The Noon Gun – Cape Town, South Africa - Atlas Obscura

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The Noon Gun

From atop a hill at the center of Cape Town, a cannon has been signalling the time since 1806. 

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When visiting Cape Town you may hear a loud bang echo through the city each day at noon. This sound is the result of the firing of a black powder English naval gun, or a small canon, a tradition that dates back to 1806.

The cannons were originally used to announce the arrival of ships in the harbor, but this tradition ended as traffic to the cape increased. Additionally, people started to complain about the sound and thus the guns were relocated to Signal Hill in 1902. Today, they are the oldest guns in daily use in the world and are fired every day at noon sharp to mark the time (except on Sundays and public holidays to not disturb those who wish to sleep in). The Noon Gun represents one of Cape Town’s oldest living traditions and is maintained by the South African Navy.

The guns are a pair, with one serving as a backup in case the other stalls. These 18-pound, smoothbore muzzle-loaders were designed by Captain Thomas Blomfield in 1786, and Cast by Walker & Co. in early 1794. They were proof fired at Woolwich in June 1794. These guns were adopted by the Royal Navy as their standard naval gun and were brought to Cape Town during the British occupation in 1795.

The Noon Gun sits at the Lion Battery on Signal Hill, near the center of Cape Town.

Know Before You Go

The area is open for visitors around the time that the gun is fired. Typically there is someone on sight to give a short 15-minute presentation as the gun is loaded. Access is free, but please watch your ears.

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