Port Elizabeth of Yore: Harbour Operations before Jetties

Landing through the surf in 1866

Until the 1870s, PE harbour possessed no jetties. By implication, the passengers and cargo had to be transhipped onto tiny surf boats for onward transport to the landing beaches. At the shore, the people were carried ashore on the shoulders of the Mfengus much to the distress of the females. In spite of this clumsy and archaic method of operation, Port Elizabeth rapidly processed more exports than its sister port, Cape Town.

 This blog is a verbatim extract from the unpublished notes of Mr. C.G.H. Skead written in 1939

Main picture: Surf boats in Algoa Bay in the 1860s

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: McWilliams Father & Son duo of Architects

Sprogs on the banks of the Swartkops River in 1955 -  McWilliams #15

Port Elizabeth seems to be blessed with famous McWilliams. Apart from the McWilliams of Rink Street, there was the father and son duo who were both famous architects: William and Herbert McWilliams. 

Of the two, Herbert, the son, certainly led a full and varied life, worthy of a biography. 

Main picture: Sprogs on the banks of the Swartkops River in 1955 –  Herbert McWilliams’ sprog is #15

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Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Swartkops Mineral Spa

Swartkops Mineral Baths after the developments in 1939

Today taking a cure at a mineral spa is definitely out of vogue. The belief in the curative properties of the various minerals was widely extolled. Even Erwin Rommel, at the height of WW2, spent time at a spa. Perhaps it was the relaxation that was the cure and not the minerals. Nevertheless, the supposed healing properties were invoked by all and sundry.  

Even Port Elizabethians adopted this cure, now a distant memory 

Main picture:  Swartkops Mineral Baths after the developments in 1936  Continue reading

Port Elizabeth’s Driftsands and Dune Fields: Nature’s Equilibrium Disturbed

Map showing the dune field systems in 1890. Summerstrand & Humewood were just one big sand dune

Interfering with Mother Nature might not produce a Newtonian response i.e. an action is followed by an equal and opposite reaction. Rather it generates sometimes arbitrary unintended consequences but responses nevertheless. In the case of Port Elizabeth, there has been interference with nature on a vast scale in the southeast area relating to the driftsands and the dune fields. 

The ultimate consequence of these ill-conceived projects to redirect nature will result in the denuding of all the main beaches in Port Elizabeth, stripping Port Elizabeth of a potential tourist asset. 

Main picture: Map showing the dune field systems in 1890. Summerstrand & Humewood were just one big sand dune

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Floods of November 1867

South End - View of Rudolph Street after the flood in November 1867

Port Elizabeth periodically experiences floods. Amongst the most devastating was the flood of 20th & 21st November 1867.  Perhaps its effect was exacerbated by the fact that the roads were not tarred and as the flood waters gushed down the natural water courses, formally kloofs or streams, it caused mayhem. 

Main picture: Rudolph Street, South End after the floods of November 1867

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