The Company’s Garden is adorned with various memorials, statues and decorative items. Most of them date from last century which makes them much newer than the Garden itself and few of them have a direct connection to the Garden or its original creators but they’re all connected to the history of the Cape and the people who helped shape it.
The two most controversial statues are those of General Jan Christiaan Smuts. Smuts was a distinguished soldier who helped draft the Covenant of the United Nations, was a close collaborator of Winston Churchill, and the last Prime Minister of South Africa before being defeated in the 1948 elections by the National Party, who went on to form what is known as the apartheid government. He is remembered here with two statues – one at the Adderley Street entrance, next to the Slave Lodge, and another one in front of the ponds next to The Paddocks. Why two statues? Read the text on the photos below to find out and decide for yourself which one you prefer.
In the centre of the Garden are three memorials opposite the National Gallery. The centrepiece of the three is the Delville Wood Memorial commemorating the South Africans who fought at Delville wood in France; as well as the servicemen who died in the World War One and World War Two. It was unveiled in 1930 and the inscription relating to WW2 and other wars with strong South African connections were added later.
This memorial complex consists of a classical circular temple of 8 columns, surmounted by a horse and two nude male figures, symbolising Englishmen and Afrikaners who fought in the Great War. It depicts brotherhood. This is said to be a replica of the group surmounting the SA National Delville Wood Memorial erected at Delville Wood in France, and the one at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. As with all pre-1994 war memorials no mention is made of the 85 000 Black South Africans who served in World War I.
The second part of the Delville Wood Memorial is the Artillerymen Memorial. A genuine Howitzer cannon mounted on granite and inscribed with the names of those who lost their lives, abeit whites only. The date and name of the sculptor are unknown.
Part three of the Delville Wood Memorial is a large statue of one Major-General
Henry Lukin whose distinguished military career includes giving the order for the advance on Delville Wood. As far as I know there is no other commemoration of this man anywhere else in Cape Town – no street, no suburb.
Moving down into the heart of the garden we reach a sun dial, a lantern, a slave bell that is not really a slave bell, and two fountains.
The Japanese Lantern. This stone lantern, under a wisteria-covered pergola, was presented in 1932 by the people of Japan to the city in appreciation of the hospitality shown to Japanese sailors and passengers visiting the Cape. It was removed during WW2 and reinstated when peace was announced. At the same time as the gifting of this lantern, the koi for the pond around the Thorne Fountain were gifted.
The Rutherfoord Fountain. This figure of a young woman holding an urn and a cup was erected in recognition of one Howson Rutherfoord and relocated here from Adderley Street in the 1890s. The inscription reads as follows: “This fountain was erected by his family as a memory of Howson Edwards Rutherfoord Esq.,who was for the greater portion of his active and benevolent life, a resident in this colony and for five years at the close of it a member of the Legislative Council 1864″. Not much else is known about Rutherfoord but the fountain is also referred to as the Temperance Memorial.
The sundial was placed in 1848 in the centre of what was once a parterre garden with strict geometric lines, clipped low borders and hedges. Very little information is available regarding its provenance.
A memorial slave-bell, situated next to the aviary, is not a slave bell at all but is the old fire-alarm bell from the Old Town House in Greenmarket Square. The bell itself dates back to 1855 but the tower was erected in 1911.
The Sir George Grey statue is prominently displayed in front of the National Library to which he donated his extensive and valuable private collection of books and manuscripts. Grey was Governor of the Cape between 1854 and 1861. Sir George Grey (1812-1898) was a controversial British explorer and colonial governor who achieved many peaceful settlements in the Cape Colony between settlers and pre-colonial inhabitants, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. He has always been remembered as the best Governor of the Cape.
Possibly the most controversial political figure in South Africa’s history is Cecil John Rhodes. An Imperialist with a massive ego and greed, he achieved an extraordinary amount despite suffering extremely poor health throughout his short life. Founder of De Beers Mining Company, Prime Minister of the Cape (1890 to 1896), ‘founder’ of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), creator of a law restricting black South Africans from owning land desired for industrial use, supporter of the infamous Jameson Raid which led to his demise and ultimately several disastrous South African wars. Rhodes died at 49 and is commemorated with the massive Rhodes Memorial next to the University of Cape Town which used to be his land.
This statue, almost in the centre of the Company’s Garden, was originally placed, by Rhodes himself, at the top of Adderley Street in the centre of the city but after the failed Jameson Raid it was quietly repositioned in the Garden. The inscription on the status “Your hinterland is there” refers to his dreams of a British imperialism from the Cape to Cairo, including his dream of a railway line through the continent.