Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Changing Face of Happy Valley and Humewood Beach

Ironically just over a century ago, the puny stream which flowed through Happy Valley was well-known whereas the area through which it flowed, Happy Valley, was unknown to the resident of Port Elizabeth. It was this non-descript trickle which supplied this nascent town with its first piped water albeit that it was only to the low-lying areas as the water was gravity fed. In September 1968, this stream barely a trickle, was transformed into a raging torrent probably about 1 metres deep and 70 metres wide.

From providing a vital commodity it now only serves as an entertainment area. This blog deals with the changing character and importance of this area from necessity to a luxury.

Main picture: Frames’ Reservoir on the Shark River

Bifurcated river

Today the fact that Shark River actually comprised a stream which split about 500m upstream into two rivers with two separate mouths is invisible to the naked eye. Interestingly each had its own name with the smaller or now non-existent one being called the Klein Shark River. Progress in the form of a bowling club was the death knell of this river. It does still exist on old maps and a photo of the Humewood Beach Hotel which was located on the site of the Elizabeth hotel.  

Aerial view of Frames Reservoir on the Shark River

Marooned

The first mention of a river in the area arose in 1752 when a French sloop, Le Necessaire which, together with other ships from Mauritius, was examining the south-east coast of Africa. At this time, most of the features were, as yet, unnamed and the names Happy Valley and Shark River did not arise for another 100 and 50 years respectively. As they required water, the vessels anchored offshore and, on the 27th February, they despatched a rowing boat to obtain water for them. In the surf, the boat overturned in the Humewood / Happy Valley area. These men became marooned when a storm broke and the ships abandoned them ashore. Nonplussed, they set out to walk to Cape Town and fortunately were met en route by a party led by ensign August Friedrich Rentier.    

Robert Jacob Gordon

In January 1778, the Commander of the Dutch garrison at the Cape, Robert Jacob Gordon, visited Algoa Bay and made drawings. Friderici’s map of 1789/90 shows “Gordonsfonteyn” south of the Baakens River mouth. The maps of this period sometimes also give the bay the name Zwartkops River Bay. Sources indicate that there was also a third beacon at the mouth of the Shark River at this time. However this has never been confirmed.

Frederici’s map of 1789 / 1790

Original location

Maps of the general area in the early 1800s reflect the area which is today named South End to have a farm, Papenkuilsfontein, which had been granted as a quitrent farm by the Governor, Janssens, in 1803. In October 1820, an official quitrent grant was made to Gerhardus Oosthuizen. Old maps indicate that the “fontein” was located on the spot where the original Happy Valley was situated. This area is currently on the route of the Apple Express.

Unlikely site for a dam

For the first forty years of the town’s existence, the town’s people relied on two sources of water: wells as well as the streams in the various kloofs connecting the plateau on the hill with the seashore below. After due consideration, the Shark River was selected as the site for the construction of the town’s first dam. I term it an unlikely site for a dam based upon the steam’s flow rate and the distance from town. Surely a dam on the Baakens River, upstream of the woolwashery at the foot of Brickmakerskloof, would have been preferable?

Frames Reservoir today

This dam was the creation of Clement Wall Frames who leased the land and the river from his cousin, C.E. Frames. He formed the Shark River Water Company and provided the lower parts of the town with piped water as the pressure was not a problem there. Taps were placed at intervals along the length of the pipe which stretched to North End. “Frames’ Reservoir” on the Shark River was completed during January 1864 and the Governor, Sir Philip Wodehouse, was taken to see it during his visit in February. The scheme bankrupted Frames and he was compelled to return to working as a plumber and contractor. The Municipality then took over the water supply.

Woolwashery

With the wool industry becoming the dominant industry in Port Elizabeth, entrepreneurs entered the industry and opened woolwashing businesses wherever plenty of water was available. Woolwasheries were opened in the Baakens River as well as in Uitenhage. Frames even tried his hand by opening a woolwashery on the banks of the Shark River before the sand dunes first encroached on the property and then overwhelmed it

Woolwashing in Humewood

Isolation hospital

 In the 1880s, the whole area which today encompasses Humewood and Summerstrand was undeveloped without even a direct road connecting these areas to Port Elizabeth. As such this was eminently suitable for the construction of a lazaretto, an isolation hospital for people with infectious diseases, especially leprosy or plague. Recognising its seclusion, the Council selected the banks as a ideal place to locate this facility. An outbreak of small-pox in the Colony led the Council to construct two wood-and-iron buildings on the south side of the Shark River as an isolation hospital. This facility was formally opened on the 9th September 1882. Perhaps the location was too secluded with difficult access because twelve years later, the Council selected the site of present Elizabeth Donkin Hospital as the location for the replacement hospital.

The Shark River taken from where the current Brooks Pavillion is situated. The building on the upper right is the Lazaretto Infectious Diseases Hospital

The slipway

This is one of the few artefacts of early Happy Valley which is still extant except that many residents of Port Elizabeth are unaware of what the six pillars still visible represent.

Construction of the slipway which could handle vessels of up to 400 tons, was commenced in 1899. A boat was steadied between the 6 masonry piers and a cradle was lowered underneath. Steam-driven hauling gear then pulled the cradle and boat onto dry land. Immediately after its opening on the 29th July 1903, it was brought into use. On the following day, the steam lighter Loch Gair was drawn up for repairs. On the 10th August the James Searle was also brought onto land while two new iron lighters were being built.

It was taken out of use in 1939, and much of the structure has since been removed.

Railway line

Of all the Branch Lines in Port Elizabeth, this one is the least known. Initially it was laid as part of the project to tame the supposedly deadly driftsands which would encroach and smother the site chosen for the harbour. To prevent this apocalypse, it was decided to cover this moving sea of sand with the garbage generated by the residents of Port Elizabeth. The garbage was required as fertiliser for the planting of the chosen species of grasses, bushes and trees, the sand being further stabilised by spreading tree branches and erecting wooden fences at intervals as required. The reason why garbage in those days was regarded as compost is because it was mainly comprised of organic material except for glass whereas refuse today is mainly generated by packaging.

Old Humewood showing Shark River, the railway line and the Slipway

This standard-gauge railway line was constructed in late 1892 or early 1893, and the use of the coastal section of this railway for passenger traffic followed the sale, on 30 May 1893, by the Harbour Board of 20 marine villa sites between the original Happy Valley (where the Apple Express railway line now runs) and Klein Shark River.

Shark River with boat on slipway
Tram at Humewood

This railway line would only operate for 10 years. On the 23rd October 1903, the Harbour Board’s passenger train service to Humewood was terminated. As the Driftsands project was drawing to a close, it was probably apparent to the Harbour Board that the passenger service which only ran once per week on a Sunday, could not cover the costs of the service. In the wake of the extension of the tram route to include Humewood in October 1902, it made little sense for the Harbour Board to offer a competing service. On 21st January 1903, the tram service to Humewood, operating at half hourly intervals and a trip cost 3 pence, commenced.

Passengers alighting from trams at Humewood

Developments come thick and fast

On the 23rd Mar. 1904, the first café was proposed by Mr. H. Lucas . A wood-and-iron cafe was erected at Humewood by arrangement with the Harbour Board which owned the land. Known at first as the Cafe Monaco, it was later taken over by R.M. Cells.

The Beach Cafe of Robert Cells

In time for the summer season, groynes were built on the Humewood beach on the 6th November 1907. The function of this low wall or sturdy barrier, built out into the sea from the beach, was to check erosion and to increase the extent of the sand. Ropes were hung to demarcate the bathing area and a bandstand was erected north of the mouth of the Shark River. The building of the Shark Rock pier has performed a similar function at Hobie Beach.

Humewood before the Bathing House was built

During this period Port Elizabeth was experienced a commercial slump and many residents were out of work. To alleviate the plight of the unemployed a Distress Relief Committee was formed as well as a Labour Bureau. Amongst the relief works actioned, was the terracing the cliff at Humewood in July 1908 and in 1909 the widening of Humewood Road was commenced.

Crowds on the terrace stands at Humewood Beach

During the yearend holiday season, the “Olympic Fun Fair” with a Big Wheel, Helter Skelter, aeroplane and a Chamber of Horrors was set up in Humewood until the Easter holidays were over. The Olympia was held every year until 1920.

Humewood Beach in the early 1900s before the developments

The era of entertainment

The current era of Happy Valley forming part of an entertainment mecca on the southern beach front was now conceived. This initiative was spearheaded by the Beach Improvement Committee, one of the multitude of municipal committees in existence. To this end, the BIC together with the Harbour Board Engineer and the Town Engineer inspected three sites on the 14th May 1906 to determine which was the most suitable for use as a camping ground. The site between the Little Shark River and the slipway was chosen and £500 was made available for bathing houses and  toilets on Humewood beach, a water supply and an artificial lake for children in Happy Valley.

Childrens’ Pool in Happy Valley

Further upgrades

In May 1909, Robert Cells, proprietor of the cafe at Humewood, was given permission to erect a helter-skelter there. Later he setup a roundabout as well.

With the resurgence of roller skating in 1909, numerous roller skating rinks were opened during that year with two being in Humewood. The first rink, the Humewood Rink, was established in the old tea garden adjoining the Humewood Beach Hotel and the second, the Beach Rink, was near the Shark River.  

Roller skating at the Humewood Beach Hotel

On the 6th October 1909, the Town Council decided to erect wooden frame huts with canvas sides at the Humewood camping ground.

Bungalows at Humewood – a wooden structure with canvas sides

Further developments arose. On the 12th April 1913, the Octagon Café on the promenade, designed by A.S. Butterworth and owned by the Municipality, was opened. The concrete foundation went down to rock. The forty-foot diameter cafe could seat 400 and consisted almost entirely of leaded light glazing. The substance of the Octagon was neither durable nor easy to maintain. By 1941 it was an “eye-sore” and was demolished in 1942.

The Octagon Cafe

The expansion of the recreation facilities at Humewood Beach gathered momentum when on the 4th July 1913, the foundation stone of the new bathing house at Humewood, designed by A.S. Butterworth, was laid by the Mayoress, Mrs. A.W. Guthrie. Built by Kohler and Sons, it had a reinforced concrete foundation based on rock. It was opened by the Mayor on 6 December. The existing ladies’ bathing house was removed. After the 1968 flood the building was demolished having been irreparably damaged.

1919 was a bumper year for improvements at Humewood. Firstly, on the 9th March 1919 the ratepayers approved the borrowing of £150,000 to build an hotel at Humewood, a tidal bath and other improvements.

This hotel was built to replace the Humewood Beach Hotel which had been burnt down and was ultimately called the Elizabeth Hotel, the mark 1 version. The second issue was the inviting of tenders for the erection of a model bungalow at Humewood. not to cost more than £300 on the 16th April.

Humewood Beach in 1912

Town Attractions Improvement Scheme

In terms of the Town Council’s Town Attractions Improvement Scheme, it was proposed that 150 more bungalows were to be built at Humewood. On the 7th May 1912, the Ratepayers agreed to the borrowing of money to carry out this scheme. One hundred and fifty more bungalows were proposed to be built at Humewood. In addition, an attractive wooden cafe was built just south of the Shark River mouth. Robert Cells’ old wood-and-iron Beach Cafe was demolished in September to allow for road widening and a pavilion was erected at the top of the completed terrace built on the hillside.

Camping ground at Humewood

The Promenade Dome or “Tin Hat”

During a short farewell visit to Port Elizabeth on the 6th November 1923, the Governor-General, Prince Arthur of Connaught, and Princess Alexandra, Prince Arthur opened the Campanile and amongst other functions, Princess Alexandra opened the “Princess Promenade” at Humewood. The promenade was built in sections over several years. The official opening took place under the Promenade Dome, designed by the Assistant City Engineer, J.J. Burt. Commonly known as the “Tin Hat” from its resemblance to a First World War helmet, there is a bronze plate, the work of J. Gardner, to commemorate the occasion.

Tin Hat

With the formal opening of the new Humewood Cafe next to Happy Valley on the 22nd December 1924, this entertainment area possessed most of the elements that have come to be regarded as Humewood Beach/Happy Valley. This was a Municipal project and the drawings were ready in 1923. The upper floor was designed for dancing and the first lessee was S. Kramer. Over the years the cafe was known by several names and was demolished after the 1968 flood.

Damage to the wooden bungalows with canvas sides

Illumination

A final adornment would add the finishing touches to this area. On the Dec. 5th 1925 Humewood and Happy Valley were illuminated for the first time and bathing at night was allowed. The nature of the illuminations became more imaginative and elaborate with time. A year later during December 1926, the Council agreed to the lighting of Humewood, including the Octagon, during the summer season.

The final touches

Due to the serious housing shortage, the City Council decided on the 8th February 1928 to let the Humewood bungalows to local residents, and by 1st March 1929 all of them were let on a permanent basis. From January 1932, an Amusement Park was in operation at Humewood on the southern bank of the Shark River during the holiday season.

Happy Valley with the placid insouciant Shark River

The final death knell of the Klein Shark River which split from the main course of the river occurred with the building of the Humewood Bowling Club. By that stage the river’s path to the sea had already been effectively blocked due to the construction on 15th  December 1928 of Municipal bowling green which had been opened at Humewood on the filled-in valley next to the Hotel Elizabeth..

A private bowling club, Humewood Bowling Club, was opened on the 10th February 1932 by the Mayor H.J. Millard and Mr. D.M. Brown, President of the E.P. Bowling Association. When the new bowling club was formed it took over the care of the original municipal green

During March 1937, a life-savers’ tower at Humewood, begun in December 1936. was completed and on the 3rd September 1937, the Humewood Cafe re-opened as a “Cafe de Luxe and Cinema Lounge”.

1936 Art Deco lifesaving tower

Destruction

This idyll was to be shattered when, on the 1st September 1968, Port Elizabeth was struck by a devastating flood in which the timid, inconsequential insouciant trickle gurgling through this valley was transformed into a raging turbulent hurtful river which swept all before it even managing to fill the river course from bank to bank to the height of half a metre over the road bridge.

Floods in 1968

Sources

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (2004, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth)

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The South Jetty

Of all the jetties in Port Elizabeth, only the North Jetty possessed any cachet. Probably a reason for this situation was that the North Jetty was close to the central part of town being at the foot of Jetty Street.  

For this reason hundreds of photographs of this jetty are still extant todays whereas only a dozen are available of the South Jetty and perhaps half that number of the Dom Pedro Jetty.

This blog serves to highlight what is known about this jetty

Main picture: South Jetty

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Slavery and the Dom Pedro Jetty

The last of the jetties to be built in Port Elizabeth, before the construction of the harbour in the 1930s, was this jetty. The story of how this jetty obtained its non-English name is fascinating as it conjures up images of an era when the scourge of slavery prevailed and the endeavours to eradicate it were in progress.

Port Elizabeth played its part in its elimination in the person of Captain Francis Evatt, commander of Fort Frederick. But that is another story.

Main picture: Dom Pedro Jetty being used to build the breakwater in 1923

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New Brighton: The Case of the Missing Game Birds

In the 1800s, before New Brighton was transformed into a “Model Native Settlement” by relocating blacks from the inner city locations to this area, this stretch of land between the mouth of the Papenkuils River and the Fishwater Flats abutting the Swartkops River, was known for the New Brighton Hotel and the Outspan, both owned by Matthew Berry.

The awarding of shooting rights to this flat vacant expanse of land and the mystery of the missing game birds would have to be settled in court.

Main picture: A duck hunter in 1890

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Inhabitants of Uitenhage

At the risk of stating the obvious, most residents of Port Elizabeth regard Uitenhage as a dirty unpleasant industrial town, the like of which one never needs to visit unless it is on official company business.  Yet 200 years ago, when the hamlet of Port Elizabeth was established, Uitenhage was the district administration centre with Port Elizabeth forming part of Uitenhage. Today the converse is true. In short order, Port Elizabeth surpassed Uitenhage and is now the driving force in the region.

In Port Elizabeth’s hubris, it should never dismiss Uitenhage out of hand but should rather acknowledge it as having an equally interesting history and that it now boasts the largest industrial plant in the Eastern Cape in the form of VW.

Main picture: Trekboers in the Karroo

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Account of the First Ascent of the Cockscomb

At 1768 m, the Cockscomb is one of the highest peaks in the Eastern Cape. Apart from that, its claim to fame during the age of sail was that the mountain acted as a mariners’ landmark as it was visible from the sea. As the local burghers never showed any inclination to climb it, it fell to an outsider, an adventurer, with time on his hands to become the first to do so. It was to be Lieut. Walter Sherwill who, during 1840 whilst on a visit to Port Elizabeth, would succeed.

Main picture: The Cockscomb peak

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Military Fortification

Call it what you like, but this crude fort had the distinction of being not merely the first military fortification in Algoa Bay – as Port Elizabeth was then called – but also the only fort in Port Elizabeth to experience military action. What would the future hold for this extemporised military fortification? Certainly, it should have been recognised much more than the Johnny-come-lately, Fort Frederick, which was unbloodied in war. Star Fort did not survive long which is quite understandable given the fact that it was hastily constructed and just as hastily abandoned.

Main picture:  There are no extant sketches of this fort other than this reference to Star Fort on the map of Cradock Place on which it is situated

Geopolitical events

Events both locally and in Europe were tumultuous during the late 18th century. With the French under Napoleon rampaging across Europe and the ideals of the French Revolution spreading to Holland itself, the Stadtholder, Prince William of Orange, took refuge in England and requested the assistance of the English. This highly unusual request was for the English to take custody of the Cape Colony in order to prevent the French from doing so and thus controlling the sea route to India. This annexation would be predicated on the understanding that it would extend until such time as the Dutch were able to re-assume control. The Cape at this time was still under the control of the Dutch East India Company, the VOC.

Prince William of Orange

To enable a smooth transition of power, the Prince requested the Governor at the Cape and the military authorities to give control to Britain when the Naval contingent arrived in Table Bay, but although this was eventually achieved, the burghers, especially in the interior, wanted independence from authority of any kind, Dutch, English or otherwise. Herein lay a second threat. As the spectre of unilateral declarations of independence amongst the restive local Dutch population became ever more palpable, speed was of the essence.

In September 1795, the British squadron sailed into Table Bay to take control of the Cape. Bearing the Deed of Transfer, the transition was achieved without any hostilities being experienced with the VOC officials. Notwithstanding the relative ease of the handover, the burghers at Swellendam and Graaf-Reinet made thinly veiled threats pointedly warning the English that they were intent on achieving independence from authority of any kind. In truth, a far greater threat lurked in the form of intervention by the French. This could take the form of manpower or weapons or perhaps even both. To stave off disaster, boots on the ground would have to be despatched post haste to the eastern frontier. Even though it was an article of faith amongst the English soldiers regarding their superiority over colonial inhabitants, these colonials were more akin to themselves in their use of firearms and not ineffectual spears and shields.

Graaff Reinet

What led to the redoubt’s establishment?

In truth the real impetus for the establishment of this fortification was an act of expediency driven by the conditions on the ground. This related to the interminable Frontier Wars as well as the well-founded fear that the French would come to the assistance of the rebels at Graaf-Reinet who had declared independence.

With little faith in divine intervention or happenstance to resolve these problems, in early 1799 Major-General Charles Dundas set the wheels in motion by despatching two forces to Algoa Bay. Being a distance of approximately 750kms from Cape Town, Brig-Gen Thomas Pakenham Vandeleur must have picked the short straw as he was commanded to lead one column on this momentous overland journey through the Langkloof. As it is reported to have taken 18 days, this implies that the men, who were on foot, marched over 40 kilometres per day. It is presumed that officers such as Vandeleur rode on horseback.  

Major Thomas Pakenham Vandeleur

Their ultimate destination was a farm, “Riet Vallei” in the Zwartkops Valley close to where Uitenhage would be established some 4 years later in 1804. It was the farm of a widow, Betje Scheepers, whose husband had been killed in a Xhosa raid, which Vandeleur chose as the halting place. While his men rested their blistered feet & weary limbs, Vandeleur went on to Algoa Bay to meet the second contingent of troops whose fortune it was to be ferried by ship, the HMS “Star” and HMS “Hope, to Algoa Bay.

This freshly disembarked force of the 91st Regiment formed a camp on Ferreira’s farm, Papenkuilsfontein, where they built “Star Fort”, an earth redoubt, which became the first defence fortification in the eastern part of the Colony. This farm was later made famous by Korsten with his whaling and sheep farming industries and was renamed “Cradock Place”. After completion of the Fort, the two detachments joined forces at “Riet Vallei” and continued their march to Graaff ­Reinet to quell the disturbances among the dissatisfied farmers. It is interesting to note that this Fort was constructed around the rudimentary house of the farmer, Ferreira, on whose farm they were encamped.

Hoping to restore their independence and territorial rights, during May and June the Khoikhoi, began attacks on Dutch farmers, now short of ammunition, in the area between Graaff-Reinet and the Zwartkops River. The Xhosa under Chungwa also made attacks and farmers began to leave the district. In August the Xhosa invaded along the Fish River.

First military action

It was during one of these periodic forays into the Colony that Star Fort featured prominently in a daring enterprise.On their return from Graaff-Reinet General Vandeleur and his men found that serious trouble had once again broken out nearer the coast; the land lay devastated and deserted, the inhabitants including Widow Scheepers of the farm Riet Vallei, after being besieged for three days and nights, had taken refuge at “Star Fort”.

A huge body of black warriors – Khoikhoi and Xhosa – attacked Star Fort in broad daylight on the 10th August 1799, driving off cattle and sheep pastured outside the fort. The horses of the Dragoons were grazing some distance away. Hence it took a while before a pursuit could be organised once the attackers had herded the defenders’ animals away. It was only when the raiders reached Kleinskool that the incensed Dragoons caught up with them. Accompanying them were two field pieces. Here the attackers had elected to savour some of their spoils of war by having a hearty meal; the ingredients had unwittingly been supplied by the troops’ own livestock. Caught unawares, forty of the attackers lay dead at the conclusion of the clash, while the rest of their erstwhile companions dispersed into the surrounding scrub and bush.

According to Harradine, in order to strengthen this post against further Khoikhoi and Xhosa incursions, a breastwork was added. In addition, it was planned to erect a blockhouse armed with two 3-pounders near the mouth of the Baakens River. On the 19th August the “Camel” left for Algoa Bay with a blockhouse for 50 men and 30 artificers aboard to erect it.

Second action

It was on the 20th September 1799 that this puny earth fort made its greatest contribution to the defence of the hamlet of Algoa Bay. As the blockhouse had not yet been completed and the building of Fort Frederick not yet commenced, it was the insignificant Star Fort which would have to play a leading role in the defence. This action commenced with the French frigate, the Preneuse, entering Algoa Bay under false colours and exchanging fire with the sloop, Rattlesnake, and the storeship, Camel. The masts of the “Camel” were damaged, and the quartermaster and a carpenter were killed. Although having the advan­tage, the French ship left the Bay and was later sunk off Mauritius, when her true identity became known.

Fight between the ship of the line, Jupiter and the French frigate, Preneuse

It was the troops at Star Fort, who saved the day for the English vessels. As the British ships were hopelessly outgunned by the Preneuse, the HMS Rattlesnake and the HMS Camel were at risk of being sunk. By moving their puny guns from the fort to the seashore and engaging the French frigate, the French vessel gained the impression that there was a formidable shore battery. Under this mistaken impression, the Preneuse left the Bay. It needs to be understood that this ruse was only successful because their fire was at night. As the French vessel could only discern the flash as the shot was fired but could not ascertain the fall of the shell, they were unable to determine the effectiveness of the shore battery’s fire. Being in a rolling ship, an artillery duel with a fixed shore based battery would place them at a disadvantage, they elected to retreat instead.

Mark on history

In this regard, Margaret Harradine makes a salient point. This redoubt has subsequently been referred to as “Star Fort” even though this appellation was not used once during its occupation, despite letters being posted from it during this time. Perhaps that is indicative of the lack of significance of this fort to the residents of the future town. Nonetheless, there is somebody who recognised its existence and noted the fact that it was not a chimera; the artist who drew the map of Cradock Place.

How long was this fort in existence for? No records are extant to determine this but given the fact that a stone fort formally known as Fort Frederick overlooking the Baakens’ lagoon had become operational during February 1800, the importance of this earth redoubt was probably called into question. A best guess as to its fate is that it was carried away in the winds unnoticed and unmourned by any of the troops that were stationed there.

Sources

Pamphlet produced by the Uitenhage Museum dated 1960 Old Times and Odd Corners by John Centlivres Chase (1975, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth) Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (2004, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth)

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Zwartkopswagendrift

The hallmark of the half decade prior to the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820 was the steady encroachment of the Dutch farmers from the west. In spite of every effort on the part of the Cape governors to prevent the farming burghers from spreading  eastwards, this ineluctable movement did not abate.

This blog covers the settling of this peripatetic people in the Zwartkops Valley

Main picture: Trekboers crossing the Karoo by Charles Davidson Bell

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Victorian School in Park Drive

Today the elegant Victorian mansion ‘Knockfierna’ in Park Drive now masquerades as a school. It ushered in the 20th century as the home of a wealthy wool merchant and farmer, John Daverin. Much more than that he was also a Member of Parliament and philanthropist. Now largely forgotten, his legacy endures in the form of the St Georges Preparatory School.

Detailed information on the house and the three occupants who resided there prior to its conversion into a school are covered in a separate blog. This blog is merely a copy of the school’s history from its website.

Main picture: St George’s Preparatory School in Park Drive

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