History

Signal Hill or as it was previously called ‘Lions Rump’ has served as a signal station since 1677. The early settlers fired a small cannon from its heights andSignal Hill 01 wb flew a large flag to announce the first sight of an approaching ship. Two signalmen were housed in a hut nearby and water and provisions brought to them by ox cart over a dirt track. The system was maintained for many years, the signals later becoming more specific - a combination of large balls and flags was erected to indicate the numbers of vessels, the type of ship, country of origin and other details. This information was considered vital for trade and commerce as the Cape had become a busy station for ships on their way to the East or returning. In addition, a time signal was given to ships by firing a large pistol which explosion could be seen by telescope at night several kilometers away.   It allowed ships to fix their chronometers and hence their positions. Later more scientific devices were employed, for instance, in 1883 a repeating signaling system was devised which connected directly to the Royal Observatory, and this was later connected to a cannon which fired from Signal Hill at 6am and 9 pm. From 1901 this was changed and the cannon was only fired at noon as it does to this day.

Information from ‘The Lion Mountain’ by Mona de Beer, Balkema, 1987

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