The Lightfoot memorial, one of Cape Town’s iconic monuments located in the square adjacent to the Trafalgar Place Flower Market, is currently undergoing a much-needed and well-deserved upgrade. 

The City of Cape Town will spend approximately R1 million on the revitalisation of Trafalgar Place and the memorial for Archdeacon Thomas Lightfoot. 

The City has awarded the restoration contract to a well-known local heritage restoration contractor, Jan Corewijn.

The restoration work is expected to be completed by the end of September 2018.

Brief background:

The memorial was designed in honour of Archdeacon Thomas Lightfoot (1831-1904), a well-respected member of early Cape Town who was renowned for his work with the poor and destitute. 

Lightfoot was born in England and first worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1853 he met Bishop Grey who inspired him to become a missionary. He was ordained a deacon in 1857 and arrived in Cape Town in 1858 where he was attached to the cathedral. He was ordained a priest in 1859, became a canon of the Cathedral in 1868 and Archdeacon of the Cape in 1885. He was also an original member of the Philosophical Society and was one of the founders of the free soup kitchens and of night shelters for the homeless.

Archdeacon Lightfoot served on the committee of almost every charitable institution in Cape Town and he founded St Paul’s Mission. Archdeacon Thomas Lightfoot died in 1904 and his funeral was attended by vast crowds of people, many of whom came from the city’s poor and destitute communities. Also in attendance was Bishop Lavis, a future freeman of the City of Cape Town. The cornerstone on Orphan Street at the end of St Paul’s Church in Bree Street is inscribed to his memory. 

The three-metre-tall rare Veronese marble memorial was designed by Baker and Masey and was unveiled in 1907 by the then Mayor of Cape Town. The flower sellers were already well established in this square at that time. The history of the Archdeacon and the flower sellers is intertwined in this space.

The restoration project

The 109-year-old memorial, one of Cape Town’s oldest and most treasured icons, together with the various linkages that the Archdeacon’s life has with other historic sites in the city centre. The memorial has been exposed to Cape Town’s weather conditions and is in need of restoration. 

The work is intended to stabilise the memorial and to halt the deterioration. Where economically and practically feasible, the marble and structural elements will be cleaned, improved or restored. For example, a fake bronze profile of the Archdeacon’s face will be replaced at the top lantern section after the original bronze panels were stolen and some of it vandalised. 

The work is delicate and requires specialised equipment, materials and craftsmanship. The tiled mosaics will be used to ‘dress’ the bare concrete seating created around the memorial in recent years in order to add colour and a graphic link to the flower sellers.

‘This project speaks to this year’s theme for Heritage Month: ‘Reclaiming, restoring and celebrating our living heritage’ and is not only about making this space beautiful but it is also aimed at honouring the Archdeacon’s legacy of servanthood and preserving the cultural heritage. Honouring those who have gone before us is part of who we are, and we need to preserve this legacy. Also, restoring the memorial ensures that the culture of this historic space is maintained.

‘This square is rich in history and has a diverse value. On the one hand it serves as a cultural space, while on the other it is an economic hub,’ said Councillor Brett Herron, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development.