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Origins of Athlone

This article was written by Margaux Bergman

The Suburb of Athlone lies approximately 9 km West of Cape Town International Airport. It forms part of the Historical Cape Flats which gets it's name from the flat sandy stretch of land located in the outskirts of Cape Town Central.

Many references are made to the Cape Flats as a dumping ground of the Previous Apartheid Regime and where many hundreds of thousands of people who fell victims of those atrocities. This was all done via the notorius Group Areas Act, which was devised by the old Apartheid Government of South Africa.

Athlone was previously known as West London and had its name changed to 'Athlone', in honour of the Earl of Athlone, who served as Governer General and Commander in Chief in South Africa in the 1930's. He was also a member of the British Royal family (an uncle to King George IV) and was married to Princess Alice, (the granddaughter of Queen Victoria).

Almost 70 years after the Earl of Athlone arrived here, Athlone really grew into a melting pot of different cultures. The Athlone City Centre is filled with a daily hub of grocers selling their fresh delicious fruits and Veggies, to residents selling bric 'n brac. It has become an example of how different cultures can join together and become a single society.

Athlone PowerstationThe construction of the Railway Station in Athlone, which forms part of the popular Cape Flats Line, surrounding areas have contributed to the economic development in the Athlone Area. Additionally, well-established bus and taxi routes carries the shopping district all the way along the Klipfontein Road into Gatesville, where wonderful exotic spices are sold, and also along Belgravia road into Lansdowne.

Even though references to Athlone mainly refer to the Central Business Area, Athlone itself is actually comprised of many other areas such as Garlandale, Rondebosch East, Crawford, Bridgetown, Silvertown and Kewtown to name but a few. A smaller section, named Bokmakerrie, is an older area that was built before World War 2 and also constitutes a part of Athlone.

Athlone PowerstationOne of Athlone's most noticeable landmarks is the Athlone Power Station (also commonly called the 'Athlone Towers' or the 'Cooling Towers'). It is managed by the Cape Town City Council and was built in 1960. Today, the towers are declared out of bounds for security reasons, due to damage caused to the structure by the prevailing Southeaster.

Athlone remains a cultural hub and a Centre for the community of the Cape Flats.


Comments about this Article:

Hi. What an informative article. I lived in Bridgetown for 24 years, now I abide in West London, England, not knowing that Athlone was once named West London. - Kevin, West London, England

Thanx for this informative article, it really made me realise how much I miss living in Athlone. I also lived in athlone for 20+ years and had no idea that it was once called West London. Thanx again for reminding me of home - Allan, KWT

Reading this article has made me realise what a beautiful area I live in and how much history it holds. The youth of today tend to take it for granted and we forget that we are the future and need to work together to preserve what our former generations have fought so hard for. It will be really helpful to learn more about how we the future generation can do more. - Kim Grosch, Crawford Athlone

PS: You should mention that one finds the best food in the whole world...and I've travelled a wee...in Athlone eksê!!!! - Monkeynutz the IV, The Blue Planet

Very well written Article, Short and informative. Leaves readers wanting more. - Michael, UK

Very interesting article ... well written. Must have been done by a pro!! - Garth Angus, Rondebosch

Informative and well written article. This is an interesting part of the website - would be good to expand it. - Michelle, Manchester UK

A good read! Its nice to see something written about local areas too. Thanks for a marvellous effort. - Athlone Resident, Cape Town SA

I lived in Athlone for 25 years and never knew that it was previously known as West London. It suddenly dawned on me that there is a soccer club in Rondebosch East called West London. So it now comes together for me. I would like to know more about the history and people of Athlone eg. Nine Doors, Athlone Theatre, Beach Boys, Alicedale Primary School. - Marlon, Bothasig


Did you Know

There are 6 public libraries around the Athlone area.

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