Cape Town harbour was first used by the Dutch East India Company in 1654 when a jetty was built. The British took over the Cape Town area in 1795 and Cape Colony was declared in 1806. The Dutch constructed many of the early fortifications in both Simon’s Town and Cape Town. These were taken over by the British and in many cases stayed in use for the next one hundred and fifty years.
A large storm in 1858 led to considerable loss and the British determined to establishing a breakwater and secure harbour in 1860. Much of the construction of this harbour had been completed by 1870, including the Victoria and Alfred Basin.
The importance of Cape Town was its’ importance on the sea route to India and Australia, should the Suez Canal be closed. In 1882 over £67 Million in trade was passing round the Cape of Good Hope, compared with the £160 Million of trade going through the Suez Canal. Cape Town was also important as a coaling station and dockyard. The sometime server seas around the Cape Peninsula resulted in ships needs repair before their onward journeys. The Naval Base at Simon’s Town provided a secure operation base for the Royal Navy to police the waters around the Cape of Good Hope.
TNA CAB 18/14 Cape Defences in 1882.