A gun which disappeared during a short conflict between Britain and Russia in the Cape in 1885 has been found on a construction site on the slopes of Signal Hill. Picture: Supplied
A gun which disappeared during a short conflict between Britain and Russia in the Cape in 1885 has been found on a construction site on the slopes of Signal Hill. Picture: Supplied

Historic military gun from Russia, Britain conflict unearthed on Signal Hill

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Aug 20, 2020

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Cape Town - A rare military relic from 100 years ago was found below a derelict swimming pool at a development along the Atlantic Seaboard and now forms an integral part of the property.

The Alpha One property is a six-story boutique development on the slopes of Signal Hill between High Level Road and Ocean View Drive.

A gun, which disappeared during a small period of conflict between Britain and Russia in the Cape in

1885, was found on this site during construction.

Managing director of Elemental boutique property development company Simon Bridges said: “We were aware of the remnants of the Sea Point Battery under the site but did not know the extent, or indeed what would be found remaining.

“Once the structures above ground were demolished, we brought in an archaeological team and geo-technical engineers to ensure that the battery structure was safely unearthed and documented without damaging it.”

Bridges said it was a painstaking three-month process for the gun emplacement. The extremely hard clay was dug out by hand, with experts carefully documenting and archiving what was uncovered.

“Our preservation and restoration plan, which was approved by Heritage Western Cape, saw the historical battery remnants being incorporated into the new development. In fact the entire design of the building centres around the battery,” he said.

The site was once the location of a 19th century fortified battery. Britain feared the Russians might threaten all their colonies during this conflict and installed breech-loading cannons around the Cape, including three huge and mysterious “disappearing guns”.

Disappearing guns are a British feature of mid-Victorian engineering that are also extremely rare. It gave one the ability to hide from enemies fires by lowering down into a gun pit with hydraulic lifting mechanisms. After being fired, they would disappear back into a vault under a protective shield.

The disappearing gun in Sea Point however never saw military action.

It was fired once a month as per army regulations but was not popular among the locals because of the noise.

There were a lot of complaints and eventually the land was sold by the Department of Defence in the 1920s.

The restored gun now forms part of the new building and features it as a glass-enclosed exhibition in the beautiful communal central lounge and wine-tasting area.

Bridges said a network of underground tunnels and ammunition storage rooms were also unearthed.

They are being restored and re-purposed into a wine cellar with dedicated tasting areas and a private wine lock-up area.

Alpha One Dogon sales agent Lloyd Evans said: “There are hardly any spaces left on the Atlantic Seaboard for development, making Alpha One a rare find. Not only does the elevated location of this luxury building set it apart from others but its design, with innovative communal living spaces as well as the seamless integration of its historical past, makes Alpha One a definite one of a kind.”

Cape Argus

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