EARLY EXPLORERS * TREKBOERS * FRONTIER WARS * FIRST FRONTIER WAR * SECOND FRONTIER WAR * THIRD FRONTIER WAR * FOURTH FRONTIER WAR * FIFTH FRONTIER WAR * SIXTH FRONTIER WAR * SEVENTH FRONTIER WAR * EIGHTH FRONTIER WAR * NINTH FRONTIER WAR * 1820 SETTLERS * MISSIONARIES * THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SEGREGATED CITY * ORIGINS OF SOUTH END * DESTRUCTION OF SOUTH END * EVICTION FROM SOUTH END * DOWN MEMORY LANE * THE FISHERMAN'S CROSS * ST PETER'S CHURCH * FIG TREE * COLONIAL HISTORY
We shave seen that the original inhabitants in the region were the Khoi-San who had moved here around about 3 500 to 4000 years ago. Within these peoples there were two very distinct language groups which differed as much as the Southern African languages did from the European languages. These people were traditionally hunter-gatherers and later some changed to pastoralists when they started farming with goats and cattle. This came about when the Khoi-San came into contact with Black African tribes who were moving Southward while they were moving northward in search of better hunting grounds.
We also looked at the Nguni tribes who had moved down the East Coast and settled in the Fish River region around about 1200 years ago. Most of these people had moved southward to escape the violent action in the Kwa-Zulu region. They either integrated with the Khoi-San people by accepting them into their tribes or by inter-marriage while in some instances violent battles erupted, with the Khoi-San mostly being on the losing side. Whatever the reasons, sadly there are very few original Khoi-San people left in this area today.
We then looked at the first European travellers who came to the Eastern Shores of Africa, being the Portuguese in 1487 and 1497. These were followed later on by the British and the Dutch, as the sea route to the East Indies opened up.
This could have been the final word on this out of Africa contact had I not stumbled across some literature which gives us a totally different picture. I found that between the years 1405 and 1433 the Chinese admiral Cheng-Ho led seven expeditions to South East Asia and across the Indian Ocean. He had 62 ships manned by 28 000 men. He may even have sailed around the tip of Southern Africa, which is evidenced by two facts. The first is that ancient Chinese pottery has been found at sites on the south coast and around the Mossel Bay area and the second is that there is a 15th century Chinese map showing Southern Africa. This is further backed up with findings of Chinese art works at Mapungubwe in the Limpopo Province.
Obviously the Chinese were trading with Africa long before the Europeans ventured forth. However, did you know, that even before the Chinese, in around 622 AD, Arabia gave birth to a new religion and the Islamic Empire soon stretched across North Africa and the Middle East. The Arabs were great travellers and in the 1200’s the Arabs exploited the Easterly and Westerly monsoon winds to sail between Africa and India. They also explored the coast of East Africa and produced maps and navigational aids
There may, however be a nation who visited the south coast of Africa long before these nations, and these are the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were known as the greatest sailors of the Mediteranean. Their ships were built of cedar wood which, came from the mountains of Lebanon and they were powered by oars and a single sail. It is believed that they may have sailed around Africa in 600BC. The story goes that the Phoenician sailors set off from Egypt, down the Red Sea, returning three years later, entering the Mediteranean through the pillars of Hercules, now known as the Straits of Gibraltar.
It is interesting to note that when the Portuguese set forth on their adventures to Africa in the 1400’s they edged fearfully Southwards, their terror fuelled by fables told of Sea Monsters, boiling seas and a story that the sun at the equator burnt peoples skins black. We ask ourselves where did they hear these stories and from whom? Was it that someone had already been along this route to tell these tales?
Whatever the situation we can be sure that there has been trade and contact with Africa for many years before the Europeans landed here. How these contacts affected the people in the region we will never know, but as far as we can see, none of these foreign nations came to conquer and to rule. Camel trains have been crossed the deserts, the Khoi-San bartered with their darker neighbours to the North and Mapungubwe and Zimbabwe were great trading nations and economical centres.
To end this section we look at the Bushmen story called ‘The jewel in the night In this myth they talk of a planet, “that rose in the morning and that loved the Earth-Mother so much that he would look at her six times, while she showed her face but once. He would always be in the company of only one child, and this is the way it would always be.” In 1930 Pluto was discovered and it was found that Pluto rotates on its axis six times faster than earth, thereby showing its face six times to the earths once. In 1978 it was discovered that Pluto had a single satellite orbiting it. These planets are invisible to the naked eye, yet the Bushmen spoke of them in their mythology. This raises many questions as to how they knew this, but this is a subject for another programme.
An early incidence of Xhosa sub-division, was the succession struggle between the two sons of the great chief Tshiwo, Gwali and his brother, Ndange. The fighting between these two princelings spread Xhosa influence well west of the Mbashe. Under its impact the Xhosa infiltrated the north of our coastal area where, as already mentioned, they destroyed the most powerful Khoi confederacy, the Inqua, and assimilated its remnants into a number of new clans including the Gqunkwebe.
About sixty years later, cl760, there occurred an even more far reaching succession struggle between Tshiwo's great grandsons, Gcaleka and Rharhabe. (See diagram.) Gcaleka and Rharhabe quarrelled and fought over the succession after Phalos death. Phalo had been offered a bride by both the Thembu and the Mpondo. In order not to offend either he married into both the Chiefdoms, proclaiming one wife to be the head wife and the other the wife of the right hand - both equally important. The sons from these wives were named Rharhabe and Gcaleka. Rharhabe eventually established his own great place at Amabele near present day Stutterheim. However, even as he did so, he acknowledged the superior status of his brother, and so it went down in history that the Gcaleka chief was the senior paramount. This relationship between the two main sections of the Xhosa nation resulted in a cleavage, the practical ramifications of which are apparent even today in the establishment of two separate apartheid-created Xhosa nations, Transkei in 1976 and Ciskei in 1981.
The Gcaleka succession remained stable and unbroken. Gcaleka was succeeded by Khawuta, Hintsa, and Sarhili. Throughout the history of the Southern Nguni the Gcaleka were, and are, acknowledged as being paramount. Both Hintsa and Sarhili played an important part in the Frontier Wars fought in the Nineteenth Century. The Rharhabe suffered a different fate. Rharhabe's nominated successor, MIawu, died in the same year as Rharhabe, and Ngqika, MIawu's nominated successor was still too young to take over governance. Ndlambe, MIawu's brother, became Ngqika's ward. During Ndlambe's reign the Rharhabe become the most powerful clan west of the Kei River. During the Second Frontier War Ngqika proved to be a brave warrior and at the end of the war he displaced Ndlambe as chief and effectively kept Ndlambe under house arrest. Eventually Ndlambe escaped and a large number of the Rharhabe followed Ndlambe as Ngika was not a very popular leader. Ngika abducted one of Ndlambe's more beautiful wives, Thuthula, and in the resulting war Ndlambe acknowledged Ngqika as being more senior than himself. Ngqika, receiving minor support then proclaimed himself king of all the Xhosa, including the Gcaleka. As a result of this proclamation Ngqika became very unpopular amongst the other Xhosa. The British also acknowledged him as being paramount and made him responsible for all cattle theft on the Xhosa/British border. Ngqika lost even more support as a result of his involvement with the British. Ngqika again went to war against Ndlambe and was soundly defeated by Ndlambe. The British, having acknowledged Ngqika as an ally, attacked Ndlambe and started the Forth Frontier War. Ngqika lost even more supporters and eventually died, almost as an outcast amongst the Xhosa.
Ngqika was succeeded by Sandile, one of South Africa's greatest military men who almost brought the British in the Eastern Cape to their knees. (See the section on frontier wars.) It is very important to note that, as a result of each of these splits, the Xhosa moved in a westerly direction which lead to increasing contact with the Dutch and British.
Another important group of Southern Nguni were the Mfengu. There was a flood of black refugees into our region to escape the wars of Shaka Zulu. They were named Mfengu, the word meaning "to beg". They initially became subjects of the Gcaleka Xhosa east of the Kei River but as a result of the Sixth Frontier War they moved west. They were much quicker to embrace the ways of the white man than their more sedentary hosts. Their resultant disproportionate accumulation of material wealth earned them much resentment from the other Xhosa. From the Seventh Frontier War onwards they supported the British in the
One of the most tragic events in the history of South Africa was the mass starvation that took place amongst the Xhosa in 1856. This important incident was the mass killing of cattle and burning of crops by the Xhosa due to the dream of a young Xhosa girl, Nongqawuse. Nongqawuse's vision, supervised by her uncle Mhlakaza as a senior diviner, instructed the Xhosa to kill all their cattle, destroy their crops and cease sowing. The interpretation of the vision stated that, should all the food be destroyed, all the Xhosa's ancestors would rise up from the dead and join the current warriors in driving the British from the Cape. The result was that the Xhosa died in large numbers and many of the survivors left their traditional lands and went into the Cape Colony to look for work.
The Trekboers were a rough and ready group of white migratory farmers who moved out of the Cape Town area from the late Seventeenth Century onwards. They were driven by the prospect of more land for stock farming and hunting as well as to escape Dutch East India Company regulations. Groups of Trekboers reached the Sundays River area roughly simultaneously with the establishment of Rharhabe's settlement on the upper Kubusi River.
This was a time when no one population group established its undisputed authority and when there was little limit to the "to-ing and fro-ing " between peoples, even though there soon after came the first unsuccessful moves to demarcate a fixed boundary between white colonists and the Xhosa. The very first successful attempt to create a boundary between white and black was Governor Joachim Van Plettenburg's proclamation of 1778, which sought to establish the upper reaches of the Great Fish River and the Bushmans River as the boundary. Two years later followed a proclamation designating the Great Fish River along its entire length as the line of demarcation. These attempts at creating a formal boundary signalled the closing of the frontier for the white colonists.
The first town in the Eastern Cape, Graaff-Reinet, was established as a result of Trekboer settlement. The Graaff-Reinett magisterial district was proclaimed in 1786 and this was followed by the Uitenhage Magisterial District in 1803. These magisterial districts were instituted to maintain law and order. The Trekboers become very disenchanted with both the Dutch East India Company and the British who alternated rule of the Cape, the Dutch up to 1795, the British from 1795 to 1803, the Dutch Government from 1803 to 1806 and the British again from 1806 onwards. In 1797 the Trekboers proclaimed their independence and the Republic of Graaff-Reinet came into being. The Republic was short lived as the British sent an army into the area and demanded an unconditional surrender from the Trekboers. The Trekboers did surrender, but this did not change their attitude to the Government in Cape Town and it only made matters worse. In 1815 at Slagtersnek on the Baviaans River a rebellion was prompted by the refusal of a farmer, Frederick Bezuidenhout, to appear in court to answer charges of maltreating a Khoi servant. While resisting arrest, he was killed by a Khoi soldier whereupon his brother, Johannes, inviting the help of Ngqika, raised a rebellion. It failed and the leaders were hung twice because on the first attempt the ropes broke. This circumstance, more than anything else, won these rather crude law breakers their posthumous martyr's crown and strengthened the Trekboer hatred of the British government. The Trekboers were further enraged by the series of Frontier Wars and the Government's inability to contain them. The straw that broke the camel's back was the abolition of slavery in 1834 and, after the Sixth Frontier War, many of the Trekboers left the Eastern Cape.
This large scale migration became known as the Great Trek. The movement began in 1834 with the Kommissie Treks of preliminary parties exploring the routes Into a deeper Interior. An estimated 6000 to 15 000 whites left the colony, most of them from the districts of Uitenhage, Albany, Somerset East, Cradock and Graaff-Reinett. Among the leaders were Louis Trichart of Somerset East and Hendrik Potgieter ofTarka. A third was Piet Retief whose house and 20 Morgan of ground on the farm Mooimeisiesfontein near Riebeck East was proclaimed a national monument in 1948. Another was Jacobus Uys who, when he passed through Grahamstown in 1837, was presented with a massive bible by the citizens of Grahamstown and its vicinity. At the site of this presentation, to the west of the city, was erected the Uys Bible Monument. A trek leader who came from the lower Bushmans area and was one of the earliest to leave the colony was Johannes Abraham Landman, brother of the better known Karel Pieter Landman, farmer and builder like Piet Relief. Karel Landman only left in December 1837 and it is he who is commemorated by a monument by Gerhardt Leendert Pieter Moerdyk, the famous South African architect of Dutch decent who also designed the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria. The monument is situated on a grassy mound, Kois Rand, in the Alexandria District.
The history of the Eastern Cape is extremely violent with a total of nine frontier wars being fought from 1781 to 1877. Although many of the battles and skirmishes were won by the Xhosa, they lost all the wars. With each defeat, land was confiscated from the Xhosa. This confiscation of land was intended to prevent further hostilities from breaking out, but it had the opposite effect as, immediately after the land had been confiscated, the Xhosa made plans to take it back.
The First Frontier War began as a result of the Dutch East India Company's decision to move the frontier westwards. In 1778 Governor Van Plettenburg erected a beacon on the upper reaches of the Fish River. After consulting with a few minor Xhosa chiefs, he initially declared the frontier to be the upper reaches of the Great Fish River and the full length of the Bushmans River. Two years later, in 1780, the frontier was moved westwards to include the full length of the Great Fish River. The government elected Adriaan van Jaarsveldt as Commandant and in 1881 he was instructed to remove the Xhosa from the area between the lower reaches of the Great Fish River and the Bushmans River. He was to move them to the East of the Great Fish River. This area between the Fish and Bushmans Rivers became known as the Zuurveld. He was instructed to use force only if necessary, but the Xhosa, naturally, would not leave so he had to resort to violence. Van Jaarsveldt was very wicked in his methods as he would lead the Xhosa into believing that he was on a friendly visit but would then proceed to massacre the leaders of the clans he encountered. In a short period of time he succeeded in clearing the area and stealing over 5000 Xhosa cattle.
By 1789 the area immediately to the east of the Fish River was very crowded. The Ndlambe were the most powerful clan in the area and they attacked the Gqunkwebe and drove them westwards across the Fish River into the Zuurveld. Many of the Gqunkwebe had lost their cattle in the war with the Ndlambe and thus sought work with the Trekboers. Many of the Gqunkwebe workers made off with the Trekboer cattle. The surviving herds of Gqunkwbe cattle also overran the Trekboer grazing lands. The resident Graaff-Reinet magistrate, Maynier, was instructed by the Cape government to settle the disputes between the Gqunkwebe and the Trekboers peacefully. A Trekboer by the name of Conraad de Buys had in the meantime made friends with the Ndlambe and had set up an alliance between the Ndlambe and the more militant Trekboers. A combined force of Ndlambe and Trekboers then attacked the Gqunkwebe in the Zuurveld and overwhelmingly defeated the Gqunkwebe. The result was that the surviving Gqunkwebe went on the rampage and attacked the Trekboer homesteads in the Zuurveld area and moved in a westerly direction even as far west as the Langkloof. The Cape government dispatched a military force to the area which joined Maynier's Graaff-Reinet commando. These two forces succeeded in driving the Gqunkwebe eastwards across the Fish River. The unfortunate Gqunkwebe were then again attacked by the Ndlambe and returned to the Zuurveld. An uneasy truce was declared between the Cape government and the Gqunkwebe, and Conraad de Buys was made an outlaw and fled all the way to the Limpopo.
The British took over control of the Cape colony in 1795. The Trekboers were very unhappy with the British government and revolted, declaring the Republic of Graaff-Reinet in 1799. The British despatched a small military force to the eastern Cape Colony under the command of General Vandeleur. The revolt was settled without a shot being fired. The British government then decided to use their military force to chase the Xhosa out of the Zuurveld and so began the Third Frontier War. Vandeleur successfully removed the Gqunkwebe from the Zuurveld and despatched most of his force back to Cape Town. Many of the Khoi servants who had been mistreated by the Trekboers had fled to the east and lived among the Xhosa. Shortly after Vandeleur had reduced his military force the Xhosa and former Khoi servants attacked the eastern Cape Colony and advanced as far west as the Langkloof. The British once again sent a military force to the eastern Cape Colony along with a prefabricated blockhouse for Algoa Bay. Maynier, the magistrate of Graaff-Reinett, sent a commando to join the British. Together they forced the Xhosa back across the Fish River. This war came to an end in 1803 when the Dutch took control of the Cape Colony.
The Fourth Frontier War began as a result of Sir John Cradock being nominated Governor of the Cape Colony in 1811. Prior to his arrival in the Cape, Cradock had almost ruined his chances of promotion as a result of three disastrous commands. When he arrived in the Cape he was determined to show his superiors that he was still worthy of promotion. After studying the situation in the Cape Colony he felt that he would achieve his best results in the east. He nominated Lt Colonel John Graham as commander of the military forces and despatched Graham together with a detachment of troops to the eastern Frontier. Graham proved to be a shrewd and vicious commander. He set up base near Bethelsdorp and bided his time until the Xhosa "First Fruits ceremony", a time of great celebration, before attacking. Cradock had given Graham the following command: "Stay as long as the kaffirs remain alive." Graham followed his commands to the hilt and killed men, women and children, confiscated cattle and destroyed crops. Cradock further instructed Graham to build a series of forts on the Fish River and establish two frontier towns a little to the east of the Fish River from which the forts could be replenished and reinforced. Cradock was so happy with Graham's success that he named the two frontier towns after himself and Graham.
The Fifth Frontier War of 1819 began as a result of a dash between the Ndlambe and the Ngqika. The Ndlambe defeated the Ngqika in the Battle of Amalinda but the Ngqika were viewed by the British as allies and the result was that the British attacked the Ndlambe. The Ndlambe were lead by the "profit" Nxele, also known as Makana. The British were unprepared for the ferocity of the Ndlambe and only succeeded in beating them at the Battle of Grahamstown on 22 April 1819. In excess of 5000 Xhosa warriors attacked Grahamstown in a full frontal charge. The British soldiers, well disciplined, formed three ranks deep and fired at point blank range. The Xhosa suffered huge casualties and never attacked the British in the same manner again. Nxele was captured by the British and imprisoned on Robben Island. He drowned in 1820 while trying to escape. As punishment for the war, the British confiscated the land between the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers and proclaimed it neutral territory - no black or white person was allowed to live or graze cattle in this area.
In 1834 the Sixth and the largest of the Frontier Wars up to that date was fought. The Rharhabe and Gcaleka Xhosa joined forces and attacked the Cape Colony. The attacks were well planned and they were determined to recover the land they had lost to the British and Dutch. The Xhosa remembered all the lessons that they had learnt from the previous Frontier Wars and never exposed themselves to the British in any large numbers, but preferred to fight a guerrilla type war. After making some devastating attacks on the British army and Settlers the Xhosa pulled back to the Amatola Mountains. The British where unable to fight effectively in the mountains and battle after battle was won by the Xhosa. Harry Smith, the commander of the British Forces, became frustrated with his lack of success and changed his tactics. Instead of pursuing the Xhosa in the Amatola Mountains, he crossed the Kei River and attacked the Gcaleka Xhosa on their home ground. Hintsa, the paramount chief of the Xhosa, was deceived by Harry Smith. Hintsa entered the British camp believing that he was there to negotiate a truce, but instead Harry Smith took him hostage and demanded to know where the other Xhosa chiefs were hiding. In addition, the British wanted a ransom of 50 000 cattle. Hintsa refused to divulge the whereabouts of his fellow Xhosa and tried to escape. While he was attempting this escape he was killed and his body was badly mutilated. He was decapitated and his ears removed by British officers who wanted to take home a war trophy. The British then confiscated more land from the Xhosa which they named the Province of Queen Adelaide. Shortly before the British left Gcaleka Land they were approached by the Mfengu who asked if they could follow the British westwards. This was the start of a long relationship between the Mfengu and the British. The shattering occurrence of the Sixth Frontier War prompted the beginnings of the most elaborate yet of all the region's defences by the British, namely Sir" Benjamin d'Urban's frontier fortifications. His scheme included the conversion of hitherto small military outposts like Hermanus Kraal, 22km north-east of Grahamstown on the upper bank of the Fish River, into sizeable forts. Equally notable as a d'Urban remnant are the lines of military Signalling Stations. One line ran from Grahamstown's Fort Selwyn northwards via Governor's Kop, Grass Kop, Botha's Post and Dan's Hoogte to Fort Beaufort. The other operated eastwards out of Grahamstown to Peddle via Governor's Kop, Faser Camp and Piet Apple's Tower. Like Fort Willshire, some of these places, especially those on the Peddle Line, which were built of soft Ecca shale rather than hard quartzite, survive only in name.
The Seventh Frontier War was known as the War of the Axe and began in 1844. The Xhosa had been preparing for war for a number of years as they were still determined to recover the land they had lost in previous wars. The incident that sparked the war was a simple theft of an axe by a Xhosa man from a shop in Fort Beaufort. The thief was caught and then imprisoned. A short while later he was released by a daring break-in made by his friends. The thief had been handcuffed to a fellow Khoi prisoner while in prison and in order to release the thief his friends cut off the hand of the Khoi prisoner who died as a result of his wound. The British demanded that the Xhosa return the thief to them for trial and when this did not happen the British attacked the Xhosa. The British were, however, oblivious to the Xhosa preparation for war and were completely defeated. Reinforcements were sent to the area, commandos raised and a long and difficult war was fought. The Xhosa were only defeated in one battle in which a large group was caught in the open. Both sides used the scorchedearth policy of burning crops and killing or confiscating livestock. By 1846 the Xhosa still had the upper hand but as they had missed the previous planting season they were starving. A truce was then declared. Harry Smith was the Governor of the Cape colony at the time and he imposed some very harsh laws on the defeated Xhosa.
The truce did not last very long and in 1850 the Xhosa and many of the other Southern Nguni joined threes with the Khoi that had settled in the Kat River area and attacked the British. This was the Eighth Frontier War. The Ngqika Xhosa, under Sandile, attacked a British patrol at Boomah Pass and this was followed by numerous other attacks including an attack on Fort Beaufort. Having been surprised twice before, the British were a little more prepared for this attack. The British strategy was to deal with the Khoi in the Kat River area first and then attack the Xhosa. Because many of the Khoi had horses and firearms, the Eighth Frontier War was the first to see firearms used on a large scale by both sides. It was not until January of 1852 that the war ended.
The great Xhosa famine was in full swing by 1851 and as a result the Xhosa were greatly weakened. It was only in 1877 that the Ninth and last Frontier War was fought. The scale of this war was far smaller than those of the previous wars and, in addition, the British were only a third party. In all the wars after the Sixth Frontier war the Mfengu fought on the side the British and as a reward the British would give the Mfengu new land which had been confiscated from the Xhosa. By 1877 the British were bordering on Gcaleka Land and had given this land to the Mfengu. The Mfengu and Gcaleka had been enemies since 1836 when the Mfengu had left Gcaleka Land with the British. All that was required was a small spark to get the two clans fighting and once this had happened the British came to the support of the Mfengu. The British continued to annex the land of the Southern Nguni with the Gcaleka, Bomvana and Thembu losing their independence in 1885, the Mpondomisa in 1879 and the Mpondo in 1894.
Essentially the 1820 British settlers were conned into coming to South Africa. Lord Charles Somerset had described the area as one beautiful park land after another. The primary reason for the British people being settled in the Zuurveld was to create a human buffer zone separating the Xhosa from the rest of the colony. Initially 90 000 British people applied to move to Southern Africa as their situations in Britain were not too good. Unemployment was high due to the Industrial Revolution and the demobilisation of British troops after the Napoleonic Wars. Of the 90 000 applications only 4 000 settlers were brought to South Africa. Below Fort Frederick, on the shores of Algoa Bay, these 4000 British settlers were landed in 1820. After spending a day or two on the beaches of the bay they were transported by the Dutch Trekboers into the Zuurveld area. They were simply left In the bush to look after themselves. No roads, schools, shops or any other form of infrastructure existed at that time. In addition, the area was populated by various dangerous wild animals. The soil of the Zuurveld, as the Dutch stock farmers had long since realised, was altogether unsuitable for intense agriculture and therefore for close settlement. So already by the end of 1823, the parties into which the settlers had been grouped for settlement, were fast disintegrating.
Many sought to pursue the urban based skills they had left behind in England and moved to Grahamstown which grew from a village of 300 odd buildings in 1820 to a town of 600 houses a decade later. There, as in other predominantly new British settlements such as Bathurst and Salem, the Settlers left their architectural imprint. Theirs was the picturesque but modest two roomed cottage. "Settler" architecture, as it has become popularly known, embraces other features such as a low ceiling and small windows inserted directly under the eaves of a high pitched roof which was thatched in the early days but later changed to corrugated Iron. Sometimes, but by no means always, it also featured a plain chimney topping the gables of the little, and later bigger, house. The growth of numerous Eastern Cape towns after 1821 points to the failure of the close agricultural settlement envisaged for the settlers. The Irony of the situation, as It developed, was that the very settlers who had been required to serve as a buffer between the races became active individual cross-frontier traders and labour-hungry stock farmers. They contributed to loosening up the frontier to a point where it became Impossible to control and so set the scene for the shock invasion by 12 000 Xhosa across the Fish River in December 1834, the start of what became the Sixth Frontier War of 1834 to 1835. Despite the disaster of the Sixth Frontier War and other setbacks like the blight and floods of the early years of the settlement, there were many settlers who continued farming their allotments. They changed from wheat to crops that were better suited to the conditions (namely rye, barley and maize, and later pineapples and chicory) and sheep and cattle which became the mainstays of farming in the area.
The toposcope, on a ridge above Bathurst, provides details of the settler parties and the location of their farms. What also attests to the success of those who stayed, are the 150 or so corn mills that operated in the Eastern Cape in the last century. Among them was the once famous Mill Bank mill in the Fort Beaufort district built by William Ainslie, Richardson's Mill in the Trappes Valley built by Stephen Gradwell and Bradshaws Mill in Bathurst built by the Bradshaw brothers.
A number of coastal gateways were developed over the years, some of which are long forgotten. The most spectacular failure to establish a commercial harbour was the Kowie Harbour Project which spanned the years 1821 to 1888. Such failures put the onus of success on the Port Elizabeth harbour which grew very quickly under the impact of the 1820 settlement even though it took until the opening of the artificial dock-basin in 1938 for it to become the safe and magnificently appointed harbour of today.
A further impact, much debated in South African history, was that of the white missionaries of various Christian persuasions. The earliest in our region was the remarkable Hollander, J T van der Kemp. His Christianity, mysticism and self denying of all creature comforts, made his relationship with the Xhosa a very natural one, but his act was very difficult for other missionaries to follow. During 1799 and 1800 he spent 18 months in the Great Place of Nqgika. In 1803 he established the first mission in our region, Bethelsdorp, near Port Elizabeth, a place of refuge for the Khoi, chiefly remnants of the Gonaqua.
Located on the little Swartkops River, it was the first organised settlement in the Algoa Bay area, bar the military command post at Fort Frederick. He was sent by the London Missionary Society and arrived in the area in 1801. The history of the settlement is both interesting and historically valuable. Some of these historical sites include the Van Der Kemps Kloof Church, which was first built in 1803 and then rebuilt in 1903 and 1926. Opposite the Church in the market square is the Mission bell, which was erected in 1815. Down the road is a square stone house, named Livingstone Cottage and a row of Alms houses built in 1822. This cottage is reported to have hosted Dr David Livingstone when he first came to South Africa. Some of the treasured relics still used by the church is the Van Der Kemp’s Church Bible, printed in Holland in 1664, and his pulpit chair and baptismal font.
Bethelsdorp was the parent to other missions, including the London Missionary Society Station at Hankey on the Gamtoos River founded by Dr John Phillip, superintendent of the Society, in 1822. Dr Phillip's son, William, came to the area In 1841 and in 1842, with a mixture of practical experience, enterprise and ingenuity, set in motion a project to irrigate the Gamtoos by cutting a tunnel at a point west of the village through a small and precipitous ridge made of solid rock. The tunnel is 94m long. By 1834, many more missionary outposts had been established. A chain of seven Methodist stations stretched eventually from Salem in the Zuurveld through to Palmerston in Eastern Mpondoland.
In 1799 Fort Frederick was erected to protect the landing beaches from an invasion from France, when the Graaff-Reinet rebels declared independence. Nothing happened, no shots were fired and it was only in 1815 that a formal city was laid out. In 1820 it received its name and was called Port Elizabeth after Sir Rufane Donkin’s wife Elizabeth, who died in India from an illness. One of the main features of the city was that it was British from its inception and was administered by Colonial officials. The early town was characterized by the settlement of European, Cape Malay and immigrant communities according to economic and social status, rather than on an ethnic basis as was the case in later years. ‘The British were to implement the policy of divide and rule which had been used with devastating effect in countries like India, Malaysia, and most countries in Africa.
The presence of indigenous persons such as the Khoikhoi and Fingo in the vicinity of the town, and the influx of new settlers resulted in the introduction of a formal arrangement of segregation. The first settlement of this kind was the establishment of the segregated mission of Bethelsdorp for the Khoikhoi in 1804 by the London Missionary Society. From its inception, Bethelsdorp Mission Station provided spiritual ministry to the garrison at Fort Frederick. In 1820 work in Port Elizabeth was started in earnest for the new citizens, the 1820 settlers, who immigrated from Britain. The close association between the Bethelsdorp Mission Station and the 1820 settlers is indicated by the fact that the marriage and baptismal register of the Union Church has a number of entries of the early settler families. The Union Church built in 1828 was one of the first churches built in Port Elizabeth under the aegis of the London Missionary Society. In those early years it served as a place of worship for Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists as well as Congregationalists. As early as 1847 the Municipality of Port Elizabeth was encouraged by the Cape Colonial Government to set aside distinct 'Native Locations' some distance from the center of the town in order to ensure greater control over the indigenous inhabitants.
The first location established by the Municipality was the 'Native Stranger Location'. It was clear from this that the Colonial Government's policy was for the indigenous people to be only a temporary part of the urban population. In later years new municipal locations were established west of the city as the population increased in numbers and the existing accommodation became overcrowded. One private location called Gubb's location was established and run independently of the Municipality. Here, Africans were allowed to build 'traditional-style' houses and brew beer, activities not allowed in municipal locations. Gubb's location at the end of the 19th century was by far the most densely-populated location, and demands were made by white settlers for the removal of Africans to locations even further away from the city.
Mainly as a result of the on-going frontier wars of the time, the attitudes of whites to racial separation became more entrenched. This was seen in what people called the sanitation syndrome. Plainly put it stated that if you mixed the races there was more chance of disease breaking out and if you separated them you were a lot safer. This had a marked impact as disease was deadly to most in those days.
The crunch came in 1901 when the bubonic plague broke out in the city. This gave the Municipality the opportunity to obtain government finance to remove Africans from centrally-situated locations. Inhabitants from these locations now had two options: they could either move to a new government location at New Brighton which was situated eight kilometers north of the town, or they could buy or rent property outside the boundary of the municipality at Korsten.
Korsten later became the site of speculative ventures. Plots were available at a low cost and the area was not subject to any municipal by-laws. The Municipality succeeded in the resettlement of Africans at Korsten and New Brighton and by 1910 all Africans who could not be housed by their employers or who could purchase property, were settled in these two areas. Almost half of them were accommodated in barrack-style housing in New Brighton, erected by the Harbour Board, while about 30% stayed in Korsten. By 1911 the African population of Port Elizabeth was highly segregated and subjected to a number of legal restraints on residential options.
After the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, there was tremendous growth in Port Elizabeth and the population increased from 42000 in 1911 to 200 000 in 1951. This resulted in rapid expansion in the size of the city as new, formal suburbs were laid out, and many shanty towns were erected during and immediately after the Second World War. However, this expansion of the city also resulted in new legislative measures by the government which restricted the residential options of Port Elizabeth's growing population. Firstly, laws which governed African residence and occupation were tightened, particularly under the Natives Urban Act of 1923. The Municipality was given the responsibility for establishing and maintaining African townships which were subject to strict control. The aim of this was to limit the influx of migrants from the rural areas. Under the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936 restrictions were placed on the purchasing of property outside demarcated African Locations. It also prevented the establishment of new independent African residential areas. African political rights, which enabled them to purchase property in Korsten, were extinguished with the removal of the African voters from the common roll in the same year. Any new housing for Africans was confined entirely within officially-designated areas adjacent to New Brighton and Walmer Location. Secondly, the housing of the poor, better known as slum clearance, had become the responsibility of the Municipality under the Housing Act of 1920. In order to qualify for government loans for the purpose of erecting sub-economic and economic housing schemes, the Municipality was forced to build separate housing schemes for each of the different race groups in what was known as their 'own areas.'
Unfortunately, no master plan was adopted in Port Elizabeth to define 'own areas'. This resulted in coloured and white housing schemes often being sited adjacent to one another on municipal land. These housing schemes were however separated by buffer strips and, initially, there were no road links between the townships of different groups. This resulted in single race areas for whites and coloureds being built for the first time in the 1920s. By 1940, houses for 1402 whites, 2038 coloured people and 2648 Africans had been approved by the Municipality.
From around 1940 private township developers included racially-restrictive clauses in their title deeds to prevent ownership of plots by people other than those regarded as the desired race group. In most cases ownership and occupation were confined to whites. One example of this was when properties in Newton Park were sold to the Fairview Suburban Estate Company. Included was a clause which prohibited ownership or occupation by any 'Coolie, Chinaman, Arab, African, Native or any such Coloured persons.' Other developers indicated that only 'fully blooded Europeans' would be allowed to occupy or purchase property. However, a fairly standard form of clause was formulated which we won’t go into here.
Open areas which did not have any racial restrictions attracted coloured and Asian residents, as this was the only option available to them. South End, which fell under the Walmer Municipality which had a more rural and less industrial character, adjacent to the Port Elizabeth Municipality, was one such suburb.
The result of all this was an increase in segregation, as all-white suburbs such as Newton Park, Algoa Park and Humewood came into existence. In the period from 1910 to 1950 the various population groups became more separated from one another. This happened even though the Port Elizabeth Municipality, like other municipalities all over South Africa, had no overall segregationist philosophy. Although African suburbs, referred to as locations, originated in the 19th century already, only white and coloured suburbs have their origins in the 1920s.
Mixed suburbs like South End continued to exist, although the proportion of the population that lived there decreased, as most of the new extensions to the city grew. It is in the light of the above development and distribution of different population groups in Port Elizabeth that we can more clearly view the South End story, and understand the broad framework in which its 'cosmopolitan' make-up fitted.
Originally South End consisted of four portions of land. The first portion, known as the farm Paapenbietjesfontien, was the land south of Walmer Road as far as the Shark River. The second portion of land was the section along the foreshore. The third portion of land was the section given to Captain Moreby of the 1820 British Settlers, situated all along the south side of the Baakens River. The fourth section was the section bordering Walmer in the west.
The farm Paapenbietjesfontien was allocated on 21 October 1820 by the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, to Mynheer Gerhardus Oosthuizen. After his death, his daughter, Johanna Magdalena, bought the estate for 135 pounds. She married a tall bearded Hollander, Jacobus Andreas Roedeloff, whose name was abbreviated to Rudolph, and which is a well-known street name in the new South End. Roedeloff’s surviving spouse then became the wife of William Gardner. After the death of Johanna Gardner, her sons acquired the estate but were not keen to look after it.
A portion of the land north of Walmer Road, upon which the present Port Elizabeth Town Hall was built, was given to the Municipality. In 1859, the rest of the estate of the late Johanna Gardner was divided into building plots. This was the first time that South End started to develop in an orderly fashion. Up until then South End was merely a farm. Although building plots were available in South End very few of them were purchased or developed. The cost of building and thus the renting of houses, was very expensive. The development of South End was very slow and even in the late 1860s there were still very few dwellings, and the dwellings which existed, were of primitive architecture, and included the wattle and daub huts and tin shanties of the Malay Fishermen dotted all along the Foreshore.
Situated on the site where the Tyrone Hotel was later built, stood a large kraal where people kept their cattle, sheep, goats, and horses at night, and they could allow them to graze on the commonage every morning. Firewood was gathered by the neighbours in the area, and some of this wood was sold from door to door. From the nearby quarry, large quantities of stone was used as ballast in the unloaded ships, in order to give weight after they had offloaded, when they traversed the high seas.
The mingling of the different cultural groups created a cosmopolitan South End community which was characterised by a generally harmonious co-existence and a cultural and religious tolerance. All of this came to an abrupt end when the old South End was destroyed in the 1960’s and 70’s. The final blow in the battle for the right to retain South End as a non-racial suburb was heralded with a bold front page headline and article in the Eastern Province Herald of 1 May 1965 - Port Elizabeth's 125-year old South End will be rebuilt.
The article read, “A far reaching scheme announced by the Government last night will entail moving 8742 people of all races to other areas in the city, demolishing hundreds of slum dwellings, rebuilding streets and designing new developments.” In his announcement the Minister of Community Development, PW Botha described South End as a depressed area in one of the major harbour cities. He further stated that the whole area would be given over to urban development which meant that most of it would be razed and rebuilt. As a consequence all the properties required for the new South End would be expropriated.
Advance planning was already well under way for the few whites in the affected area to be accommodated in Walmer and in a flat scheme in Algoa Park. While the whites would be virtually unaffected, all coloured people were to be moved to Bethelsdorp and Gelvandale, Indians to Woolhope, later named Malabar and the Chinese to an area in the vicinity of Kabega Park . These areas were undeveloped and a great distance from South End. After the program of urban renewal was completed, only whites would be allowed back into the area. This factor, of course, spelt out clearly that forced removals from South End had little to do with the need to "clear a slum'. If it was merely this, then all former residents would have been allowed to return after the renewal had taken place.
However, the fact that the area would become a white group area and only whites would be allowed to return, clearly indicates that the ‘slum clearance' argument was merely a very transparent excuse for what was really the opportunity to carry out the deep desire of the Nationalists and that was to enforce racial segregation.
In an editorial on the 3 rd of May 1965 the Eastern Province Herald commented as follows: 'South End was proclaimed for whites against all the weight of evidence of two public inquiries, and against the wishes of the City Council. In spite of strong pleas on behalf of the six thousand non-whites living and doing business in the area, they were ordered to move. Since then there has been a gradual exodus of Coloured families, out to Gelvandale Complex, Gelvan Park and Korsten'.
Official figures which were released in March 1962 indicate that 539 properties in South End were owned by 'non-whites', of which 398 were occupied by 'coloured people' and 141 by a mixture of races. Population figures which were released at the same time indicate that there were 4 950 Malays and coloureds, 1255 Indians and 155 Chinese giving a total of 6 350 non-whites.
The threat of eviction from South End conjured up a variety of fears among all the communities of South End. According to an Indian property owner, 'If the expropriation is on the basis of municipal valuation plus 25 per cent - as in Maritzburg - it will be very harsh. Assets built up over a lifetime would be lost.' He further believed that 'the Indian community realized that eventually their residential area would be moved but that businesses would be left intact.'
Disconcerting news to many was that a housing backlog already existed for coloured people in Gelvandale. The sentiments of the close on 8000 inhabitants who would have to leave South End were echoed by a grey-haired man while sitting on his stoep in South End: 'South End is not a place .... It's a way of life.'
A 56 year-old man whose parents had come from St. Helena stated: 'I was born in South End. I have lived in this very house since I was married 26 years ago. I know no other place.' Indian and Chinese business owners were also worried.
They were not certain if they would be able to survive being self-employed when they are moved to whatever group area was decided for them. But it was mainly the ordinary folk who suffered the most. They all echoed the same question: 'What is to become of us?'
Within days of PW Botha's announcement the jackboots began to move in. On 10 May 1965 the first people in South End received their expropriation notices from the Group Areas Development Board. With it came a threat that the Board had the discretion that 'after not less than three months' they would take possession of their properties if their owners and occupants did not respond accordingly. The unsympathetic nature of the Nationalist Government soon became evident as they systematically set about destroying the heart of South End. To them time was of the essence.
Mr Omar Cassim, a Malay interior decorator received his notice for 29 Farie Street. He, his wife and family had lived there from 1938. His eleven children were born there. His customers lived in suburbs like Mill Park, Walmer and Summerstrand and he doubted if his clients would be able to come to him if he lived elsewhere. He had spent a large sum of money improving his house in order that it could become a 'civilized' place to stay in.
While the Group Areas expropriation notices for South End overwhelmingly targeted non-whites, many white families and houses dotted in and around those of non-whites were also affected. A white resident of Bullen Street was dumbfounded when he returned from work to find the notice. Officials of the Department of Community Development tried to appease the residents of South End by mouthing assurances that owners would receive a fair price for their houses and they would be ensured of alternative accommodation, but, they pleaded, all this cannot be done in a day. Furthermore residents were assured that considerable time will elapse before anybody was required to move.
Meanwhile, economic as well as subeconomic houses were being built for coloured people in Bethelsdorp and facilities would also be created for those who wanted to build their own homes. The Department also planned to erect a building for shops, which would be made available for basic trades, on the corner of Stanford Road and Cottrell Street near Korsten. However, many of these assurance would later turn out to be empty promises. By 13 May 1965 some 450 properties had been expropriated.
Those in South End who were waiting for alternative accommodation were allowed to remain in their old homes but had to pay a rental of 5% of the value they received for their houses. This might have seemed fair to the Department of Community Development but it was a financial blow to many families. Firstly, these people currently did not pay rent for their houses because they owned them. After expropriation, the pittance they were to receive in compensation for the expropriation was eroded in rentals for their own homes. When they moved to the Northern Areas, the balance had to be used to purchase another house, which was unlikely, as the compensation in most cases never even began to come close to what was needed to purchase another dwelling, or even a piece of ground on which to build a house.
For many, this was the beginning of a cycle of poverty and struggle, which saw purchases being repossessed, insurance policies being surrendered and the removal of children from university. These are the consequences of the Group Areas Act which the Nationalists never bothered to consider in their calculations. As the disquiet and dissatisfaction of non-white residents of South End began to grow, the rumbles of discontent reached the floor of Parliament. Helen Suzman of the Progressive Party vigorously attacked the National Party MP for Port Elizabeth North, JA Nel.
Nel tried to justify the evictions and argued that the people of Port Elizabeth had asked for, and the Minister had agreed to remove 'this bad patch' in the city. Suzman retorted that the people were prepared to accept slum clearance but to them 'there is a considerable difference between the clearance of slum Areas, removing the excess number of inhabitants, improving houses and condemning others, while on the other hand moving an entire community.
When residents finally had an opportunity to view the official notices of the provisional basic value' the feelings of residents ranged from 'disappointment' to shock'. Residents foresaw that at the end they were going to lose, and most of their remaining money was going to be absorbed by legal expenses in trying to save what they had. If no objection was made within 21 days then the basic value would become the official value of the property. Many residents realised with a sinking feeling that they might have to withold their objections and simply accept what was offered, and so the evictions started.
The first indication to the non-whites that they had to move from South End was when they were served with eviction orders. These eviction notices wreaked havoc in the community and were the cause of great uncertainty and widespread anxiety. The uncertainty and worry went on for many months and even years, as people waited for the dreaded day to arrive.
Meanwhile many became sick with worry and countless questions gnawed away at the mind. What price would they get for their homes? Which whites would want to purchase it? Would they only be compensated for the land and not the house? If this was so, they would not be able to afford to buy property in the new group areas, and not even have enough to build a house. As the people sat down to wait, for what was for many something akin to an execution day, the people became obsessed about the impending removalsMany of the elderly people died of a broken heart before the bulldozers and trucks arrived. Those South Africans who did not go through this experience, would find difficulty in appreciating the physical and mental trauma that accompanied forced removals.
After years of discussion, protest, letters and petitions, the government got its way and the people moved. When the last non-white family had moved out, when the laughter and cries of the children had slowly died, when the excited gossip had trickled to a halt, when the calls of the fishermen and other hawkers were finally silent - the bulldozers moved in and levelled the area. 125 years of history bit the dust.
Within a short time, houses, shops, schools, churches and various businesses lay in a pathetic heap - The life went out of South End. The Group Areas Act was not merely an administrative procedure which resulted in people moving from one place to another, it was a human tragedy. The cosmopolitan South End community was fragmented and dispersed in the ingenious way which only the minds of Nationalist planners and their collaborating counterparts in the Port Elizabeth City Councillors could have imagined.
This Great Dispersal also meant that many South End residents were now far away from their places of work. This additional burden upon their meager finances resulted in unemployment and when apartheid on the busses, was introduced the situation was made even worse.
The Group Areas removals were not merely a matter of racial groupings being consolidated and then dispersed. Unfortunately, churches, schools and sports clubs were dispersed, congregants, students and members were scattered all over Port Elizabeth. Friendships of many years standing between families and friends were broken up. For many years after the first removals coloured people still trekked back to their formal residential areas to worship in the churches or to use the sports facilities which still existed there. The government soon stopped this practice by breaking down their churches and giving their meagre sporting facilities to whites.
While whites today sit with the spoils of apartheid, and while 'non-whites' sit with crippling bonds, matchbox homes or a pitiful existence, there will always be resentment against the National Party, the Afrikaner and those who benefited from apartheid, in what was done under the guise of this horrific Act. A number of the older generation will say, 'we can forgive, but we will never forget'. We hope we never do forget the horrors that took place so that we can ensure that they never happen again. However, we need to move on and the only way to be set free is through forgiveness. If we hold onto hate we find ourselves in bondage and possibly we will re-enact that which was done to us.
Now we will change tack and start to look at South End from the eyes of those who stayed there. To demonstrate the cosmopolitan nature of South End, we will briefly look at some of the features which made it such a unique community. South End had some features which made it a special place for all its inhabitants, irrespective of race, colour or creed. It was a community which showed mutual respect for the cultural diversity of its members.
The community was strongly religious, as illustrated by the fact that there were numerous Churches of different denominations, as well as two temples and two mosques. It is remarkable that no incidents of religious or cultural animosity are known to have occurred in what was a harmonious and tolerant community. It would not be incorrect to regard it as a microcosm of today's rainbow-nation.
By far the majority of the grocery stores were owned by Chinese and the shop names, Date Chong, On Hing, Forlee, Jackie, Lee Ching, Horman, Low Ah Kee, Ah Why, Leeson and Loyson were household names. There were vegetable shops and grocery stores owned by VM Pillay, Naidoo's, Pillay Brothers, Lindstrom, Poole Groceries, Dunn Groceries, Ideal Fruiterers, Kader, Banana Wholesalers, Wellington Fruiters, Imperial Fruiterers and Reddy's Cafe. The prices were very competitive and buying your weekly vegetables at the cheapest prices required you to traverse Walmer Road for the best bargains.
The butchers of South End were Imperial, Narkar, Oxford, Wiblin, Saibu and Nelson Pearson. The chemists of note were Eastmead and Henman. Of the dairies, Chelsea Dairy in Walmer Road always had supplies of fresh milk and cream. Their milk suckers sold for a penny while United Dairies had a 'twistee' ice-cream which sold for a tickey. Both dairies delivered milk to homes. All you had to do was ensure that your bottle was put outside the front door at night and the next morning your supply of fresh milk would be in its place. Other dairies were Modern, and prince Wiltshire.
Evans and Son's factory in Forest Hill Road manufactured tombstones and marble ornaments. South End was known for its expert dressmakers like Mrs Uren who attracted clientele from all over Port Elizabeth. The Malay and Indian tailors were also well-known for the fine quality of clothing they made. Some of the names of the tailors that come to mind are Abrahams, Agherdien, Nakerdien, Davids, Bruce, Nordien, Peterson, Savahl, Meyer and Noor. Their tailor shops were frequented by all and many would sit on the counter to pass the day away in idle chatter. Dresses were also very seldom bought in shops since dressmakers could be found all over South End, operating mainly from their homes. There were a number of well-known clothing shops in South End. The Makan Family owned one in South Union Street and two in Walmer Road. Others were Pamansky and Erics in South Union Street and Daya in Walmer Road.
One of the most familiar landmarks in Walmer Road was Dorasamy's hairdresser shop whose owner had continued what was a family business carried on by successive generations. In South Union Street Jamal's barber was a popular venue in which to catch up with the latest South End gossip. Ismail's barber which was situated in Mitchell Street next to Ismail's General Dealer on the corner of Walmer Road and Mitchell Street, was also well known.
Cars were a very scarce commodity and everything was in walking distance. From most parts of South End, it would not take you more than 10 minutes down Walmer Road, through South Union Street to the center of the city of Port Elizabeth. Or you could take the short cut down the“black steps' into Alfred Road, and then via South Union Street to town.
Since a lot of walking was done there were ample opportunities to chat and everyone seemed to be everyone's friend. At most schools, children were served bread, milk, soup and fruit during the school breaks. In this way the poorer children of South End were provided for. The postman was known by everyone and it was not unusual for him to enjoy a cup of tea at some of the homes where he delivered his mail. Birthdays, weddings, and sickness of neighbours was also shared by all in the neighbourhood.
The central recreational area in South End was called Quoit Green. This was a large stretch of open veld bordered by Forest Hill Road, Sprigg Street and Armstrong Street. Here children of the neighbourhood would gather after school, and you would see cricket, rugby and soccer being played at the same time on different parts of the field. In the streets, hop-scotch, rounders, jackstones, bok-bok or any ball game was enjoyed by all the children.
At the lower end of Quoit Green was the Boys' club, which consisted of a community hall and a day-care centre. Everyone was allowed in the Boys' club, where one could learn many disciplines, of which the most popular was boxing. One of the boxing instructors was Brian Elliot, who later became the Empire Middleweight in the 1950s.
Working parents could leave their children at the day-care centre. Presiding at the centre was Ma Fick, the matron, who for many years cared for children of all colours and creeds. Tree-climbing and soapbox rides down Kingsley Kloof were popular pastimes for young boys on a Sunday afternoon. Of course the Baakens River Valley and the Krantz leading up to Fort Frederick were popular adventure trials.
The first canteens in Walmer Road and South Union Street in old South End were licenced around 1860. One of the first was called the ‘Woodman' situated in Walmer Road and in 1877 it became known as the ‘Walmer Castle', and finally the Queens Hotel in 1884. William Buckley was the proprieter of the ‘Prince of Wales Hotel' in Strand Street and he opened the namesake in Walmer Road in November 1878 and it was rebuilt in 1929. Around about 1880 the Royal Hotel was opened in South Beach Terrace.
The ‘Walmer Road Hotel' was a canteen which opened around 1879 and the Ohlsson's Breweries bought it in 1915 and renamed it the Collins Hotel. Directly opposite on the corner of South Union Street was the Tyrone Hotel which was started in 1883.
So, within walking distance, there were two hotels situated opposite each other, namely the Tyrone and the Collins Hotel and not very far up Walmer Road were two more hotels, the Prince of Wales and the Queens Hotel.
Victoria Park was a popular recreational centre frequented by courting couples, families or young children, and was always bustling with activity. Today it is still a popular venue for married couples to have their wedding photographs taken.
One of the famous 'coloured' sports fields was situated in Victoria Park, known as the 'Vee Pee', where many exciting soccer derby's were played between Blackpool and Swallows. The Schaefer Grounds near the Airport were also very popular venues for rugby, soccer, cricket and tennis. In the same vicinity towards Walmer was the 'dorsie dam' where you would find many children enjoying a swim after heavy rains.
A common method of purchasing goods at the time, especially groceries, was on 'tick'. Purchases were recorded by the shopkeeper in a little notebook and the account only became payable when one had the money to pay. Also widely practised was the phenomenon of 'pasella', which was an additional item such as a sweet, which you received from the shopkeeper when you made a large purchase. A well-known practice by the stores was that of home deliveries and you could either phone in one's order, or leave a list at the shop and it would be delivered to your door. Try that today and see what happens.
South End had a number of shops and restaurants that made excellent food Some of them were, the Kasbah, known for its curries, the Chinese Lantern for its Chinese foods, Gee Dees for its hot curries and CR Pillay for the best fish and chips in town. Well-known cafes in Walmer Road were the London and the Elite Cafe.
The London Cafe was particularly popular because of its slot machines, a flick film viewer and a toy crane in a glass case. Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin flick films could be watched on the viewer. When a light went on, you slowly turned a handle which would flick the pictures over one at a time giving the impression of a moving film. The machine which operated the toy crane had a watch as a prize, which nobody ever seemed to win.
At the bottom of Walmer Road, there were iron railings where the fishermen sold their fresh fish daily, while next to the Queens Hotel was Chetty's Fresh Fish supplies, which had their own fishing trawlers supplying a wide variety of fresh fish. Ice vendors were very popular in the streets and were very much a part of the South End scene, and the ringing of their bells always attracted children.
Also popular was Lailee's home-made toffee bars covered with coconut, and costing only a tickey. Syrupy koeksisters were made and sold by Lee Ching in Walmer Road and also by many Muslim Families, and no South End family would be without a fresh supply of koeksisters on a Sunday morning.
One of the cinemas in South End was the popular Palace Bioscope in South Union Street, while Sunday matinee and night films were also shown in the Oliver Plunket hall. The Palace was a well-known meeting place for young people and it also held regular stage shows. Mr Lingham was the manager for many years and because it was owned by the Grand bioscope, all first release films were screened there.
The buses from town passed through South End via South Union Street. They would groan up the steep slopes of Walmer Road on their way to Fairview, Salisbury Park and other areas further north. When the bus conductor was busy upstairs on the double decker buses, the young boys would jump on, or as it was known then, 'fly' on to the open end of the bottom deck at the bottom of Walmer Road, and then jump off when the bus had reached the top of the Road.
The cane and wickerworks in Walmer Road, where caneware and baskets were manufactured, was known to schoolchildren, because this was where the teachers obtained their canes used to mete out punishment in the classrooms. There were also two electrical shops, Warwick's and Hodges. Mr Hodges was a genial old man who would repair any electrical appliance, very often without charge to poorer people in South End.
Herman’s, General Dealer, on the corner of Walmer Road and Armstrong Street was known for its wide variety of goods offered for purchase. One could purchase anything, even live chickens. In Walmer Road, there was a picture framer by the name of Anderhold who was of Scandinavian descent and 'hop beer' was bottled by Robertson's who had a bottling plant in Frere Street. Joe Davis and Finro were the two hardware stores situated opposite each other in Walmer Road. Joe Davis had an advertisement in front of the shop which said 'Keys cut while you wait' and this was precisely what he did, besides also specializing in paint and hardware equipment.
Nick's cafe which was situated in Webber Street was owned by a Cypriot and it was the point of distribution of the Evening Post for the boys who sold it in the streets of the upper part of South End. The boys who sold newspapers in the lower parts of South End and town received their supplies directly from the back of Newspaper House in Produce Street. Many high school pupils earned extra pocket money by delivering the morning newspaper to householders in South End and other parts of Port Elizabeth. If you wanted to be a successful agent you were expected to start your round of Herald delivery at 4:30 a.m. and end in time to be at school.
One cannot talk about South End without mentioning the bridge which was located where South Union Street joined North Union Street. The bridge was the area where the bus terminus was situated. There you could get your bus to Schauderville, Cadles, Peri Road, Fairview and other areas of Port Elizabeth. The bridge was bounded by Baakens River on the one side and Nelson Pearson on the other side, where the best quality meat was sold. There were a number of well-known vendors who sold fresh fruit and other refreshments at the bridge. This was a strategic spot because it had to be passed by everyone coming from South End via South Union Street on the way to the centre of town.
In the 1930s non-whites were not allowed to trade in the Hill area. In defiance of this, Mr Pillay opened up five shops without a licence. He was taken to the Supreme Court on this matter, and he won his case. The Council appealed, and he won the appeal. The next year eighteen licences were issued to the non-white community.
South End had a number of shoe repairers, each one of whom was a character in their own right. Names that come to mind are Mr Mahdoo in South Union Street and Mr Lingham in Mitchell Street who was also an usher at the Palace Bioscope. Then there was, Mr Karson in Bullen Street Mr Cedrass in Rudolph Street and Daya in Walmer Road. Mr Parshotam was known as a cobbler with whom you could go and chat on any subject, besides shoes and especially herbal medicine. He also often took the responsibility of looking after stray cats.
A landmark known to young and old in South End was the clinic situated in Upper Pier Street. Here all children received their inoculations after birth and in later years and mothers used to collect their supplies of Cod Liver Oil and other essential medicines. The building still stands today, however, it has been incorporated into a group of newly-built flats so that it cannot be seen from the street.
In 1973 the Council wanted to make South End white below the ground as well as above the ground with the excuse of building a road through the cemetary. Approximately 3000 bodies were to be exhumed and the council called for objections. The Young Peoples Hindu Cultural Association took up the matter and Mr Shun Pillay met Mr Shelton of the Parks Department, who suggested that a cemetary and parlour would be erected in Malabar if the council was not opposed. Mr Pillay refused, and organised a series of meetings and 650 objections were lodged. This protest action stopped the council in their wild endeavours. Apart from the moral and religious reasons, this exercise saved the tax payer over 3 million rands.
A walk down memory lane in old South End will not be complete if we do not visit the ruins of St Peter's Church and School which still vividly remind old residents of South End and Port Elizabeth or the life-sized crucifix named the Fishermans's Cross by the locals or the old fig tree which stands prominently along the South Union Street freeway. We will look at these next week
The ‘Fisherman's Cross' stood in the grounds of St Peters Anglican Church and was so called because it stood as a symbol of love and hope for the men in the trawlers and line boats in the bay. It could be clearly seen from all parts of Algoa Bay and faced across the mouth of the Baakens River. The Cross was unveiled and dedicated as a memorial to those who served in the Great War of 1914-18.
The figure on the cross was a life-sized one and had been imported from Belgium. Kohler Brothers supplied the 12 foot high teak cross, and a parishioner John Hendricks, did the concrete work and stone masonry. Somewhere in the late 1950s the figure, for some unknown reason, fell and broke and it was replaced by a cement sculpture
Amazingly, the Cross survived the might of apartheid laws and the bulldozers of the Group Areas Act in the late 1960s and early 70s. It was taken to the church of St Mark and St John in Parkside in the Northern Suburbs, and today it overlooks the noisy N2 motorway, still bearing witness.
The ruins of St Peter's Church stand above St Mary's cemetery whose history dates back to the 1820 settlers. Although the old buildings are skeletons, their concrete structures have weathered extremely well and the foundations are as solid as rock.
In 1983, the St Peter's building had reached such a state of ruin that the roofs of the building were gone and part of the thick stone walls was all that survived. Mr George Holliday, Director of Port Elizabeth's St George VI Gallery, proposed a restoration of the buildings. He wanted to take what was once the spiritual home of fishermen in Algoa Bay and a special place for all the residents in the form of a special museum, depicting the history of the city.
The art gallery's trustees supported the move and the trustees of the Anglican Diocese agreed to sell it for R30 000. Two anonymous donors offered to meet this cost and further donations were also pledged. Unfortunately, the plans for a museum on the site of St Peter's Church and School never came to fruition for varying reasons, one if which was insufficient finances.
Along the freeway, near the South Union Street and Walmer Road intersection, stands an old fig tree, an immovable and living memorial to the people who used to stay in the old South End. As far back as 1970, when most of the people who had not already moved, knew that their time had come, one of the residents, Mr S Isaacs, wondered if government officials would spare the old tree which then stood in Chase Street, South Beach Terrace.
The old fig tree had stood there for as long as anyone in the neighbourhood could remember. The tree's heavy, wide, spreading branches, densely covered with foliage, formed a canopy over Mr Isaac's house and also covered the house next-door.
Its roots were thick and uncoiled from the large bole of its trunk, to burrow under the surrounding houses, through solid concrete foundations and under the surface of the street, to come out and go down again on the other side, anchoring itself deep beneath the rock and sand of South End. No gale had been able to bend this old giant to its will. It had grown sturdily erect and stood the strain of what could possibly have been a century of buffeting by the wind.
A reporter who wrote an article on the fig tree in 1970, doubted if the authorities would leave the relic of old South End standing. He stated that what the wind was unable to do man and his bulldozers would most certainly do when the last remains of old South End were razed to make way for the smart new one.
Fortunately, a spark of sanity appeared to enter the minds of the single-minded officials of the ironically- named Department of Community Development, who had zealously carried out the task of evicting non-white' residents of South End and demolishing their homes, schools and churches.
The old fig tree miraculously won the battle against the bulldozers and, just like the two mosques, is a living reminder that about 30 years ago people of all population groups lived harmoniously together in a cosmopolitan suburb.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the number of ships passing the Bay had increased and at the end of 1799 the English built Fort Frederick to defend the region by a possible landing of the French, which never happened.
Frederick Korsten realized the economic potential of the location of the bay and established a modest but diversified business Empire here. It was a very small settlement consisting of only a small group of houses when the 1820 British settlers arrived. On the sixth of June 1820, Sir Rufane Donkin, the acting governor of the Cape named the settlement after his wife, Elizabeth.
The central business district of Port Elizabeth was situated on a narrow raised beach. Immediately behind this narrow strip of land the ground rises steeply at first and then levels off to form a plateau. The historical Port Elizabeth was bounded to the south by the Baakens River and to the North by Russell Road.
The historical city centre has a number of wonderful older buildings. The library building is situated in the north-western corner of Market Square and is regarded as an excellent example of Victorian Gothic Architecture. The terra-cotta façade was built in England and sent out in numbered pieces and re-assembled here. The Commercial Hall was completed in 1848 and one room was used as a library until 1854 when the building was used as a courthouse, In 1902 the present library building was opened and was declared a national monument in 1973.
The building has some of the most beautiful wood and wrought iron work inside and the statue of Queen Victoria, carved in Sicilian Marble and erected in 1903, guards the entrance.
The market square was the most important space in the City. Originally the landing beach was nearby and much of the goods arriving or leaving Port Elizabeth did so via Market Street. The Square became the focal point for the buying and selling of goods by the local and district farmers and also served as a gathering place for many locals. At one time a bell was placed in Market Square and was rung daily at market time and it also served as a fire alarm.
The City Hall, which is located in Market Square, was built between 1858 and 1862 and the clock tower was only added in 1883. The City Hall served as a Council Chamber as well as a concert hall, a lecture hall and offices for city council employees. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1973 and was gutted by fire in 1977 when many valuable paintings were lost in the blaze. These included a portrait of Elizabeth Donkin and paintings of early Port Elizabeth. The newly restored City Hall was re-opened in 1981.
Behind the City Hall, in Fleming Square, stands a monument dedicated to the mythical king-priest, Prester John, and the Portuguese explorers who discovered South Africa. It was the quest for Prester John as a Christian ally that led to expeditions to reach him by sailing round Africa. The monument consists of a large Coptic cross and in the central circle are two figures, one of Prester John and one of a Portuguese navigator. Symbolic devices on the arms of the cross depict the Portuguese royal coat-of-arms, a caravel, navigational instruments of the time, the Coptic cross-motif, the Lion of Judah, and the elephant and rhinoceros representing the fabulous kingdom of Prester John. The monument was created by the local sculptor, Phil Kolbe, and unveiled by the Portuguese Ambassador, Dr. J.M.P. de Villas-Boas on the third of May 1986. It is believed to be the only monument in the world depicting Prester John.
Looking eastwards from Market Square, between the Norwich Union and the Traduna buildings, one catches a glimpse of the Campanile beyond the elevated freeway. To gain access to it one must cross the Square, walk down the steps and turn left into Fleming Street. The Campanile is a 51,8 meter high brick structure completed in 1923 to commemorate the landing of the 1820 Settlers. The location of the Campanile is just to the north of the spot where 4 000 British Settlers landed in small boats on what was then a beach. It has a spiral staircase of 204 steps which lead to a viewing platform at the top and a carillon of 23 bells.
To the north of the Campanile is the Railway Station. This solid looking building has existed on the present location since 1875 when the first line was constructed to Uitenhage about 40 kilometers away. The line was later extended to Graaff Reinet and later still was connected to the national system. The original building was designed by James Bisset, Resident Engineer, Harbour and Public Works. Extensive additions, including the cast-iron supported roof of the main concourse, were designed completed by 1893. S.A. Transport Services renovated the station which was re-opened on 8 August 1985.
Known popularly as the ’White Building’, the old Harbour Board Building was used for 70 years for harbour administration by the South African Railways and Harbours, and the cornerstone was laid in 1904. The exterior of the building has massive and impressive stonework and the interior has richly ornamented woodwork and stained glass windows. The building is regarded as one of the best examples of Art Nouveau architecture in South Africa. It was proclaimed a National Monument in 1968, and was restored in 1998 by Portnet and the architect, John Rushmere.
The old Post Office was opened in 1900 and was designed by the Public Works Department of the Cape Colonial Government. Its style is typical of public buildings of the late Victorian era. Later it incorporated the former Magistrate's Court building erected in 1885 and the Police Station and Barracks.
Across from the old Post Office building is the Feather Market Centre. As its name implies, it was an extension of the original commercial activities once carried out in Market Square and was built between 1883 and 1885 to house the auction sales of ostrich feathers, wool, hides, skins and fruit. It now houses the city organ purchased from the Kimberley Exhibition in 1892 and was proclaimed a national monument in 1980. Between 1991 and 1993 the Municipality created a splendid conference venue and concert hall out of the former produce market and the 1908 office extension.
As one moves up Castle Hill the next stop is a group of interesting Settler houses. On the right is Number 7 Castle Hill, which is an excellent example of an early Eastern Cape town house. It is one of the oldest dwellings in Port Elizabeth and was built for the Rev. Francis McCleland, the first Colonial Chaplain on land which was granted to him in 1827. The house is basically symmetrical in design. The lower storey is built of stone and the upper storey of brick. The kitchen is in the basement and it has a larder deep in the foundations. The house has been restored and now shows off yellowwood floors and beams, and a restored slate roof. No 7 Castle Hill is now an Historical Museum and the interior presents a picture of domestic life as enjoyed by an English middle class family in the mid-nineteenth Century. The house was proclaimed a national monument in 1962.
Across the road from No 7 Castle Hill, stand the ‘Sterley’ cottages. The lower one, No. 10, was one of a group of three cottages built in the 1830's which belonged to William Sterley. William’s brother, Thomas Sterley, was the town's first gaoler and constable, appointed in 1822. The two lower cottages were demolished some years ago. No. 12 was built on land granted to Henry Jones in 1839 and transferred to Caesar Andrews in 1841. These two cottages have also been proclaimed national monuments.
At the top of Castle Hill stands the Drill hall, which is the headquarters of the Prince Alfred's Guard Regiment, one of the oldest volunteer regiments in the country. The P.A.G., as it is popularly known, was formed to raise local volunteer regiments, to assist the regular troops in 1856. It saw its first action at the Battle of Umzintzani in 1877. The Hall was opened in 1882 shortly after the Basuto War in which the regiment had taken part. Today it houses the regimental museum and other military exhibits.
At the corner of Castle Hill and Belmont Terrace stands the Athenaeum. The Athenaeum was founded in the 1850's to promote cultural activities, but this died out in the 1880's. In 1893 the Young Men's Institute, the School of Art, the Naturalists' Society and the Camera Club combined and the Town Council offered to bear most of the cost of the present building which was opened in 1896. In the early years of the present century it became mainly a social club and changed its name. After the Second World War the Port Elizabeth Musical and Dramatic Society rented and enlarged the Loubser Hall extension which is now the Little Theatre. The building is one of the few examples of the classical style of architecture in the city and was designed by George William Smith. It was declared a national monument in 1980.
Fort Frederick was built in 1799, overlooking the landing beach at the mouth of the Baakens River. At that time it was the only stone structure in the district. It was named after Frederick, Duke of York, and was built by troops sent to Algoa Bay to prevent a possible landing of French troops to assist the Graaff-Reinet rebels. The Fort contains a powder magazine and a guardhouse and originally was defended by eight 12-pounder guns. The grave of Captain Francis Evatt, who was Commandant of the Fort from 1817 to 1847 and who supervised the landing of the 1820 Settlers, lies to the north of the Fort.
The Donkin Reserve was proclaimed an open space in perpetuity by Sir Rufane Donkin. It includes a Stone Pyramid Monument with a touching inscription erected by Sir Rufane Donkin in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth, after whom the city was named, as well as palm-lined walkways and benches. The Lighthouse, which was built in 1861, also houses Nelson Mandela Bay Tourist Information Centre. The Lighthouse is open to the public and you can see a 360 degree birds eye view of the city when you emerge at the top.
The Bird Street area was a prestige residential area of gracious homes set in wide landscaped gardens. Pembridge House was originally called “Jessieville” and was built in about 1840 for merchant Joseph Smith and was extensively altered by Emil Castens in the 1880s. Harry Mosenthal, a second generation of the merchants who set up a branch of Mosenthal Brothers in Main Street in 1842, lived in the house and the name comes from the family's London address at that time.
The Port Elizabeth St Georges Club is an imposing building set back from the road. The Port Elizabeth Club was the first gentlemen's club in Port Elizabeth. The activities of the club originated in 1866 in the ante rooms and billiard rooms of the Algoa Hotel in Western Road. When membership increased the committee secured the present site in Bird Street. The present building was designed by the architects Jones and McWillliams and was opened in 1906. The magnificent wild fig tree which stands at the entrance is indigenous to Australia and is reputed to be over 100 years old.
Several “firsts” in the sphere of sport are linked to St. George's Park. A cricket club was started in 1843 and in 1859 the new P.E. Cricket Club was granted land which it still occupies within the park boundaries. In 1882 the first bowling club was established there. In 1889 the first cricket test match against England took place there and in 1891 the first rugby test.
In addition to having a fine botanical garden and large play areas for children the park still serves as a venue for major sports and cultural gatherings.
On the south-western side of the Park is the Mannville Open Air Theatre. The theatre is set in a quiet sheltered part of the park and is named after Bruce and Helen Mann. Since the first production of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’ in 1972 a Shakespearean play has been presented every year, and next year Richard the Third will be performed in the venue.
In the middle of St George’s Park we find the 1882 Pearson Conservatory, named after Mr. Henry Pearson. Mr Pearson was the Mayor of P.E. on sixteen occasions, he was also a member of the Legislative Assembly, the Treasurer-General of the Cape between 1880 and 81 and Colonial Secretary in 1889. It was he who suggested the establishment of the conservatory for the cultivation of exotic plants and it was declared a national monument in 1983.
The PRINCE ALFRED'S GUARD MEMORIAL was unveiled in 1907 by Sir Edgar H. Walton, then the Treasurer-General of the Cape. The monument forms the central ornament of a water reservoir, which is located below and which was brought into use on the same occasion. The regimental crest and the municipal coat-of-arms are placed on alternate sides of the base, and on the central pedestal is a life-size figure of a soldier in full-dress uniform. On each of the four corners of the base is a plaque bearing the names of officers and men who fell in the Transkei War of 1877, the Basuto War fought between 1880 and 81, the Bechuanaland War of 1897 and the South African War fought between 1899 and 1902.
The house “Sundridge”, better known today as the Sharley Cribb Nursing College, was built in 1897 for Allen Smith and his wife Emily in the Art Nouveau style. In 1929 Herman Samuel changed it into the very modern Park Hotel by adding a large bedroom wing and later, a ballroom. It was a Nursing College since 1949 and the College was named after as a reminder of her outstanding services in the cause of nursing reform. It then became an accommodation venue when most nurses were trained at the Tecknikons and Universities. Today it is once again a Nursing College now called Lilitha Nursing College.
The building once known as ‘Knockfierna’, which is now the St George’s Preparatory School for Boys, is a must see for anyone interested in palatial mansions erected by local merchant princes. This ornate three-gabled mansion was built by John Daverin and was completed in 1900. The interior has magnificent woodwork, tiling and fireplaces, and much of the material was specially imported. Daverin died in 1922 and the house was sold to H.J. Harraway in 1925. In 1935 it was sold to R.W. Whitworth who established the preparatory school there. On the opposite side of the Park from ‘Knockfierna’ on the traffic island opposite the lawyers Boqwana, loon and Connellan, you will find the Horse Memorial.
During the South African War of 1899, Port Elizabeth was the main port of entry for remounts for the British forces, and the local people were aware of the suffering endured by thousands of animals. Mrs. Harriet Meyer started a movement for a memorial to horses that died in the war. Working closely with the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in London, she formed a committee to collect funds for the project. The Metropolitan Association provided a design for the memorial and commissioned the sculptor, Joseph Whitehead, to do the work.
The memorial was originally erected at the intersection of Rink Street and Park Drive and was unveiled at a ceremony in 1905. At that time it was the only known memorial to horses in the world. The inscription on the memorial is, “The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion”.
As the result of increasing traffic, which proved dangerous to sightseers, the memorial was moved in 1957 to its present position. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1983 and restored in 1993.
The Havelock Street area has a charm of its own and is closely knit with small structures, including double-storey and semi-detached houses. A variety of modest buildings exist with small stoeps fronting onto the side-walks. I always get the feeling I am on the set of the film, ‘My fair Lady’ and someone will come down the street singing the ‘On the street where you live’. Many of the older buildings have been renovated and now are used for professional practices. On the “woonerf” principle, the City Council has laid out attractive spaces such asthegarden in Havelock Square and around the Nelson Square rose garden.
There are many beautiful old stone churches in the area. The Pearson Street Congregational Churchwas designed by James Bisset, and opened in September 1881 when the congregation moved from the 'New Church' in Main Street. The Macintosh Hall was built in 1890 and in the church porch there is a monument to the memory of Lieut-Col. John Fordyce of the 74th Regiment who was killed in the Battle of the Waterkloof , during the 8th Frontier War, in1851.
St. John's Methodist Church in Havelock Street is an attractive stone building in the neo-gothic style, designed by E.J. Sherwood. The existence of the church, which was opened in 1894, was due to the efforts of the Rev. William Wynne and the enthusiastic support of his congregation.
Further along Havelock Street stands the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. In 1854 dissident members left St Mary's congregation to form their own church and the first minister, the Rev. W A Robinson, arrived in 1857. The erven on which the church was built were donated by Henry Maynard and the present church was built in 1866, with the tower being added in 1872. The church was burned down in 1897 by a mentally deranged woman but was rebuilt.
The UpperHill Street area has suddenly become popular for residential dwelling and a campaign to restore the old cottages and town houses has resulted in interesting changes. The old residential atmosphere of 'The Hill' has almost been recaptured, and the oldest houses, "Paterson's Row" from No 3 to No 15 Ivy Street were built in 1859.
The Donkin Street houses were built between 1860 and 1880. The row of terraced houses, each lower than the preceding one, is remarkable in that they are integrated in a single unit. The land was created by filling in the natural kloof and the whole street was declared a national monument in 1967.
Victoria House situated at number 31 Constitution Hillis probably the oldest house in Port Elizabeth. It was built by the 1820 Settler, Jonathan Board, who was a carpenter and builder and the house was built on land transferred to him in 1824. At the time, Sir Rufane Donkin wanted to encourage settlement in the new town and offered plots to those who could buy them.
At the comer of Belmont and Alfred Terrace is the 'Hill' Presbyterian Church and in 1861 the Rev. George Renny was brought to Port Elizabeth to minister to the Presbyterian community. Services were held in the Old Grey Institute while the present church was being constructed and it was consecrated in 1865.
During the 1850's a revival of higher learning filtered through the Cape Colony. Sir George Grey played a prominent role in the movement, during which properties were set aside for schools. A large grant was made for the establishment of a school in Port Elizabeth. Most of the land granted for this school, was sold to finance the building and establishment of the school, which became known as the Grey Institute.
The present building was completed in 1859. By 1900 the school had about 1 000 pupils, far too many for the facilities and in 1915 the school moved to larger premises in Mill Park. The building then became the Pearson High School, and then the Albert Jackson Primary School. The interior of the building has been changed and the clock tower was added in 1875. The building is architecturally attractive and a fine example of the secular gothic style. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1963 and is currently being restored by a Chandler Company.
The Edward Hotel is built on land originally granted in 1821 to Settler John Carter, an accountant from Deal in Kent. In 1834 there was a change of ownership, the plot was divided, and simple houses, one single and one double-storeyed, were built. These were a familiar part of the Donkin Reserve backdrop till the end of the century.
By 1902 the land had been bought by Palace Buildings Ltd., a company formed to build a three-storey block with an arcade, and it was to cost £3500. The style was described as "Old English", and building began in January 1903. The new King Edward's Mansions offered 120 bedrooms and sitting-rooms, furnished or unfurnished with some en suite, from 45 shillings per month.
Twelve suites were adapted for doctors or dentists. There was the restaurant and a news room with the latest magazines and a post office. Country visitors paid from 10 shillings per day and each room had gas lighting and an electric bell. There were 14 bathrooms with hot and cold water and shower baths. The open arcade with its fountains had flower beds down the centre, and inside was a lift, the oldest one we have. In 1911 Reginald Lambson, who had run the Beach Hotel and the Grand, took over King Edward's Mansions and was later joined by his son, Ronnie.
In September 1920 the Licensing Board agreed to the transfer of the licence of the "George Hotel", and “King Edward’s Mansions Hotel” came into being. It soon became known as simply “King Edward Hotel” and in 1961 the “King” was removed. The major additions were completed in 1948 and the conversion of the first floor balconies into bathrooms took place in 1978 after Roy Lombard had become the new owner and the hotel had joined the Port Elizabeth Hotels Group. Other alterations have also been made in keeping with changes in the requirements of guests and local diner-out, but the Edward remains delightfully Edwardian and Art Nouveau inside and out.
Within a few days of naming the town after his wife, Sir Rufane Donkin decided on a spot, which he marked with a pick-axe, on which the memorial pyramid was built. The pyramid bears two commemorative plaques, the first to the memory of ‘One of the most perfect human beings who has given her name to the town below’ and the other to “The husband whose heart is still wrung by undiminished grief”. Elizabeth Donkin, who gave her name to the city, died in India in 1818 and never set foot here.
It seems that the land which became known as the Donkin Reserve was never officially proclaimed. A diagram of the site, stating that it was not to be intruded upon or built upon, is the only record. The Donkin Reserve has since been used as a sports venue, a parade ground, and generally as an open recreation space.
The Opera House which stands half way down White's Road was designed by G W Smith. Prior to its construction, a smaller building known as ‘the old barn’ was used for staging plays and was situated just below the present opera House. The Opera House was opened in 1892 and was for some years owned by the Cape Performing Arts Boards and is the only surviving example of a Victorian Theatre in South Africa.
Across the road from the Opera House stands St. Augustine's Cathedral. The church was built under the direction of Father Thomas Murphy, with the foundation stone being laid in December 1861. The building was not finished until 1866 when it was consecrated by Bishop Patrick Moran. Father Murphy was also responsible for the establishment of the Holy Rosary Convent in 1867 and he is buried beneath the high altar in the cathedral.
Just off Main Street and opposite the Library is the Collegiate Church of St Mary the Virgin. The Church was founded at a meeting of citizens under the chairmanship of Captain Francis Evatt on 26 April 1824. The building was opened for worship in 1832. In 1895 the church was burned down but was rebuilt within a year and opened for worship on 6 September 1896. Paul Kruger sent a donation and Cecil John Rhodes paid for the cloisters. Among the many interesting features in the church we would draw attention to the artistic memorial brass over the grave of Archdeacon A T Wirgman, who served as minister from 1875 to 1917. The brass is said to be unique in South Africa.
Fleming House, which stands just below Cora Terrace, was built in 1851 by William Fleming, a leading merchant of Port Elizabeth and a Member of the Legislative Council. It was built in the Regency style with a verandah showing Chinese influence. Inside is a remarkable cast-iron spiral staircase.
Prince Alfred and his party stayed here during the Prince's visit to Port Elizabeth in August 1860.
The house was later rented to two prominent businessmen, Alfred Ebden and Charles Tennant Jones. About 1879 it was bought by H.B. Christian who named it Ronaldswaye. In 1911 it was acquired by the Marist Brothers and used as a boys' school. In 1967 it was bought by the University of Port Elizabeth as part of the university's Bird Street complex.
Trinder Square was originally a natural wide vlei used for watering cattle and horses. The vlei has long since been filled in and today is used as a playground for children. "Trinder" was a family name of the merchants Joseph and William Smith who owned property nearby.
Hillside House was built in the early 1830's for the Harbour Master, Edward Wallace. The house was extensively altered in about 1881 for the General Manager of the Bank of Africa and then used for a time as a students' residence. The house was restored by the Universityof Port Elizabeth in 1995 to provide offices.
A little further up Bird Street we have Cora Terrace, which comprises a row of seven town houses facing onto a lane. They were built on land granted to Henry Watson Henderson in 1831, who was killed in 1834 in the 6th Frontier War. His widow married Joseph Smith and the houses were built from about 1856 onwards. The houses, in the Regency style, can be identified by their curved top panes and they were proclaimed a national monument in 1975. The terrace was named after Cora, daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Smith, who died at sea in 1861, returning from England.
As is the case with many of the fine old buildings in the vicinity, the old Museum was originally built as a dwelling house, for Henry Rutherford in 1861. In 1896 it became the home of Adam White Guthrie, Mayor of PE from 1912 to 1915. He left the house to the Port Elizabeth Museum and it was used as the Museum from 1918 to 1961. It then housed the extra-mural activities of Rhodes University until it was taken over by the University of Port Elizabeth.
At the entrance to St George's Park stands the Cenotaph. The memorial was sculptured by James Gardener in 1929 to commemorate the men who died in the First World War. It now also commemorates those who fell in the Second World War.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, formerly the King George VI Art Gallery, was opened on 22 June 1956. The collections are housed in two buildings (the Main Hall and Arts Hall) framing the entrance to St George's Park and consist of South African art (particularly that of the Eastern Cape), British art, international printmaking and Oriental art (including Indian miniatures and Chinese textiles).
Limited exhibition space requires the constant rotation of works of art from the Permanent Collection. Exhibitions featuring the Permanent Collection are supplemented by an active programme of temporary exhibitions.
The Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts which was established in 1918, built the Arts Hall in 1927. The Art Museum now occupies the Arts hall and the EPSAC has relocated to 36/38 Bird Street.
The Art Museum is open from 9:00 to 17:00 on weekdays except on Tuesday when it is open from 13:00 to 17:00. Weekends and public holiday visiting hours are from 13:00 – 17:00 except on the first Sunday of each month when it is open from 9:00 until 14:00.
St. George's Park was inaugurated on 6th August 1861. This was the first anniversary of the visit of Prince Alfred and also his birthday and a number of trees were planted by leading citizens and these were to be known as Prince Alfred's Grove. The grant of land for the park was officially confirmed by Sir Philip Wodehouse in 1864.