History of Mouille Point

In the 18th century the Common was known by the Dutch as De Waterplaats (the Foreshore). It extended from Three Anchor Bay all the way to town, and then included most of the land contained between Somerset Road and Main Road, out towards Sea Point and the coastline. The Green Point Common was vested land which was granted to the Cape Town City Council in 1923 by the Union Government as Commonage for general public recreation purposes and sports fields.

The extent of the Common has been substantially reduced over the years. With passage of time, portions have been alienated for defence purposes, harbour developments, hospitals, educational, residential, transportation and other government uses. Much of the remaining Commonage has been leased to sports clubs and other organisations over the past decades. The Green Point Common remains a substantial and significant public open space.

The Common has had a colourful and interesting history as a place of recreation over the centuries.

For example: It was the place for rambles and outings by many residents of Table Valley as well as of Green and Sea Point and regular horse race meetings were held until the establishment of the Kenilworth Racecourse. The building which currently houses McDonalds was the original course stand and the slopes of Signal Hill also accommodated spectators.

Sailing regattas were held in winter on its extensive, though very shallow, seasonal vlei, until the vlei gradually filled-in during the late 1800's and early 1900's. An Imperial Exhibition was held there at about the turn of the century.

The Common was a venue for some of the earliest rugby and cricket matches in the Cape, and the Green Point Track was an important venue for cycling and other track and field sports.

Moreover, before 1900 the golfing fraternity was successful in persuading the authorities to make land available for a golf course. With some alterations in layout, the golf course still occupies a substantial portion of the Commonage today. The Commonage also served non-recreational purposes, some of them rather unusual. For years it was used as a pasture for cattle and a portion was a place of internment for many thousands of prisoners during the South African War.

The beauty of the Common, set between hillside and shoreline, was remarked upon by many local residents and visitors, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Because of the verdant and healthy environment, the New Somerset Hospital was built in the 1860's overlooking Granger Bay. It was situated near an old Dutch (later English) fort, named Wynyard and the so-called Old Laboratory, built in 1820.

With the rapid increase in population of Table Valley and of the Green and Sea Point areas - particularly in the 1930's, pressure mounted for the establishment of playing fields and other dedicated sport facilities on the Common. The competition for this relatively flat land became increasingly at a premium.

Numerous organisations over the years have requested playing fields and related facilities for a variety of sports. The municipal authorities have generally followed a policy of accommodating such requests by leasing portions of the Common to the concerned parties. Aside from land leased to a great variety of individual sports and cultural clubs, many of the sporting needs of schools in the Central Cape Town area have also been met by the Green Point Common.

In 1995 the City Council adopted a recommendation for a public participation exercise with the view to formulating a Development Framework for the Green Point Common. The intention of this exercise was to guide public investment and provide a framework for responding to proposals by private sector for development or land-use change within the Green Point Common area.

The land-use at that time was defined as follows: The Mouille Point beachfront residential area was generally well maintained, but many buildings and spaces within the Development study area were dilapidated and underutilised.

The Common consisted of predominantly sports fields, some of which were disused and overgrown. These sports fields were separated by numerous fences of all descriptions, making public movement through the Common very difficult.

The Green Point Stadium is leased on a daily basis and was mainly used for athletics, soccer, concerts, film shoots, and religious gatherings.

The Beachfront had a haphazard mixture of land uses, which included the recreational facilities of the Lions Adventure Land, the Mini-blue Train, the Maze and the Putt-Putt course. These recreational opportunities were underutilised. However the promenade walkway was well used by cyclists, walkers and joggers.

The main commercial uses were the Seagulls Restaurant, the Green Point Market, the then Health and Racquet Club and some retail along Beach Road.

There were also institutional uses such as the Somerset Hospital, the City Hospital, The SA Institute of Medical Research, the Department of Sea Fisheries, the Domestic Workers Association, a Municipal library and hall, the SA Police and the Headquarters of the SA Lighthouse Services.

The Mouille Point residential strip was a mixture of single and double dwellings, blocks of flats and a few restaurants, cafes and offices.

The nine-hole golf course was leased to a private club from Council. Fort Wynyard which was a former coastal fortification and a military museum now has been closed to the public.

There are several national monuments and historical, buildings namely: The Old Somerset Hospital, Fort Wynyard and the Green Point Lighthouse. Other historical important buildings which were not national monuments included the then premises of Seagulls Restaurant (now MacDonald's), the Hospital Museum, the Headquarters of the SA Inst of Medical Research and the Victoria Nurses Home.

SOURCE: Point Development Framework 1997, The History of Cape Town and businesses