Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Beach at North End

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Runaway Tram in Russell Road

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

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A Description of Port Elizabeth in 1874

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Human Dimension of the 1908 Flood

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Through the Eyes of the Poulter Family

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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Fascist Movements and Anti-Semitism

The seeds 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

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Reclamation at the Harbour

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

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Port of Elizabeth: Royal Visit of 1947

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.

Main picture:
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.

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