Breakwater Prison

built to house convicts working on the breakwater

The Breakwater Prison was constructed in 1860 to house British convicts working on the breakwater, which eventually allowed the harbour to be build. Since 1991 the remaining building houses the Breakwater Lodge and the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business in what is now called the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

The building we see today is called the Industrial Breakwater Prison. It's design with the four castellated turrets and an enclosed courtyard was based on the Millbank and Pentonville prisons in England. In 1891 the white prisoners were moved into this building. It was the first site to racially segregate black and white convicts. Before segregation the sleeping arrangements were that a white convict had to sleep between two black convicts. The rationale was, with the language and cultural barrier, less plotting and dissent would take place.

Breakwater Prison

Breakwater Prison (photo: Public Domain)

Breakwater Prison

Breakwater Prison (photo: BKP, Creative Commons license)

Stories will have it that the Breakwater Prison was one of the most feared prisons in the world. It is also said there was at least one representative of each nationality of the known world present at this prison.

The Industrial Breakwater Prison was only a prison for 10 years. It then became a juvenile offenders institution and from 1926 until 1989 a hostel for black dock workers.


  • Decimal degrees: -33.907175 (Latitude) 18.416014 (Longitude)
  • Degrees, Minutes & Seconds: S33 54 25 (Latitude) E18 24 57 (Longitude)
  • GPS: S 33 54.431 (Latitude) E 18 24.961 (Longitude)
  • UTM: 34S 261084 (X) 6245130 (Y)
  • Above sea level: 49 ft / 15 m


Portswood Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town

... also in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.