Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Only Naval Engagement in Algoa Bay

Apart from one naval engagement between British and French warships in Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth has been spared the horrors and depredations of war. Compared with other naval engagements such as those in the Pacific Ocean during WW2, this one can justifiably be rated as minor. 

Having said that, during this Napoleonic era with tensions between the maritime dominant nation, Great Britain, and the pretender to the “throne,” France, being white hot, any misstep in the southern oceans placed the British position on the Indian subcontinent in danger.

Main picture:  Fight between the ship of the line, Jupiter and the French frigate, Preneuse Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Islands in the Bay

Algoa Bay contains six named islands in two groups of three. These islands are of considerable importance as they are the only islands along a 1,777 km stretch of coastline between Cape Agulhas and Inhaca Island in Mozambique. The combined surface area of these islands is said to be 40 ha ie 99 acres. 

Close inshore, near the new Ngquru harbour development at Coega, on the north-eastern outskirts of Port Elizabeth, is the St Croix group, consisting of a main island of that name and two lesser islets, Jahleel Island just off the Ngquru breakwater and Brenton Island on the seaward side. The second group consists of Bird, Seal and Stag Islands. All six islands and their adjacent waters are declared nature reserves and form part of the Addo Elephant National Park. The islands are closed to the public.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Earliest Motor Vehicles

It is probably no consolation for Port Elizabeth to claim that it was the first town in South Africa through which a motor vehicle was shipped. It is only Pretoria that can rightfully make the more prestigious claim that it was first town in which the first car was driven in South Africa. This occurred in 1897 at Berea Park. 

Nevertheless, Port Elizabeth would not be far behind.

Main picture: Mr William Adcock, Mayor of Walmer, in his 1896 Benz Velo with his passenger Mr Charles Lovemore

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Tolls

The Authorities always have to find a source of revenues to cover the costs of the maintenance of the roads. In the case of vehicles and animals using them, they always have a ready solution: charging a service fee in the form of a toll. In Port Elizabeth, the first toll was installed within four years of Port Elizabeth being established. It was located in Queen Street, just beyond the future Russell Road and commenced operation in August 1824. 

Main picture: The old Toll house at the Sunday’s River Bridge on the Grahamstown Road

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: King Edward Hotel

One of the landmark hotels in Port Elizabeth has to be the King Edward Hotel which opened for business on 21st November 1904. Surprisingly it did not start life as an hotel. Designated the King Edward Mansions, it housed medical practitioners in suites. In addition various private tenants rented rooms.

Main picture: By the time that The Edward was converted into an hotel, the age of the carriage was over and the age of the car had arrived

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Seaview Hotel

This well-known hotel has operated under numerous names over its life. Amongst its guises was a naval training base during WW2. For some unknown reason, the hotel never attracted sufficient clientele to be able to be financially viable. Nevertheless, it is an icon for many of the older generation who would attend functions there, including myself. 

Main picture: The art deco swimming pool in its heyday

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Working in the Vehicle Manufacturing Industry

Just as important as the industry dynamics, ownership and physical infrastructure are the working conditions, demographics and wages in the motor vehicles industry. This importance to many residents is predicated on the fact that they had a strong connection with the industry being dependent upon it directly by working in one of the plants or alternatively in one of their suppliers. So too did our family as a number of my relatives worked directly in an assembly plant as well. 

This blog deals with the human factors within this industry.

Main picture: Tractors ready for export Continue reading