The Capetown Slave Lodge: Dark, Wet, and Dirty

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Highlighting Historical Romance with Jude Knight on Capetown’s dark history.

The second oldest building in Cape Town is a cultural history museum. It was once the offices of the British government who occupied the colony in 1806, and later the Supreme Court and then the home of the Legislative Council of the Cape Colony.

This heritage stands in stark contrast to its former purpose. From 1679, when it was built, until 1811, when it was changed to government offices, it was known as the Slave Lodge, and housed slaves belonging to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

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Slave Lodge, Capetown

The VOC owned slaves from the beginning. They had long practised slavery in the East Indies, and soon decided that they’d need slaves for the heavy and dirty work in the Cape Colony, too. Attempts to hire or compel the local Khoikhoi proved to be expensive and dangerous, so they brought in slaves from elsewhere mostly East Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and South and Southeast Asia.

Some were sold. Many remained the property of the VOC, working in their warehouses, offices, and gardens. These slaves lived in the Slave Lodge.

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Slave Lodge

The slaves had to wear clothing that showed they were not free citizens. They were not allowed hats or shoes, and the men were obliged to wear short trousers. In general, VOC slaves suffered poorer health than slaves in private hands. In some years, up to 20%–30% died in the Lodge. The main reason was the poor living conditions.

The Slave Lodge was dark, wet and dirty. A subterranean stream flows under the Slave Lodge and this stream flooded the cellar of the Lodge during winter. The roof also leaked which led to hardship in the wet winter months…

Höhne, the Slave Overseer, reported in 1793 that the bedding stayed wet in winter and that the slaves never had time to properly wash and clean their belongings. Statistics show that the death rate was higher during winter than in summer. The building was very dark and without adequate air circulation. There were no windows in the building, only slits in the walls with bars. Only a few of these slits faced the outside of the building. Louis Michel Thibault, the building inspector, reported in 1803 that the building was so dark inside that one needed a lantern even in the day.

Furthermore, the Lodge was very dirty. Mentzel wrote in 1785 that the stench was unbearable in the Lodge. The stench was especially bad in the vicinity of the eight toilets next to the quarters of the mentally ill. Pigs were kept in the courtyard and fattened on garden refuge to be sold to the free citizens to earn an income for the slaves.

[italic text retrieved from

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This was the home of my secondary character, Japheth, until my hero Jules purchased him from the British governor and set him free, before employing him as his doorman.

Jules is the hero of Unkept Promises, which is currently on prerelease.


About the Book

Unkept Promises, Book 4 in The Golden Redepennings series

Unkept-Promises Highlighting History

She wants to negotiate a comfortable marriage; he wants her in his bed

“… oaths and anchors equally will drag: naught else abides on fickle earth but unkept promises of joy.” Herman Melville

Naval captain Jules Redepenning has spent his adult life away from England, and at war. He rarely thinks of the bride he married for her own protection, and if he does, he remembers the child he left after their wedding seven years ago. He doesn’t expect to find her in his Cape Town home, a woman grown and a lovely one, too.

Mia Redepenning sails to Cape Town to nurse her husband’s dying mistress and adopt his children. She hopes to negotiate a comfortable married life with the man while she’s there. Falling in love is not on her to-do list.

Before they can do more than glimpse a possible future together, their duties force them apart. At home in England, Mia must fight for the safety of Jules’s children. Imprisoned in France, Jules must battle for his self-respect and his life.

Only by vanquishing their foes can they start to make their dreams come true.

Preorder now for September 24 publication

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About the Author

Jude-with-laptop Highlighting History

Jude writes stuff and then tries to figure out how to slot the story into a genre category. Historical romantic suspense? Yes, mostly. She’s mad keen on history, enjoys what happens to people in the crucible of a passionate relationship, and loves to use a good mystery and some real danger as mechanisms to torture my characters.

Jude has always loved telling stories, mostly for the benefit of children in need of entertainment, or to amuse herself while waiting (six children mean a lot of waiting), or to continue to live in a book world after she had closed the covers.

In 2014, the first of her strong determined historical heroines, heroes who appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe made their way into the covers of Candle’s Christmas Chair.

Since then, she’s published six novels and a heap of shorter stories, and plans to keep going till she run out of years. In her other identity as Judy Knighton, she’s a plain language consultant specialising in contracts, insurance policies, and financial disclosure statements. Fiction is more fun.

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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