Cape Town City Hall

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The current Cape Town City Hall was built to replace the Old Town House on Greenmarket Square, which had been used as a makeshift City Hall since 18**.

(On the various uses of the term City Hall in South Africa, see Town Hall.)

Design and construction

Designed by architects Reid and Green from Johannesburg it was built in Italian Renaissance style, one of the last major Victorian buildings to be erected in Cape Town. The mayor of Cape Town, Thomas Ball, laid the corner stone of the City Hall on 29 August 1900, but the hall was only opened in 1905. Overlooking the Grand Parade, it is flanked by Buitengracht and Darling Streets. It was built from sand stone and has 39 bells making it one of the largest carillons in South Africa. Cape Town City Hall is a large Edwardian building in Cape Town city centre which was built in 1905. It is located on the Grand Parade to the west of the Castle and is built from honey-coloured oolitic limestone imported from Bath in England. The building was designed as the result of a public competition, the winning architects being Messrs Henry Austin Reid and Frederick George Green, with the contractors being Messrs T Howard and F G Scott. Much of the building material, including fixtures and fittings was imported from Europe.

The Organ

The Organ was built by Messrs Norman and Beard of London and Norwich, the specifications were drawn up by Sir George Martin, organist of St Paul's Cathedral in London especially for the City Hall. The workmanship and materials are of high quality, and the organ made from mahogany, teak and pine. Sir George Martin spoke of it as “a magnificent instrument in every gradation of tone, from the softest stop to the most powerful tuba being found in the organ, and all under the most perfect control, and that altogether the instrument must be regarded as an artistic and mechanical triumph”. There are altogether 3165 pipes varying from 32 feet to ¾ inch. The wind was supplied by a Kinetic Blower worked by an electric motor. The tower of the City Hall has a Turret Clock which strikes the hours and chimes the Westminster quarters. The faces of the clock are made from 4 skeleton iron dials filled with opal. The clock has a 24 hour wheel and lever. The bells were cast by Messrs John Taylor and Co of Loughborough and the clock was supplied by JB Joyce & Co of Whitchurch.The City Hall's carillon was installed as a WW1 war memorial, with 22 additional bells being added in 1925 with the visit of the Prince of Wales.

Present status

The City Hall no longer houses the offices of the City of Cape Town, which are located in the Cape Town Civic Centre. The auditorium is regularly used for concerts, while the City Library was recently moved to the adjacent Old Drill Hall. The future use and restoration of the City Hall is in 2009 under review by the City of Cape Town.

Use as a venue

Over the years it was used by the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, *** for performances. Also the venue for Mark Twain's At Home in 1896??**. It has been the scene of many a military and political gathering. On 11 February 1990, only hours after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech after his release from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall to the crowd in the Grand Parade. On February 11, 1990, only hours after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech after his release from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall.


See also Town Hall

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