Slave Walk

Heritage Routes / Landmarks / Miscellaneous in or near Oranjezicht, City Bowl in Cape Town, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsSlave Walk

Where? Slave's Walk, Upper Buitenkant Street, Oranjezicht, Cape Town

How? Call +27 (0)84 883-2514

Overnight? Stay in Oranjezicht, in Western Cape

At the top end of Upper Buitenkant Street, close to St Cyprian's School, is what was once known as Slave's Walk.

This is a particularly historical nook of Cape Town. St Cyprian's, the independent, Anglican girls' school, was founded in 1871 and moved onto the premises of one of two homesteads, Nooitgedacht, in 1919.

Oranjezicht City Farm, next door to the school, lies on the original Oranjezicht Farmstead. And all of this lies just above Van Riebeeck Park that runs into Deer Park. One becomes easily lost up on these slopes, as roads no longer conform to the usual city grid.

The little lane known as Slave's Walk also has a history. Back in the 1820s when settlers arrived from Britain, much of the work of the more wealthy settlers was carried out by a series of servants, most of them slaves. Keeping house was labour intensive.

One of the tasks outsourced was laundry. Linen was sent out for washing, particularly as water was not on tap and would have had to be fetched daily into any establishment. Laundry was originally washed by slaves, but historical archives suggest that around this time there were over 100 free black laundresses who took in laundry.

Platteklip Stream lies in the upper Table Valley up the same end of what is now Buitenkant Street and was already a place for laundry washing by 1700. To reach the washing pools, slaves would have walked along “slave walk” (hence its name) passed Nooitgedacht and Rheezicht homesteads, and then along the Capel Sluit on the boundary of Oranjezicht.

It was a perfect place for washing as there was plenty of shade during summer. Washerwomen spent a lot of time up to their knees in the cold stream, leaving the linen to dry on the banks. A subsequent archaeological dig in the bed of Platteklip revealed thousands of pins, buckles and buttons from the beating the washerwomen would give linen in an attempt to loosen any dirt.

Interested in seeing more? Platteklip Wash House is owned and run by SANParks and is available for overnight accommodation.

For tours that include Slave Walk, contact Lucelle Campbell of Transcending History Tours for one of her tours. She is a Cape Slavery and Cultural Heritage Activist. She breathes air into unmarked slave sites.

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