Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Architecture of Park Drive – An Overview

As a residential area, Park Drive attracted the well-healed and it was aspirational. If one wanted a villa with spacious grounds close to town, this was it. The area immediate garnered a cachet which it never lost. Given the fact that the plots were extremely large, this would be the undoing and demise of many of these stately homes. Subsequent generations of residents viewed the properties as cash cows and the mansions were demolished to be replaced with insipid blocks of flats.

By now most of the original mansions have been replaced but some have miraculously survived.

Main picture: Kockfierna circa 1900

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Statue of Queen Victoria in Port Elizabeth

Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. Parliament voted her the additional title of Empress of India in 1876. Known as the Victorian era, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than that of any of her predecessors. 

After Albert’s death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances. As a result of her seclusion,  republicanism in the United Kingdom temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were times of public celebration.

After commemorating her golden jubilee in 1887, the citizens of Port Elizabeth were resolved to erect a tangible object, not as a political statement but as a demonstration of their loyalty and devotion to the queen. This desire ultimately bore fruit in the form of the statute of a mature Queen Victoria outside the Public Library, welcoming visitors to Port Elizabeth.   

Main picture: This Sicilian marble statue was erected and unveiled in 1903 two years after Queen Victoria’s death.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: New Brighton – “A Model Native Settlement”

Located between the Papenkuils and the Swartkops Rivers, New Brighton was established outside the Municipal Boundary of Port Elizabeth in 1903 in order to house the black residents of the inner-city locations such as Stranger’s and Gubb Locations’. That begs the question of what it was used for before its conversion into a location.

This blog will cover the history of New Brighton from its earliest settlement to its current status as a black township.  

Main picture: Semi-detached houses erected in New Brighton in 1912

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Prince Alfred’s Guard: Regimental Colour, Battle Honours and Chantry Chapel

In line with the Defence Force’s intention to have the names of the Reserve Force units reflect “the military traditions and history of indigenous African military formations and the liberation armies involved in the freedom struggle”, the name of the Prince Alfred’s Guard will be amended to Chief Maqoma Regiment (MR). As far as I am aware, the PAG has not yet taken decisions on new insignia, including beret/cap badges and flashes as well as colours. However, the existing unit colours, along with battle honours will be laid up during parades over a three-year phasing-in period.

This blog covers certain of those traditions which will be cast aside in this process.

Main picture: Regimental Colours

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Commercial Hall Building

The building of the Commercial Hall was indicative of the emerging maturity of the town. One of the purposes to which this building was to be put, namely as a library, was emblematic of this transition.  Unfortunately, intruding on these intentions was the old court house burning down. As a consequence, from 1856 until the new library was opened in 1902, this prime function was put in abeyance for 46 years.

Main picture: Commercial Hall building on the site of the current Main Public Library

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Prince Alfred’s Guard: The Bechuanaland Campaign of 1897

Little did the members of the Prince Alfred’s Guard realise but the Bechuanaland Campaign was to be last of the little colonial wars in which the Guard were destined to take part. After the Transkei and Basutoland campaigns, this would be the third “outing” during which the unit would be tested. In total, the unit would be away on duty for six months.

This blog is an almost verbatim account of this battle from the book entitled Prince Alfred’s Guard 1856-1966 by Neil Orpen.

Main picture: Parade for the unveiling of the memorials in St. Mary’s Church on 20th September 1896.

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Alex of Yore: The Formative Years

Alex refers to my Alma Mater and not what generally springs to mind: Alexandra, a squalid township in Gauteng, or Alexandria, a town in the Eastern Cape. O.K. Maybe Alma Mater is a bit posh having been derived from Latin and does not refer to one’s mater or mother.  Instead it refers to one’s old school, in this case, Alexander Road High School.  

With few exceptions, what one most vividly recalls of one’s schooling, are various incidents involving fellow pupils or teachers. This series of blogs will mostly cover these experiences. It also goes without saying that certain teachers will be covered, and their quirks and idiosyncrasies exposed.

This blog, however, will break that norm in covering how the school was started, the school motto and song derived and its formative years until 1972.

Main picture: Alexander Road High School from the fields

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