Three cheers for the Toposcope
he Toposcope at Bathurst has a new look. After a few years of neglect and some vandalism, it has been beautifully restored, and its completion was celebrated recently during the monument’s 50th anniversary by more than 60 admiring members of the Lower Albany Historical Society.
The Toposcope stands atop its windy hill site where, in 1820, Colonel Jacob Cuyler’s camp stood when he supervised the settlement of the 1820 Settlers on their allotments. The plaques on the low circular wall around the central cairn
Tshow the direction and distance from this site of each of the 56 locations visible on a clear day.
The name of the Settlers party, where they came from and the ship they sailed in, are also recorded.
The first plaques were bronze and eventually many of them raised good prices with scrap merchants after they had been feloniously chiselled off. But the new plaques are granite, set in concrete created and engraved for the project by Luja Granite of Port Alfred.
Not only has the Toposcope been restored, but it has also been enlarged to include six cairns with plaques naming five chiefs and one king who were in the area at the time.
This has been done with meticulous attention to detail with Prof Jeff Peires giving invaluable advice about the Xhosa people named on the plaques, and Historic Bathurst, particularly David Forsdyke, ensuring the final outcome was aesthetically pleasing and technically correct. For example, exact directions and distances for each Xhosa plaque. This has all been done with the permission, and enthusiastic support from Africa Fishile of the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority.
Many of the hand-hewn stones of the original monument were gathered from the ruins of early Settler homes, thus creating a link with the past. The stones for the new cairns were not conveniently soft sandstone but a much harder rock, making the task of forming the cairns very much more difficult.
The restoration has been funded mainly by the Historical Society, the Rotary Club of Port Alfred (with the help of a District Grant), and also Historic Bathurst. Other generous donations were made by the Lions Club of Port Alfred, and individuals. The prime mover has been Rotarian and Society vice-president David Hawkins who has spent many hours on site, in all weathers, determined to get the project completed. It was Hawkins’s vision that motivated the restoration and his enthusiasm and hard work that saw it through.
As Hawkins said at the opening, “We hope that, in making this an inclusive monument as part of the heritage of the Eastern Cape, it will be seen as an important commemoration and a prime tourist attraction for the benefit of everyone in our community”.
Hawkins took the opportunity of thanking everyone who had assisted with the project.
“A great many people and firms donated goods and services to this project and they are warmly thanked for their contributions. This included Neville Gordon who offered free labour for clearing, foundations and concrete mixing; Okkie Pieterse of PA Bricks who gave 500 cement bricks for the foundation wall; Bathurst Co-op and Craig Handley gave bags of cement; the McCreaths and VivDell gave loads of sand; Bennie Hoek, in charge of the R72, upgrade gave a load of rock; Mooifontein Quarry gave crusher dust and inside the new cairns are cement pots donated by Unique Stone in Bathurst.
“The slate roofing tiles were donated by Alan Pike while, between Tom, Dave and Harold of Historic Bathurst, water, tools, extra labour and site supervision were offered in a wonderful spirit of getting the job done. Then, IHire loaned a concrete mixer and Mike Williams assisted with levels.”