Fort Selwyn

It is opened on request only.

Fort Selwyn is situated on Gunfire Hill overlooking Grahamstown and was named after Captain (later major) Charles Jasper Selwyn of the Cape Corps of Royal Engineers. Captain Selwyn, who was responsible for the design and construction of the Fort, was stationed in the Eastern Cape from 1834 to 1842.

In March 1835, during the 6th Frontier War, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Cape Colony, ordered plans to be drawn for a fortified barrack on the Drostdy Ground (now part of Rhodes University), to accommodate an increased garrison and provide a place of refuge for civilians in time of war. To protect the approaches to the town and its water supply, he ordered that a redoubt be built on Gunfire Hill, south of the town, from where it would dominate the surrounding ravines. The plans were completed and the sites marked out for D'Urban's approval by July 1835. Construction started in August and the essential works, including Fort Selwyn, were completed by the end of June 1836.

The fort was occupied by the Royal Artillery from 1836 until 1862, when most of the garrison was withdrawn from Grahamstown.

In 1845 a semaphore mast was erected as part of a telegraph system that was intended to connect Grahamstown with Fort Beaufort and Fort Peddie. However, as one would-be wit remarked, `the system was a signal failure' because the masts were often obscured by mists and haze. Until September 1870 a nine o'clock gun was fired from Fort Selwyn every morning, allegedly to remind Grahamstown's civil servants that they should be at work.

The fort was again manned during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Thereafter it fell into disrepair and in 1925 was converted into a domestic residence and tea-garden.

It was declared a national monument in 1936 and restored by the Cape Provincial Administration during the 1970's as part of the 1820 Settler Monument scheme.

In 1977 it was handed over to the Albany Museum.