In the turbulent last quarter of the eighteenth century, the Governor and the Political Council at Cape Town came to the conclusion that it was desirable to store ammunition at Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch was also allowed cannon and guns and the gunpowder and ammunition necessary to ward off an enemy attack and a suitable building for storing this material had to be constructed. The consent of the governing council of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) in the Netherlands was duly applied for and received and authority was given to build the arsenal or magazine. On 7 October 1776 the Landdrost called for tenders for erection of the building. That of Philip Hartog and Lambert Fick for 9000 guilders was accepted and on 5 May 1777 the building was completed.
Stellenbosch has always been a peaceful town and not once during its 300 years of existence have guns been fired as an act of war. The V.O.C. Kruithuis therefore soon lost its strategic military value and in less than seventy years became the site of the local Friday market. After serving as a market house for almost a century it was restored by the Stellenbosch Municipality in 1936. The building was proclaimed a National Monument (now a provincial heritage site) on 10 May 1940 and in 1943 was opened to the public as a small Africana Museum.
The Museum did not exist for very long and there were many years during which the building remained locked and inaccessible to the public. In 1971 the Municipality agreed to allow the Stellenbosch Museum to take over the building for display of its collection of fire-arms, cannon, military uniforms, etc.