The History

Cecil John Rhodes: 1853 — 1902

Cecil John Rhodes: 1853 — 1902

Cecil John Rhodes, born 1853 in England. At 17yrs his father sent him to his elder brother in Southern Natal. He then journeyed to Kimberley in the Northern Cape in 1870 and began dealing in the hopelessly disorganised uncut stone "digger's market".

After completing his studies at Oriel College, Oxford he returned to Kimberly and convinced Rothchild to provide the finance to buy out his former rival, Barney Bonato, for ultimate control of the diamond market. De Beers Consolidate Mines were formed.

At the tender age of 34 C. J Rhodes was fast becoming the most powerful mining magnate of all time. He was elected to Parliament as Member for Barclay East.

C. J. R's political career flourished, and he became the respected Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. In 1896 Rhodes returned to his Cape Town home at Groote Schuur, and devoted some of his time and money to the development of the fruit industry.To this day, Rhodes Fruit Farm in Groot Drakenstien, is still part of the Anglo American Consortium.

He had acquired considerable land holdings, including the Groote Schuur Estate and the now Kirstenbosch Gardens, which he later bequeathed to the Botanical Society.

Cecil John Rhodes quietly passed away in 1902. He was 49 years old.

Cecil John Rhodes: 1853 — 1902

The Memorial

The magnificent floodlit memorial to Cecil John Rhodes, built in 1912, stands on the slopes of Devil's Peak, on the Northern flank of Table Mountain.

The Rhodes Memorial was Financed by public subscription raised from the estimated 30 000 citizens of Cape Town in deference for all that Rhodes had accomplished, and the very considerable contribution he had made to the development and increasing prosperity of Southern Africa, during his dynamic 32 years in this Country. The monument was designed by Sir Francis Macey and Sir Herbert Baker. Incorporating Doric columns, the classical architecture so revered by CJR, the eight lions, were cast "in situ" by J.W Swan, modeled upon those protecting Nelson column in Trafalgar Square.

The dynamic ‘Statue of Energy', rearing at the foot of the 49 steps, (one for each year of his life), was a tribute to the restless drive and determination of Rhodes.

Today Rhodes Memorial is a national landmark, providing a magnificent view of Cape Town out over the airport and the Cape Flats to the Helderberg and Hottentots Holland Mountains.

Hiking Trails from Rhodes memorial

The Kings Blockhouse

The Block House, built as a defensive and lookout position, in 1796 by the British, allows a full view of False Bay and the Castle. The Block House is on the Contour Path which extends in both directions towards Kirstenbosch and towards Table Mountain.

The walk up to the Kings Block House is pretty long (about 1 hour) so make sure that you leave enough time to get up and down before dark. Because it is fairly isolated it may not be safe to be at the Block House alone after dark. The easiest way to get there is to hike up from Rhodes Memorial. Just follow the signs all the way up. Look out for the path heading up the hill towards the Block House, it starts at the top left of the parking area.

Please take note:

  • Take water,sunblock and a windbreaker.
  • The peak is very exposed to wind and mist, so hikers must always take care.
  • A number of the descents on the Southern Suburbs side are very steep and wet, and are highly dangerous (particularly Second Waterfall Ravine, Dark Gorge and Els Ravine).
  • These routes should not be attempted, as many lives have been lost by hikers taking the wrong route.
  • The general rule that applies is to stick to known and well-marked paths, and not to push on into the unknown.

Rhodes Memorial to Kirstenbosch

I would say the hike is fairly easy in the beginning but when you get close to Kirstenbosch there's still quite a long way to go. It takes about 3 hours to complete the walk.

You walk on the contour path from the block hut to the top of Kirstenbosch. The views over the city and False Bay, obviously, are stunning and on a clear day you can see all the way to Hangklip on the other side of the bay. There are many boardwalks that make it easy to walk. It's a nice walk for hot days because you walk most of the  time in the forest and are sheltered from the sun. Even so remember to take water, sunblock and a windbreaker.

In Summertime Kirstenbosch organises Summer Concerts on Sunday afternoons which are very popular and I can absolutely recommend you go to one when you're here. It's great fun to bring your picnic basket of snacks, bubbly and just chill.