When West London was Renamed Athlone

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Residents of this central hub to the Cape Flats say they were oblivious that their suburb was once known as West London. Athlone’s history goes back to before World War 2 when it was renamed in honour of a member of the British Royal family. It was during the 1930’s that the Earl of Athlone, uncle to King George IV and husband to Princess Alice, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, arrived here to serve as Governor General and Commander in Chief of SA.

A central location, rich in cultural diversity and community activity, the suburb of Athlone is conveniently positioned just half way between the central city and Cape Town International Airport. Following the historic events of the Cape Flats becoming the dumping ground under the Group Areas Act, this suburb now reflects a Cape cultural hub with more than five schools, shopping centres, hospital and sports fields. Today several generations of the Cape Malay and Indian communities remain settled here, where statues in honour of slain youth activists are reminiscent of anti-election protest campaigns during the apartheid struggle.

History continues in the nearby suburb of Rondebosch East where a local soccer club is known as West London. It was also soccer that saw this suburb firmly placed on the city’s map, when the Athlone Soccer Stadium of 30 000 capacity, that was built in 1972 underwent a R297 million revamp in preparation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Although originally contending to become the City’s main event venue, it was facilitated practice grounds for the duration of the event.

Making news headlines during 2010, was the demolition of the Athlone Cooling Towers located in close proximity to the N2 highway resulting from a safety threat to not only humans, but also two birds of a feather. Residents of the towers for 20 years, a pair of Peregrine Falcons were successfully relocated to safe breeding ground by Dr Percy FitzPatrick who installed nesting boxes on the chimney stacks nearby. Birders’ fears were allayed when three chicks hatched in their newly accepted accommodation shortly after the demolition.

Athlone became a buzzing public commuting hub when the newly constructed railway line and railway station joined a number of suburbs to the popular Cape Flats Line. The area saw greater economic development resulting from existing bus and taxi routes joining local shopping districts, such as Klipfontein Road and Gatesville, and Belgravia road into Lansdowne.

Property owners of this dormitory suburb are the kind who tend to stay, as is seen in residential property statistics of recent buyers and sellers who have lived there for 11 years or more. Most recent buyers are middle aged, while the majority of sellers are pensioners, possibly moving into more suited accommodation. Municipal rankings show average freehold property prices in Athlone of R726 000 to place this suburb between its wealthier neighbours Rondeboach East and Sybrand Park, both at R1.1-million. Its centrally located neighbour Pinelands shows average freehold municipal values of R1.9 million, with prices moving downward to R900 000 in Landsdowne, Claremont.

Freehold property prices in this area remain below R1-million, and as in 2004 when entry level prices stood at R200 000, families searching for property to buy are afforded the opportunity of becoming first time home owners in this area.

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