Rhodes Memorial

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Rhodes Memorial
Cecil Rhodes Memorial Elevated View 2.jpg
The memorial sits on Devil's peak nearby the University of Cape Town
Coordinates33°57′08.5″S 18°27′32.7″E / 33.952361°S 18.459083°E / -33.952361; 18.459083Coordinates: 33°57′08.5″S 18°27′32.7″E / 33.952361°S 18.459083°E / -33.952361; 18.459083
LocationCape Town
DesignerSir Herbert Baker
MaterialCape granite and bronze
Completion date1912
Dedicated toCecil Rhodes

An aerial video of Rhodes Memorial in 2015.

Rhodes Memorial on Devil's Peak in Cape Town, South Africa, is a memorial to English-born, South African politician Cecil John Rhodes (1853–1902). The memorial was designed by the renowned architect, Sir Herbert Baker.


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 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 else of it was spared from development.[1]


Detail of the bronze statue Physical Energy by George Frederic Watts
View to the east, past the statuary.
A black and white photograph of one of the eight lions that flank the stairs at Rhodes Memorial.

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.[2] The memorial is built of Cape granite quarried on Table Mountain.[3]

At the bottom of the steps is a bronze statue of a horseman, Physical 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).[2] 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. A memorial proposed by the Colonial Secretary Earl Grey 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.[4]

Outdoor activities[edit]

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[edit]

Not far below the memorial are the University of Cape Town (UCT), 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.

A statue of Rhodes was situated on the UCT campus, on the lower part of Sarah Baartman Hall steps overlooking the university's rugby fields. This statue had become the focus of protests in March 2015 calling for its removal. It has now been permanently removed.[5][6][7]

The area around the memorial was affected by the Table Mountain fire in 2021, and the visitor's cafe was burnt down.[8]


The bronze bust of Cecil John Rhodes at Rhodes Memorial before it was vandalised.
The defaced bust in 2015 - note the missing nose.
The decapitated bust in July 2020.

In September 2015, the bronze bust of Rhodes at the memorial was vandalised. The nose was cut off and the memorial was daubed with graffiti accusing Rhodes of being a "Racist, thief, [and] murderer." It appeared that the vandals had attempted to cut off the whole head.[9] The nose was later restored by a local artist and historian. In July 2020, the bust was decapitated.[10][11] The head was recovered nearby and reattached on Heritage Day later that year.[12]


  1. ^ "Table Mountain National Park - People & Conservation". SANParks. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Rhodes Memorial: The History". Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  3. ^ "JA Clift History". J.A. Clift - Marble and Granite Contractors. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Lions Head Guide" (PDF). Gateway Guides. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Fighting words from #RhodesMustFall activists". News24. 25 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Minister says Rhodes must go quietly, after talks". News24. 25 March 2015.
  7. ^ "UCT leadership wants Rhodes statue moved". News24. 25 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Table Mountain fire 'burns out of control' in Cape Town". BBC News. 18 April 2021.
  9. ^ Cronje, Jan (20 September 2015). "Mystery of Rhodes' missing nose". Weekend Argus. IOL. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  10. ^ Pressly, Donwald (15 July 2020). "The day Cecil John Rhodes lost his head". Daily Maverick.
  11. ^ Mike Hutchings; Wendell Roelf. "Head of Cecil Rhodes gouged off Cape Town monument". CNA. Cape Town: Channel News Asia. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Rhodes Memorial statue's head reattached, fortified and replica made after vandalism". IOL. 29 September 2020.

External links[edit]