mention a circular house there.47 There was a building on the land, the round guardhouse built in 1786 to protect the backdoor approach to Cape Town and Horak probably built onto this. Horak’s land was near to the Government land in Camps Bay. The British Government had taken over the Dutch properties which included the land and farmhouse bought from von Kamptz. Caledon would occasionally lend the shabby farm house to friends. Despite its condition, the beauty of the site must have been a considerable attraction. Sir John Cradock also let it during his term of duty between 1811 and 1814. Horak successfully petitioned Cradock for permission to continue to keep an eye on the Governor’s property as superintendent as he had done when Caledon had been governor. It was a convenient appointment for Horak because the stable and kraal he had built were nearby, however he prudently moved away for a while when the smallpox patients were his neighbours. In 1819 the Rev. Mr. Campbell described his visit to Horak’s nearby house which was “built in the form of a circle.”48 Fifteen feet in diameter, Horak’s round house was built of wood and contained four gun cupboards. Camps Bay villas

In 1814 General Lord Charles Henry Somerset, second son of the 5th Duke of Beaufort, became the new Governor of the Cape and he remained until 1826. He has been described49 as a “hard-living, hard-hunting squire of an overbearing disposition, but with a distinct sense of responsibility towards the country which he had been sent to govern. He had little tact and made many enemies.” He was extravagant and liked to live as a Lord should live; for example, he considered the small Government House in the Gardens to be no larger than a dog kennel so added on a ballroom. As well as a ballroom, he also felt the need for a weekend retreat and decided that Camps Bay would be an ideal spot although Lord Caledon’s shabby farmhouse was really not good enough for a descendant of King Edward lll. Somerset enjoyed hunting and there was plenty of game in the area, and good riding across the fields in invigorating air with a beautiful view of the sea as a bonus and he decided that Horak’s round house would make a perfect shooting lodge. Somerset believed that Camps Bay was a likely landing-place for enemy ships so for security reasons he extended the guardhouse behind the battery and had the road repaired. While the government workmen were busy with the guardhouse, Somerset felt it prudent to use the builders to enlarge the farmhouse and the Round House at the same time for his own needs. For these alterations as well as others at his home in Newlands House, Somerset employed the services of the English informer, William Jones, the notorious ‘Oliver the Spy’.


William Jones and his wife and child had been smuggled out of England in 1819 by the Under-Secretary Henry Goulburn with a letter of recommendation to Somerset asking him to make a grant of land to Jones “whose object in proceeding to the Cape of Good Hope was to settle in the country.”51 In England Jones had become notorious and for years afterwards was used as a bogey-man for naughty children. Born in 1776, and apprenticed to a carpenter, he had been acquitted of trying to defraud another carpenter.

He later became an accountant to a London builder through whom he met some Radical conspirators who were planning treason. Scared by his previous brush with the law, he offered to become an informer and was sent to Leeds to investigate the political feelings there. He pretended to be a parliamentary reformer and persuaded the leaders to stage a bloodless revolution promising them help from London. When the plotters were arrested after industrial disturbance in the Midlands, they claimed that Oliver had duped them and had instigated the whole thing. The House of Commons insisted that Jones was a respectable patriotic builder and that prior information about political unrest was vital for state security.

Lord Charles was away when Jones arrived in the Cape with his letter of recommendation but, a trained draughtsman, Jones started working as a surveyor, and soon gained a good reputation for his knowledge of construction. On Somerset’s return, he ignored the newcomer at first because he was angry with the Acting Governor, Sir Rufane Donkin. When Jones managed to present his letter of recommendation, Somerset decided to get him to rebuild his homes in the Cape to make these more fitting for someone of his social standing. Even though Goulburn had written that Jones was no architect but merely a builder, Somerset appointed him Inspector of Government Buildings a month after his return. It was rumoured that Somerset also used him as a spy.

The extra storey Jones52 had built onto Somerset’s country residence, Newlands House, collapsed in a storm in 1819. This mishap did not deter Somerset who embarked on ambitious plans for Jones to renovate the Government Buildings in Camps Bay after another storm in 1822. Jones prepared plans to alter the Government Buildings at Camps Bay extensively. The whole exercise was later condemned by a Commission of Inquiry as a waste of public money. After an outcry, Somerset decided to make Jones the scapegoat for the expense that his elaborate building projects had entailed and blamed him for having “neglected to keep his accounts in the form required (which) renders it impossible to ascertain with precision the exact expense of each distinct service.” In the days before transparency and accountability were expected of rulers, creative accountancy practices made convenient smokescreens to cover extravagant expenditure of government income. Somerset wrote that although Jones was a good builder he could not be regarded as a responsible officer to superintend all buildings. On 31 July 1825 Jones was discharged from the post of Inspector of Government Buildings. Justice having been seen to be done, Somerset then appointed Jones to a newly created post as the Government Overseer of Works.

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