Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Birth of the Standard Bank

John Paterson was at the forefront of many of the developments in Port Elizabeth. Amongst these were the establishment of the Grey Institute and the Eastern Province Herald. Perhaps the least obvious creation of John Paterson, was that of the Standard Bank. 

It was to be in 1857, that Paterson, a prominent Port Elizabeth businessman, was to turn his hand at banking when he attempted to commence a bank with the title The Standard Bank of Port Elizabeth. A prospectus was duly issued reflecting a proposed capital of £ ¼ million. 

Main picture: The original Standard Bank building

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Mill Wheels Grinding: The Orphans

{aka Yenta searching for mills- like any good Jewish Donna Quixote would do} 

As any writer/researcher or mill-chaser will allow, there are times when one is stumped. You sit with a collection of faded sepia photographs, of mills, and try as you may, they simply have no story, or were ignored in the course of history, and their records are lost.

All you get when you search from rumours, “I’m sure there was a mill here long ago” – not much help hey?    

Main picture: Mill of Julian Francis Langholm

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Mill Wheels Grinding – The Crumpled Mill, Mansfield

{aka Yenta searching for mills- like any good Jewish Donna Quixote would do}

[Of the 384 mills built in the Eastern Cape, a collective of grist, big wooden wheel- wind, paddles, and horse mills,  wooden wheel on top of the mill, only 90 have been identified to date. Of the 1000 mills built in South Africa, all genres, approximately only a further 20 have been recognized.]

This settler mill, has a very sad tale of great expectations, mayhap no business plan in place, and ended up as a crumbling, neglected, ruin of a mill. {Circa 1840}, Mansfield, the land, itself, is a vast old ‘settler, landmarked farm’, holding copious amounts of fresh water from the strong stream, to the left of the photograph; {the water provided is so endless, that it supplies the village of Port Alfred with fresh water} circa 2018.  Perfect for this large ‘grist-mill’  {the one with the large wooden wheel} .

Main picture: Mansfield Mill in 1987

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Periodic Visitations by the Irascible Rain God

Port Elizabeth has had the misfortune to suffer from periodic devastating floods. Our ancient forefathers would have attributed this to displeasing the Gods in some way or the other, normally by being sinful. With the benefit of science, this phenomenon can surely be attributed to the fact that Port Elizabeth is at the confluence of two weather systems, periodically introducing extreme weather. As the most devastating floods, as well as many of the worst south-easters, occurred during the three months September to November, it can safely be assumed that weather patterns as opposed to vexatious gods, is the culprit for this flooding. 

This blog only covers the significant floods until November 1908. 

Main picture: Repairs after the 1908 floods

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: One Day in September 1869 in Algoa Bay

In the age of sail, the South-Easter in Algoa Bay could be treacherous, driving vessels onto North End beach. Saturday 18th September 1869 was to be no different. At 2:15 p.m. on this fateful day, the officials at the Algoa Bay Port Office put out the signal “wear cables” for the benefit of shipping lying in the roadstead. 

The only unanswered question was whether some or all of these vessels would survive the impending storm. Later during the age of the steamship, riding out a storm was often gut-churning but never fatal. During the age of sail, it was quite another matter. 

Main picture: Ships in Algoa Bay

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Account of Algoa Bay

The fact that Bartholomew Diaz, a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household and explorer, sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, reaching the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic, would  reverberate for centuries to come. At the very least, the coastline should have been documented but it took 87 years for this to occur.

This is the narrative of Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo’s 1575 voyage at the behest of the Portuguese king, Dom Sebastian. 

Main picture: 1575 map of Southern African coastline from Cape of Good Hope to Inhambane

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The 1905 Floods in the Gamtoos Valley

During the past two centuries, the Gamtoos Valley has experienced at least seven severe floods – 1847, 1867, 1905, 1916, 1932, 1944 and 1961. Of those, the 1905 flood was the most destructive, not from an overall economic perspective but rather due to the fact that my grandfather, Harry William McCleland, and his young bride, Elizabeth Daisy, were made destitute.

While my grandparents’ experiences might have been sadly lost in the mists of time, this account by a survivor, Mrs Gillbee, has survived 

Main picture: Gamtoos River in 1903

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Mill Wheels Grinding: Lost in Clumber

Mill Wheels Grinding.  {aka Yenta searching for mills- like any good Jewish Donna Quixote would do} even if she has to scrabble amid the goggas. 

I came upon, {bit Alice in Wonderland hey?} this rather sad mill in 1998. Travelling though the backwoods of Trappes Valley, and ‘Englishy’ railway station some 25 kilometres from Port Alfred, heading west. What attracted me, was a scorched looking tower sticking out above the trees. It had apparently burned down in 1970. 

Main picture: Trappes Valley – mill before fire   Continue reading

Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Cradock Place

Of all the artefacts that Port Elizabeth has unconscionably lost, perhaps this rates as the worst. On the threshold of the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, a Dutch immigrant by the name of Frederick Korsten, had made his mark prior to the establishment of Port Elizabeth. Perhaps for this reason alone, aside from any architectural merits of the buildings, these artefacts deserved to have been preserved for posterity. 

This blog comprises two sections. Firstly it briefly sketches the journey undertaken by Korsten to arrive at Algoa Bay and what Korsten did whilst in Port Elizabeth. In the second section, it provides an account by the final tenant of this property, who will provide an insight into the treasures hidden therein. Finally the real reason for its reprehensible destruction will be exposed.

Main picture: Cradock Place

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Museum and Snake Park

The precursor to the establishment of the museum, was the founding in April 1856 of the Athenaeum Society whose purpose was “to promote the interests of science and literature.” The journey from this humble beginning to its present home at Bayworld, Humewood, is indicative of a society’s striving for knowledge and a sense of wonderment. 

Main picture: Museum in the Wool Market

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