During 1664, tensions between Britain and the Netherlands rose with rumours of war being imminent — that same year, Commander Zacharius Wagenaer was instructed to build a pentagonal castle out of stone. On 26 April 1679, the five bastions were named after the main titles of William III of Orange-Nassau: Leerdam to the west, with respectively Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje clockwise from it.
In 1682, the gated entry replaced the old entrance towards the sea. A bell tower, situated over the main entrance, was built in 1684 — the original bell, the oldest in South Africa, was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 by Claude Frémy and weighs just over 300 kilograms. It was used to announce time, as well as warning citizens in case of danger, since it could be heard 10 kilometers away. It was also rung to summon residents and soldiers when important announcements needed to be made.
Inside, the Castle housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops and cells, among others. The yellow paint on the walls were chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the scorching sun. A wall divides the inside, built in order to protect citizens in case of an attack, also houses the well-known Katbalkon which was designed by Louis Michel Thibault. The original was built in 1695, but rebuilt to its current form between 1786 and 1790. From the balcony, announcements were made to soldiers, slaves and burghers of the Cape. The balcony led to the famous William Fehr collection of paintings and antique furniture.
In 1936 the Castle was declared a national monument. Due to extensive restorations done during the 1980s, the Castle is the best preserved fort of its kind built by the VOC.
The distinctive shape of the pentagonal castle was used on South African Defence Force flags, formed the basis of some rank insignia from the rank of major up and was used on South African Air Force aircraft.
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