Port Elizabeth of Yore : Volume 1 – Defying the Odds – Now Available

This volume is now available as follows: Soft cover = R 250, hard cover R475 plus shipment costs to SA destinations at R100. Copies of the book can be collected in Joburg from Dean [082 801 5446], Cape Town from Blaine [074 103 7137] and at Port Elizabeth from Alan [084 981 8491 oe 041 368 1304]. Alternatively email Dean at deanm@orangedotdesigns.co.za.

Banking details:

Bank: Standard Bank Branch: Clearwater Mall Account number: 00 294 451 0 Swift code for overseas payments: SBZAZAJJ Reference: Will be provided before EFT is performed

As Port Elizabeth celebrated its bicentenary in April 2020, this event has to be celebrated for not only was it the birth of a new town, but it was also home to many of our ancestors. This four-volume set of books records those birth pangs and well as the people and events which over the next 150 years made Port Elizabeth what it is today.

Comments on the back cover

Initially Port Elizabeth was only earmarked as a landing place for the British settlers and not as their destination. Yet in the thirty-year period from 1820 to 1850, contrary to expectations it experienced a tremendous growth spurt. So prodigious in fact was its expansion that it even overtook Cape Town in terms of the volume of exports.

This is the story of the people and events that form the basis of this incredible journey.

This book forms part of a four-volume series which takes the reader on the fascinating odyssey from the original inhabitants – the Khoi – through the town’s development into an entrepôt, wool processor and exporter to its pinnacle as the Detroit of South Africa.

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Where was the Commercial Hotel located?

On the various Facebook sites related to Port Elizabeth, it is always stated that this well-known hotel from the latter half of the 19th century was situated on the corner of Russell Road yet none of the photographs of that corner actually show this hotel where it is alleged to be located.

After gnawing at him, and with his unpaid job on the line, the Technical Editor made a breakthrough at 4am this morning 18th April 2021. Unlike Archimedes’ Eureka moment, he was not lying in a bath of hot water, Blaine was lying in a hot bed. Neither did he break curfew and run naked through the streets of Plumstead disturbing everyone (and we are not talking about him shouting “EUREKA!” either. It could also have been called a lightbulb moment, but given the vagaries of Eskom, this is a rare event nowadays.

Moreover, why did this misunderstanding arise?

Main picture: Steinmann’s Commercial Hotel

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: In the Era of the 1837 Royal Engineer’s Map

What can be learned from examining a map in detail? Plenty. But in this case not so much. Being a military map, it does not include all the non-military buildings. This does have an advantage as it eliminates all the clutter. Hence it provides an overall perspective

Main picture: The complete 1837 military map of Port Elizabeth as drawn by the Royal Engineers

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Was the Second Fortification Pointless?

During the first British occupation of the Cape, the puny settlement at Algoa Bay found itself threatened by raiding Xhosa & khoikhoi warriors. For defence, the British soldiers constructed an extemporised fortification known as Star Fort on the Ferreira River [today’s Papenkuils River]. This inexpensive fort dug in the shape of a star around Thomas Ferreira’s house, would act as the settlement’s first fortification.

With the imminent threat to the settlement, comprising mainly mud huts around the mouth of the Baakens River, a more substantial redoubt was required. To meet this exigency, shortly thereafter a blockhouse was constructed by the Royal Engineers at the drift across the Baakens Lagoon, now sadly no more. This would be Port Elizabeth’s second fortification but did ever serve a useful purpose or was it ill-designed and located for the task at hand?

Main picture: 1803 Gesigt van Fort Frederick en Algoa Baai, Willem Bartolome Eduard Paravicini Di Cappelli, H103

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Development of the Hinterland by 1806

As the Trek Boere moved ever eastward during the 1700s, the eastern boundary of the Cape Colony was itself relocated to the next large river. Initially in the 1700s the area surrounding the future town of Port Elizabeth was simply known as Algoa Bay which fell under the large district known as Graaff Reinet. In early 1800s, this district was bifurcated with the southern portion being called Uitenhage after the town established in 1804.

Surprisingly even though Uitenhage was the seventh district to be established, within three decades after being populated by the Trek Boere, it had achieved a sizable heft in certain aspects.

This surprising situation is illustrated various tables shown in Theal’s Records of the Cape Colony.

Main picture: Districts of the Cape Colony in 1806

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Historical Monthly Vehicle Sales in SA, 1960 – 2020: A Reflection of Events and Society


  1. June 1976 – Soweto Riots and preceded by the invasion of Angola in October 1975.
  2. 15 August 1985 – Rubicon speech when PW Botha dashed hopes of a ‘soft’ landing for Apartheid.  This had been preceded by more than a year of money outflows and devaluation of the Rand
  3. 27 April 1994 – Democratic elections
  4. 5 October 2007 – Dow peak before subprime crisis
  5. 15 September 2008 – Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy
  6. 27 March 2020 – Covid lockdown


  1. Good economic growth rate in the 60’s and early 70’s.
  2. Tumultuous times and the uncertain future kept sales flat for roughly 26 years.
  3. The rise of the nouveau riche with AA and BEE seriously kicking in.
  4. Subprime crisis and the global recession and its resolution.
  5. The onset of serious state capture and the policy chickens coming home to roost. The drop in car sales started in about 2012 pushing car sales back to 1975 levels although the population had increased by 2.3 times over that period – not a pretty sight and it is mirrored by our massive unemployment and a nearly bankrupt fiscus.

Port Elizabeth of Yore: William Londt – The Man and his Company

The name Londt does not resonate with the overwhelming majority of today’s residents of Port Elizabeth yet the word “Edworks” might do so. Unlike other entrepreneurs whose names are used as the name of the business, this never happened in this case. In short order, after a chance encounter, William Edward Londt and Frank Parker , were instrumental in establishing a major footwear manufacturing facility in Port Elizabeth.

While none might have heard of William Edward Londt, at least some must have heard of his other legacy; the St John’s Stella Londt Retirement Centre, in Sunridge Park.

Main picture: Edworks factory

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Gas Should be Integral to Eskom’s 20 Year Plan

In a recent blog I queried whether it was wise to award a contract to Karpowership to supply 1220MW of gas turbine power at 3 sites around South Africa.  This objection was based purely on the costs that seemed to have been accepted by Eskom which I believe is overpriced by 50%.  Setting that objection aside, I am fully in favour of a land-based turbine solution.

Main picture: Five of Ankerlig’s 148MW open cycle gas turbines

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Karpowership – Is Eskom Taking us for a Ride Again?

Eskom is on the verge of signing a 20-year deal for Karpowership to provide 1220MW of ship-based power for 20 years at 3 locations around South Africa.  The contract does not include the land side costs of connecting to the grid i.e., switchgear, transformers and distribution lines.  It also probably does not include the wharfage costs payable to Portnet.

Main picture: Gas turbine

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