Founded in 1786, what is now known as the Roundhouse, was originally built as a guardhouse for the Dutch East India Company, and was ideally situated to keep watch of enemy ships.
One of the Roundhouse’s most famous tenants was the governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, from 1814 to 1827. Lord Charles refurbished the building with only the best, and it was used as a place for rest for himself and his opulent guests after a long day of hunting on Table Mountain.
It was during Lord Charles’ tenure as tenant of The Roundhouse that saw the prominent guests of the day staying at his hunting lodge.
The Roundhouse functioned as a number of different establishments since Lord Somerset’s departure from the Cape, some of functions it served as were a tea room, dancehall, restaurant and boutique hotel.
Lord Charles was not the only prominent figure associated with The Roundhouse, Dr. James Barry was one of the Roundhouse’s most notorious guests, a doctor by trade, Dr Barry arrived at the Cape around 1817, at the age of around 22, Dr Barry was known to be a ladies man and accusations came about of the Governor Lord Charles being in a homosexual relationship with Dr Barry, such was the strength of their friendship.
Despite having a bad temper, Dr. Barry never got angry when treating patients, he was a kind man, and one lady even said “no man could show such sympathy for one in pain”.
In what was considered to be the first caesarean section performed in Africa, Dr Barry saved a baby, named James Barry Munnik, who would later become the Godfather to James Barry Munnik Hertzog, prime minister of South Africa.
The only known portrait of Dr. Barry was commissioned by the Munnik family, which can be seen at the Alphen Hotel. It was only after Dr. Barry’s death that it was uncovered that he was biologically a woman!
It is said that Dr. Barry’s ghost still wanders the ground. In 2008, the Roundhouse opened its doors once again as a fine dining establishment, as a venue offering history, myth and legend.
It is still nestled in the same spectacular setting and offers the same breath-taking views as when it was originally built, of Camps Bay, the Twelve Apostles and the Atlantic Ocean.