The history of Clifton Beach, Cape Town


It’s pretty easy to see why Clifton is so popular. The lovely white sand, cool blue water, and the fact that it’s nicely hidden from the wind, all combine to make it a real local’s favourite. There are four beaches in Clifton, aptly named Clifton 1-4.

The first visitors to Clifton would have been the Goringhaicona tribe who were a Khoi tribe that used to live along the shores of the Cape. In one of our previous videos we spoke about one of their chiefs, Autshumato, and his daughter Kratoa.

After Europeans had arrived to the Cape, the area of Clifton became known as Schoenmakers Gat because of a shoe-maker who lived in a cave near the beach. When passing farmers were on their way to the market, they would leave their shoes to be mended by the old Dutch cobbler.

Because Schoenmakers Gat is, let’s face it, not the most attractive name, it was changed in the late 19th century to Clifton-on-Sea; named after Bessie Clifton who owned the only hotel in the area. Over the years the ‘on Sea’ bit got dropped, and today we know it simply as Clifton.

At the end of the First World War, soldiers began returning to the Cape, but there was a large housing shortage. The British Admiralty owned the land in Clifton, and they allowed the soldiers to erect bungalows along the coast. Many of these bungalows were built out of packing cases used to transport cars.

In 1923, the land in Clifton was donated to the City of Cape Town and more bungalows were built by the council, and soon holidaymakers were making their way to Clifton. There was one quite odd rule introduced by the council. In an attempt to discourage permanent residence, anyone leasing land in Clifton was forced to vacate their bungalows between June and August.

Over the years, Clifton became one of Cape Town’s most popular and expensive suburbs. In 1984 it was declared a National Monument and the building of additional high rise buildings was stopped.

Today, Clifton is one of the most popular beaches in the world. It really is a beautiful beach and on sunny weekends it can get quite busy, but seeing as there are four beaches in Clifton, there’s still plenty of space.

Posted on September 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

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