The wide sandy beaches that once spread from the North Jetty, next to the landing beach, and continued all the way past the mouth of the Papenkuils River have long since been destroyed by progress. In this case its nemesis was the dual events being the advent of the railways and the harbour works. In essence, the desecration of this natural wonder was due to two man-made causes. The hinderance in the flow of sand due to the harbour works, resulting in the erosion of the beach, allowed the railways authorities to obtain the right to use these once pristine beaches for the laying of additional railway tracks. This option suited their purposes as it was cheaper than the expropriation of buildings close to the shore on which to lay these tracks.
In old reports the curve of the Bay towards North End is
often referred to as the “bight”, an Old English word.
Main picture North Beach, North End 1927
This incident has long since been forgotten by the residents of Port Elizabeth, yet it is often raised in discussions related to tax matters. In particular it is the term “in the production of income”. It is used extensively in tax law to determine what expenses are allowable as deductions. When doing so, the issue raised in the case of this runaway tram is pondered about.
This is the human story behind that tax case.
Main picture: The scene at the foot of Russell Road when a runaway train collided with the Masonic Hotel
In his book A
Descriptive Handbook of the Cape Colony, John Noble provides a description
of all the major towns in the Cape Colony in 1874. His narrative about Port
Elizabeth itself is glowing. However he concludes by stating that the “country about Port Elizabeth is very uninviting.”
Included in the blog are the census figures for 1874 as well as a detailed
description of the wool washing process which had by this time become more mechanised.
This is a verbatim transcription from Noble’s tome.
Main picture: View of Port Elizabeth in 1873
This artefact might not be as well known as the others that have been lost in Port Elizabeth, yet it could have been if he had not been demolished soon after its construction.
Main Picture: The 1820 Centenary Memorial with the Grand Hotel on its left and the Edward Hotel behind the memorial
Port Elizabeth was renowned for
its severe floods having experienced periodic flooding with the most notable
being in 1867 and 1897. Previous river
floods had caused little damage in the valley and around the mouth of the
Baaken’s Valley as there were no buildings on the flood plain. But this time it
was different. In the period subsequent to the previous floods, the lagoon had
been systematically reclaimed and buildings had been injudiciously built on the
flood plains. This was to exacerbate the effect of the flood waters.
The moniker for this catastrophe
would forever be The Great Flood.
Main picture: Debris accumulated against the main bridge across the Baaken’s River forcing the water down Commerce Road to the Harbour Board building
This is a excerpt from a 1894 book entitled, “The Guide to Port Elizabeth”. It provides a contemporary view of Port Elizabeth.
Main picture: Post Office building in 1900
The Poulter Family of Port Elizabeth might not have been prominent socially or in municipal affairs yet through the prism of this family, one is able to view life of the Port Elizabeth of Yore. All of this information has been kindly supplied by Dale Poulter of the current generation of Poulters.
Main pictures: Louis John Poulter as a member of the Southern Rifles
of the European Fascist movements of the 1930s were cast far and wide. In South
Africa they fell on fertile ground. The burgeoning white nationalist movement
harboured elements of these virile, virulent shoots in the form of the Ossewa Brandwag and the S.A. Greyshirts. As the ominous spectre
of the Nazi contagion spread its tentacles into South Africa’s political
discourse, South Africa’s versions of these thuggish movements arose in
manifold forms, one manifestation being Robbie Leibrandt, who attempted to assassinate
Prime Minister, Jan Smuts.
Main picture: The Centenary of the Great Trek commemorated by ox-wagons going through the city
The first major extension to the harbour after the construction of the Charl Malan Quay was reclamation of land on the seaward side of the Charl Malan Quay in 1938. The company which did the dredging, first built a new sea wall parallel to the old one at the distance required for the extra width that had been planned and then a dredger pumped sand from the sea bed into this space to build up a base for the new section.
Main picture: Reclamation at Victoria Quay in 1938
Unlike more recent Royal visits,
the visit by the Royal Family to South Africa in 1947 was a full marathon and
not a 100-metre dash. It was a two-month swirl of introductions, photographs,
handshakes, toasts and speeches. Even the vivacious Princess Elizabeth, the
heir apparent, was afforded the opportunity to make a speech, her first. The
two-month long sojourn to a land on the cusp of fundamental change, would include
two days, the 26th & the 27th February 1947, to make
the acquaintance of the peoples of arguably the most English city in South
Africa, Port Elizabeth.
Brigadier Arthur Coy with the Mayor of PE, Mr Neave, inspecting the Ex Servicemen with the King and Queen at Crusaders ground, St. George’s Park in February 1947. The princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were in attendance. There was a garden party in Victoria Park afterwards.