Port Elizabeth of Yore: How Trams and Cabs Operated in the Late 1800s

Much like the current tensions between Uber and the Metered Taxis embroiling the taxi industry, likewise there was a similar tense relationship in 1873 between the various modes of transport and operators with shysters and hucksters prevalent. In this era the antagonists were the omnibuses or horse-drawn trams, hackney carriages and cabs with the latest technology being the omnibus. 

To regulate the operations of the various modes of transport, the Municipality drafted a set of Regulations and gazetted them on the 29th July 1873.  

Main picture: Cabs in front of the obelisk

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Early Hotels

The initial accommodation of the 1820 Settlers left much to be desired: rows of tents in the sand dunes where Strand Street is now located, with Algoa Bay’s incessant wind whipping sand into all the exposed orifices. Some might even have been told shameless falsehoods about their future accommodation to lure them to the Cape. But once they stepped off their vessels, they would have to don the mantle of self-motivating, independent pioneers. The unspoken reality is that they would have to turn a pipe dream of a new life into reality. Perhaps they encountered dispiriting moments, but most would batten down the hatches and endure. 

But what the Colony lacked was proper temporary accommodation in the form of hotels especially for visiting colonial officials. 

With their keen enterprising spirit, many would swiftly erect buildings with more than a passing resemblance to hotels. As Port Elizabeth was the entrepot to the Eastern Cape hinterland and later to the Diamond Fields, it rapidly upgraded these Spartan dwelling into respectable establishments.  

This is the story of that evolution. 

Main picture: Scorey’s Hotel being depicted as the large building on the left with the garden of Anne Scorey just below the hotel

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Walmer Road or Berry’s Hotel

In its early days, Port Elizabeth was like a magnet attracting many entrepreneurial types. This is what made it so vibrant and dynamic. Amongst those were the Berry’s, two unrelated families. One made its fortune in contracts with the Divisional Council and the other as a hotel proprietor.  

This blog covers the travails of Walter Horace Berry, the Hotelier. 

Main picture: Walter Horace Berry, son of Walter Horace Berry senior

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Berry’s – Father and Sons

Father, John James or JJ, and sons, Matthew (baptised as Matthys Jacobus) and Richard John, were both peas from the same pod, entrepreneurs to the bone ever willing to take a gamble on a new business venture. In most instances, they were vindicated but when Matthew crossed swords with the Divisional Council over the Seaview Farm, it was an ill-judged move. 

Main picture: The Zwartkops Convict station showing the overseer’s cottage and the convicts’ quarters at the rear

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Outspans and Road Inns on the Inter-Town Roads of later 1800s

Like modern day motorists, the waggoneers of yore also required a place to rest, eat and refresh themselves except that their “facilities” were vastly more primitive than today’s Ultra City. 

What facilities, if any,  were provided and where were the outspans and road inns situated?

Main picture:  Outspan House built by JJ Berry in 1862 as an Inn for travellers. It was situated about a mile from the Rawson Bridge, halfway between Zwartkops and Deal Party Estate

  Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Inter-Town Roads of the Mid 1800s – Part 1

As a result of the poor state of the country roads, a trip by ox wagon to Graham’s Town – a distance of only 160 kms – would take eight days. The term road was a euphemism for a track through the bush, which through perpetual usage, had created a passage conforming to the contours, angle and levelness of the ground. No attempt had been made to remove boulders on the route or fill in depressions. Instead the road would skirt around such obstacles. 

What roads were there and what was being done to address this issue? 

Main picture:  Typical condition of the rural main roads in the 1860s

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Port Elizabeth Yeomanry during the 1835 Frontier War

The Port Elizabeth Yeomanry was formed under Captain William Matthew Harries for service during the Sixth Frontier War.  

This blog covers the events when they engaged in some of the fiercest fight­ing of that year, at Trompetter’s Drift and elsewhere in the Fish River bush. The source of a major portion of the detail is taken from the memoir of James Edward Alexander.

Main picture: Xhosa warrior

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Memoirs of James Alexander on the 1835 Frontier War

Having obtained a commission from the Royal Geographical Society to explore and investigate Africa west of Delagoa Bay, James Edward Alexander was thrust into the Kafkaesque world of the 1835 Frontier War for which he might not have purchased front row seats, but they were not the cheap seats from which the action is barely visible. Port Elizabeth itself might not have been engulfed in the war but the hordes of African warriors knocked on its front door, the Zwartkops River.

This blog details the defence lines constructed, military plans drawn up and other martial actions undertaken

Main picture: Port Elizabeth’s Defence Lines during the 1835 Frontier War

Continue reading