On the corner of Buitengracht and Somerset Road in De Waterkant stands a conspicuous structure set in a quaint garden alongside a small public square. (St Andrews Square).
This modern ossuary marks the resting place of the bodies of over 2, 500 people. The skeletons were exhumed on a building site on the corner of Preswitch and Albert Street in 2003. The unmarked graves are said to have been those of servants, slaves, washerwomen and sailors who were executed by the Dutch during the 17th and 18th centuries.
As well as being a burial site the Prestwich Memorial also commemorates the burial ground for the Dutch Reform Church. During this period many were denied access to formal church cemeteries and were forced to be buried outside the official graveyards. These graves were also unmarked.
This memorial pays tribute to these forgotten people and the legacy of slavery in the City. Remains can be viewed in boxes on shelves and many are simply numbered as no identities were preserved.
A plaque at the memorial site reads:
“Beyond the steel gateways lie the ossuaries of the Prestwich Memorial. These ossuaries house the remains of people who had been buried in and around the burial grounds of the Green Point area – between the second half of the 18th century and the late 19th century. The human remains placed in these ossuaries are from unmarked graves, many of them being slaves and the poor who had been buried outside the formal graveyards. These human remains were uncovered during the course of development in the Green Point area, and brought to the ossuary as a final place of rest. You are invited to reflect upon the ancestors of our city.”
The memorial site is open on weekdays from 8am – 5pm and on weekends from 8am – 1pm. Entrance is free and one can enjoy a coffee at the Truth Coffee Shop, which has become popular for trendy coffee worshipers.
Did you know:
Greenpoint and the Waterfront were the part of Cape Town that once formed District One.
Slavery officially existed in the Cape from the 1650s until the 1830s.
St Andrew’s Church, which is next to the Prestwich Memorial, was the first Church to acknowledge and open its doors to newly freed slaves in 1838.
The horse-drawn tram lines that once transported people from Adderley street to Greenpoint and later to Camps Bay run behind the Prestwich Memorial and were discovered in 2007.
These started operation between 1861 and 1863.
In 1897 electric trams were introduced which took over these horse drawn trams.
These electric trams were then phased out in the 1950’s and 1960’s in favour of busses as a means of transport.
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