East Fort recognised as endangered site

East Fort was accepted as one of South Africas most endangered cultural heritage sites by Heritage Monitoring Project (HMP).

While many South African heritage sites are suffering neglect and are at risk of deteriorating, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for East Fort, one of four coastal fortifications on the slopes of Chapman’s Peak Drive after it was accepted as one of South Africa’s most endangered cultural heritage sites by the Heritage Monitoring Project (HMP), last month.

The application was submitted by Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Association vice chairman, Dave Cowley who said the Fort is not only significant to South African history but also has links with Britain, France, the Netherlands, India and Sweden and is truly an international heritage site that should be preserved for future generations (“Fort worth remembering,” Sentinel News, September 26).

And while a position on the list of South Africa’s most endangered cultural heritage sites will not guarantee the preservation of East Fort, Mr Cowley says it will raise awareness with various heritage practitioners and volunteer groups around the country through the Heritage Portal, a news and information platform for the South African Heritage sector of which the HMP is part of.

Co-founder of the HMP, Jacques Stoltz said every time South Africa loses a heritage site, a part of our history and our culture is lost, as well as the possibility of understanding something new about our past.

Mr Stoltz explains that the Most Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites campaign is an annual initiative of the HMP and the Heritage Association of South Africa to identify and raise awareness of cultural heritage sites that are at significant risk from natural or man-made forces.

This year was the first time that the HMP issued a call to the public to nominate sites they felt were of concern.

He says between June and August this year, more than 46 heritage sites across a range of categories such as industrial heritage sites, burial sites, military sites, public open spaces and nature reserves were submitted.

He says a panel of judges evaluated each submission and looked at the significance or importance of the site to its local community, the urgency and extent of risks or threats faced, feasibility of finding a solution, existence of a local organisation that could help save the site with the necessary support and a clear mechanism through which the general public or volunteers are able to help.

Mr Stoltz said most of the sites that were submitted are threatened by a combination of poor heritage law enforcement, mining licences being issued in complete disregard of heritage, urbanisation, poor state asset management and the seemingly endless delays in resolving land claims.

In his submission to the Heritage Portal for the HMP, Mr Cowley indicated that East Fort was
built during the period 1781 to 1806. He writes that Hout Bay was seen by the government of the day as the soft-underbelly of Cape Town, exposing it to a pos-
sible marine invasion from the South.

East Fort was established in 1782 and consists of a 6.4 hectare site which is today bisected by Chapmans Peak Drive, part of South Africa’s most scenic routes. However, he says, little information regarding East Fort’s important role in our country’s history is provided near to or at the site and it remains an enigma to the many passing tourists. The HMP found the site to be endangered as little or no maintenance is currently done or protection given to the fabric of the site by the responsible authori-
ties.

It found some of the walls collapsing, it is subject to vandalism and exposed to fire damage and the elements.