Cecil John Rhodes Cottage – Insight into an Interesting Man

Cecil John Rhodes is a man who seldom needs any introduction among the country’s older inhabitants. He is a man who stamped his mark, not only on South Africa, but also on Zimbabwe. As a British-born South African, he was a successful businessman, mining magnate and politician. He helped to found the De Beers Diamond company which today controls roughly 60% of the world’s diamonds. But who was the man behind the name? What did he look like? What was life in South Africa like when he lived? It is this sort of personal insight into the life of a very distinguished South African citizen which draws people to Rhodes Cottage in the Cape.

There can be no doubt that Cecil John Rhodes left an indelible mark on the history of this country. Born in 1853, it was unlikely that anyone could have predicted just how successful he would be in a country that few English people ever dreamt of seeing. For a while after he arrived in the country, he supported himself on money that had been left to him by his Aunt. Before long, he started to look for other means to support himself. He started his journey of success by getting involved with agriculture when he joined his brother on his cotton farm in Natal. Not long afterwards, he established the Rhodes Fruit Farms in Stellenbosch, and in 1871, he left for Kimberley’s diamond fields where he supervised the digging of his brother’s claim.

After a few years, he returned to England to finish his education. Many profitable activities continued on his behalf in his absence and when he eventually returned, he was already quite a wealthy man. But that was not enough for Cecil John Rhodes. He wanted to create a “British Empire in Africa”. So, before long, he set off for Mashonaland where his British South Africa Company was in control. Initially the company had hoped to draw on the natural gold mines of Mashona but the gold had already been largely depleted and so most of the settlers who traveled with him became farmers instead. After a rebellion against the white settlers in which the British South African Company was victorious, the tribal lands in the area where grouped together and given the name ‘Rhodesia’ in honour of Cecil John Rhodes. This is present day Zimbabwe.

When Rhodes died in 1902, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Upon his death, much of his wealth was used to found the Rhodes Scholarship which still in place today. A lot of his land was either given back to the country of South Africa or used for the establishment of universities. His home is a tribute to him – a man who passionately worked for the interests of others and for the furtherance of his homeland. It contains a lot of personal memorabilia and provides interesting insight into the life of Cecil John Rhodes. The Cecil John Rhodes Cottage is located on a hillside overlooking False Bay and it is part of the seaside museum walk.

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