The memorial is situated at Rhodes's favourite spot on the lower slopes of Devil's Peak. Rhodes's own wooden bench is still situated below the memorial. The magnificent view facing north-east can be imagined as the start of the Cape to Cairo road, Rhodes's imperial dream of a British colonial Africa which had Rhodes as one of its greatest champions.
Rhodes owned vast areas of the lower slopes of Table Mountain, most of which he gave to the nation on his death. Part of his estate was used for the University of Cape Town upper campus, part is now the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, while much of it was spared from less development.
The architect, Sir Herbert Baker, allegedly modelled the memorial after the Greek temple at Segesta although it is actually closer to the temple of Pergamon in design. It consists of a massive staircase with 49 steps (one for each year of Rhodes's life) leading from a semi-circular terrace up to a rectangular U-shaped monument formed of pillars. The memorial is built of Cape granite quarried on Table Mountain.
At the bottom of the steps is a bronze statue of a horseman, Energy by George Frederic Watts. Eight bronze lions by John Macallan Swan flank the steps leading up to the memorial, with a bust of Rhodes (also by JM Swan). The inscription on the monument is "To the spirit and life work of Cecil John Rhodes who loved and served South Africa." Inscribed below the bust of Rhodes are the last four lines of the last stanza from the 1902 poem Burial by Rudyard Kipling in honour of Rhodes:
- The immense and brooding spirit still
- Shall quicken and control.
- Living he was the land, and dead,
- His soul shall be her soul!
The monument was completed and dedicated in 1912. An alternative memorial to him never materialised: a massive "colossus of Rhodes" statue overlooking Cape Town from the summit of Lion's Head, rather like the statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro.
Today the memorial is part of the Table Mountain National Park. There is a well-known tea room behind the memorial, and it is a popular viewpoint and picnicking spot which is frequented by students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) as well as Cape Town residents and also tourists. It is also a starting point for walking and hiking on Devil's Peak. Around the memorial are groves of oaks and stone pines from Europe, and there are also a few remaining pockets of the original Afromontane forest nearby. Just up the slope from Rhodes Memorial there is a small forest of a famous native tree called the Silvertree. Table Mountain is possibly the only place on earth where this majestic tree grows wild and Rhodes Memorial has one of the last surviving stands.
Alien fallow deer used to live in the area, although they are now being eliminated to make way for the re-introduction of indigenous antelope species. Below the memorial is a game enclosure where eland, zebra and wildebeest are kept.
Rhodes Memorial is not generally used for events but does host occasional performances, an annual Easter sunrise service, and is often used as a location for filming. For safety reasons, the area is closed from sunset to sunrise.
The area around the memorial
Not far below the memorial are the University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital and Mostert's Mill. Above the memorial is the King's Blockhouse, and not far away is the Groote Schuur zoo site, originally established as Rhodes's private zoo. The zoo was closed in the late 1970s, and only the lion's den now remains. Rhodes's Groote Schuur estate nearby is now a South African presidential residence.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rhodes Memorial.|
- Rhodes Memorial on the Table Mountain National Park website
- Rhodes Memorial
- Photographs of Rhodes Memorial
- Photograph of Rhodes Memorial during construction