The history of Simon’s Town has always been closely linked with commercial and naval shipping. Indeed it was initially, in 1742, that the Dutch East India Company’s Council of Seventeen, who headed the largest company in the world at that time, issued an instruction that would initiate the development of this area.
Until then the area was a nondescript piece of barren coastline where the mountain touched the sea and where a few freeburghers lived on what level ground they could find.
The Council of Seventeen’s instruction was clear – all captains of D.E.I.C. ships would use Simon’s Bay (then known as Ysselsteijn Bay) as a winter anchorage from May 15 to August 15 – with this move they hoped would prevent further damage to the fleet through winter storms while anchored in Table Bay. Simon’s Town (named after Governor Simon van der Stel) slowly developed with all the necessary infrastructure of a small port to handle the repairs and victualling of passing D.E.I.C. ships.
When the British finally took over Simon’s Town for the second time from the Dutch in 1806 they realised the importance of the port, and it was not long before a long relationship between the Royal Navy and Simon’s Town was established. A relationship that lasted one hundred and forty-three years until the handover on 2 April 1957 to the South African Navy in terms of the Simon’s Town Agreement.
Interested? Read The Far South by Michael Walker