The Company Gardens are the oldest gardens in South Africa, established in 1652 by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to supply passing ships with fruit and vegetables. They now boast a wide variety of trees and plant species. The Garden is inhabited by a battalion of tame grey squirls – and one white one, offspring of the squirls John Cecil Rhodes brought with from the United States of American.
The Company Gardens provide a perfect spot for a bit of relaxation in the heart of Cape Town. You can stroll down Government Avenue, which runs through the Gardens. This oak tree-lined lane takes you along places of interest as the Houses of Parliament and the Tuynhuys.
The Tuynhuys, meaning garden house, is the office of the State President and was built in 1700 as the Company's Guest House to accommodate important visitors to the Cape.
Apart from that, Government Avenue leads you to the South African Museum, the National Gallery and maany other interesting museums. One of these is the Cultural History Museum or Slave Lodge, situated close to the entrence of the Company Gardens.
The building was built 1679 by Willem Adriaan van der Stel to house the slaves who worked in the gardens for the VOC. It is the second oldest existing colonial structure in South Africa.
After the second British occupation in 1806, when the British claim to the Cape was recognised by the rest of Europe, the Slave Lodge was turned into government offices in 1807. At that stage 283 slaves were housed in the Lodge: 187 men, 73 women, and 23 children.
The governor, the Earl of Caledon, sold some of slaves at a public auction and the remaining slaves were moved into the western wing of the Lodge. In 1811, these remaining slaves were moved a new slave lodge in the Gardens. These 135 slaves were manumitted in 1828, six years before universal emancipation of slaves in the British Empire.
The Old Slave Lodge now houses collections of Cape silverware and furniture, weaponry from across the globe, coins, and other interesting items connected to South Africa’s history.
It also houses an interesting section on the early history of the Cape, including some VOC relics and postal stones. These stones marked caches of letters that were left by the crews of ships, in the hope that they would be picked up by the next ship heading in the right direction. In use as a courtroom for over a century, the building was subsequently used for various other quarters of officialdom.