Old Townhouse

(1761) First used by Burgerwacht started in 1696 by Simon van der Stel – basically a night patrol. Every male between 16 and 60 had to take turns. Also called the Rattle Watch.

A sergeant, corporal, drummer and 12 men. Gaudy uniform, a small salary, a large sword and a noisy rattle. Every hour they would shout out the time, sound their rattles, check for nocturnal loiterers, arsonists and fires. Wealthy burghers “bought” replacements and soon the Rattle Watch became a permanent profession.

They had the authority to arrest wrongdoers and put them in jail. At first they were quite zealous but soon succumbed to the pleasures of inns and wine-houses, the doors of which would open find at the first showing of a rattle! Dissolved in 1792. Then used as police Headquarters and then as Townhouse… City Hall.

Now houses Michaelis Collection of Flemish masterpieces. On front porch there is a circle which is the centre of Cape Town and where all distances in SA are measured from


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