Rhodes Cottage, Muizenberg, Cape Town

First published capepointroute.co.za here

This small seaside cottage in Muizenberg is where Cecil John Rhodes spent his last days at the relatively young age of 49. Rhodes was an industrialist, imperialist, mining magnate, politician and philanthropist. You’ll see photos, clippings and caricatures revealing the man behind the legacy. Well worth a visit for those interested in Rhodes and Cape history. Also a fine indigenous mountainside garden.

Cecil John Rhodes bought this small house overlooking False Bay as a holiday cottage. It is also where he died in 1902 of tuberculosis. Cecil John Rhodes, born in Britain on 5th July 1854 was a colonial empire builder, and Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.

Rhodes was well known for his contribution to the formation of the sub continent. Rhodes was a staunch believer in British colonialism and used his influence to colonize Mashonaland, which was renamed “Rhodesia”. Rhodes was instrumental in bringing almost one million square miles of Africa under British domination. Northern and Southern Rhodesia later became the independent states known today as Zambia and Zimbabwe. He is buried at the burial site he himself chose in the Matopos Hills of Zimbabwe.

He was also a co-founder of the De Beers diamond mining company. By age 35 he controlled the largest diamond mining and trading companies in the whole of South Africa. He was also prime minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896.

He purchased, in 1899, a section of property along the Main Road, Muizenberg which included the cottage and site now known as Rhodes Cottage Museum. His health at this stage of his life was not good – he wanted to live near the sea and enjoy the fresh breezes from the south. Rhodes was a man of simple tastes and the furniture in the cottage was plain and sparse. He preferred this cottage to his other residences, including his Groote Schuur mansion in Rondebosch (now home to Kirstenbosch Gardens)

On the site was an existing cottage, which consisted of three large bedrooms and a living room, quite suitable for his bachelor lifestyle. In the grounds is a smaller cottage, (originally a fisherman’s cottage according to writer Lawrence Green) used over the years by different caretakers/curators and staff.

Cecil John Rhodes passed away in the cottage on 26th March 1902. The site remained in the possession of the Rhodes’ Trustees until it was donated to the Northern Rhodesian Government in 1932, and then to the City of Cape Town in 1937 on condition that the land and the buildings be regarded and kept as a Memorial to Cecil John Rhodes and that the land and buildings preserved by the City of Cape Town and kept in good repair. On 27th January 1938 Rhodes Cottage was declared a National Monument in the Government Gazette because of its “historical significance”. The Rhodes Cottage Museum was opened by the Mayor of Cape Town on 4 July 1953.