Cannon firing at the V&A

Posted on Tue October 3, 2017.

The grand old Castle of Good Hope and its coastal Cannon batteries like the Chavonnes Battery were the watchdogs that guarded Table Bay and its road-stead from invaders in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

Foreign ships making landfall at the Cape were expected to fire a salute of blank shots on entering the bay, not only to signal their friendly intentions but also as a greeting. The salute would be answered by the coastal fortifications – on the understanding that a ship which did not fire a greeting might be met by a volley of cannon-balls.

Between its completion in 1724 and 1860 when its 16 big muzzle-loading cannon bellowed for the last time, the Chavonnes Battery fired innumerable such salutes on the arrival of visiting Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, Swedish and Danish merchantmen plying the route to and from the Far East. 

On that day in 1860 when the battery thundered out its last its last salute for more than 140 years, Queen Victoria’s young son, Prince Alfred, pulled a lever that tipped the first load of rubble into the sea at the start of building the breakwater behind which the wharf's and quays of what is now the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront were to be built.

But since the early years of the 21st Century the mighty music of the guns has returned as salutes are fired from the Chavonnes Battery to mark various special occasions.

This Saturday (7 October) is one of those occasions: the guns will make themselves heard far and wide once more at a sail-past by the Royal Cape Yacht Club to mark the opening of the new yachting season.

The proceedings will start at the RCYC marina in the eastern docks, with all participating yachts dressed and ready to depart by 13h00, following Royal Cape II to the muster-point at Granger Bay, north of the Breakwater.

In line astern the yachts will follow Scarlet Sun into the V&A Waterfront, through the Clock Tower Cut and into the Alfred Basin, entering to starboard and moving in an anti-clockwise direction around the basin before heading out to sea again.

As they pass in review, each participating yacht will salute RCYC Commodore Vitor Medina by dipping her club burgee while her crew shout: “Three cheers to the Commodore!”, and the guns lined up outside the battery will return the age-old greeting with the traditional gun smoke and noise.

And that’s not all: if visitors would like to find out more about the Cape’s fascinating history they can visit the beautifully preserved remains of the battery in the Chavonnes Battery Museum, with its sturdy walls built of Table Mountain rock and cement made from burned sea-shells.

Inside, visitors can enjoy dioramas, illustrations of the early Cape, detailed models and displays that tell them all they need to know – and never knew – about old-time cannon and the different types of ammunition they could fire. Captain Jack Sparrow, eat your heart out!

They can marvel at the items found in the battery’s fresh-water well (or just make a wish), and get in personal touch with history by feeling the sand of the original Cape Town shoreline that has been buried for 300 years … and if they wish, they can wear a tricorne hat as they time-travel to Cape Town of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Entrance to the Chavonnes Battery includes the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017 photo exhibition, with 50 large and remarkable images from the oceans, rivers and seas of 27 countries, including two from South African waters. The exhibition is presented in 10 categories, three of which are life on British waters exclusively. 

The battery is wheelchair and pram friendly, with FREE WIFI

  • Location: Chavonnes Battery Museum, Clock Tower, V&A
  • Date of Firing: Saturday 7th October 2017
  • Time of Firing: 2 pm

Opening Hours:

  • Fri – Mon: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Tue – Thu: 9 am to 4 pm


  • FREE for KIDS 16 and Under
  • R 100          Adults
  • R   70          Wild Card / Red Bus
  • R   50          Seniors / Students {SA}