In Victorian times, military bands played here on Saturday afternoons and colonial citizens in their finery found the avenues of flowers a cool and pleasant haven. The garden covers 61 ha of Gunfire Hill around Grahamstown's 1820 Settlers Memorial and displays the indigenous flora of the areas in which the immigrants settled.
It came into being as the first botanical garden to be established by the British in the Cape Colony. Although development was hampered by periodic wars, the garden gradually took shape until it became the town's most popular public gathering place.
When it was decided to create a living monument to the 1820 Settlers and their descendants, work began on clearing exotic plants and weeds from the steep terrain. Countless Port Jackson trees were removed, and workers fought long and hard to dig out the vast root systems of huge gum trees. Their efforts eventually bore fruit, and the Gunfire Hill area has been transformed.
The Botanical Garden section has a fascinating collection of exotic plants, while the large protea collection indudes the giant protea (Protea cynaroides), and makes a colourful display throughout the year. Other indigenous plants include the Cape tree fern, cycads and aloes.
There is a restaurant in the 1820 Settlers Memorial building.