Port Elizabeth of Yore: Alfred Brookes-Humewood’s Benefactor

Alfred Herbert Brookes will not be remembered for his stints as Town Councillor, Mayor or parliamentarian representing Port Elizabeth and he will probably also not be remembered for his numerous bequests to various bodies but should be remembered for his bequests for the improvement of Humewood.

Even if he not remembered for his philanthropy, he will be remembered as Brookes’ Hill is named after him.

Main picture: Camping on Brookes Hill in the 1920s

Biographical details
Alfred Brookes was born on the 14th November 1865 in Uitenhage and he died in Port Elizabeth on 3rd July 1944having remained unmarried. By occupation he was a feather merchant, owned a great deal of property and had an interest in the Port Elizabeth Assurance and Trust Co. and various sports. Brookes’ interest in the town’s welfare is evidenced by his role in civic affairs being Mayor from 1917-1928, Councillor from 1916-1932 and in 1908 he represented Port Elizabeth in Parliament.

On his death he left bequests to various bodies and the Brookes Bequest was set up by the municipality in 1945.

Other issues
Brookes was involved in a variety of issues over his life. This is an eclectic selection of issues.

The Press suggested that the renovation of the “Lanherne” at the S-Bend was financed from the “Brookes Bequest”

In November 1916 Alfred Brookes purchased the stables located between Clyde and Robson Streets in Rink Street not to operate them as livery stable but to  construct Port Elizabeth’s first block of flats, known as St. George’s Mansions, which comprised  8 four-roomed flats with an ornamental court in the middle.

The Fairview Aerodrome situated in First Avenue Newton Park was opened by Mayor AH Brookes on the 8th January 1928. As the first airport in Port Elizabeth, it was used as the Port Elizabeth base of Union Airways from the date of its foundation during the subsequent year.

During June 1908, the Boy Scout movement was started in Port Elizabeth by a group of youths on their own and the troop registered in England. In August 1909 Rev C.H. Clapp formed a troop and the second warrant in the Colony was issued to him as Scout Master of the No 1 Port Elizabeth Troop, which amalgamated with the first group. On 9 June 1910 a meeting was held in the Council Chamber of those interested in starting companies of Boy Scouts. The first committee included M.M. Loubser, J.W. Badcock, A.H. Brookes, C.F. Kayser, W. Macintosh, F.W. Fitzsimons, Col Cuming, John Fox Smith and Capt. Clift.

On 25 June the rules were adopted and Col H.B. Cuming elected first President. The earliest patrols were the Hill, Richmond Hill. North End, Sydenham, South End, Walmer and Children’s Homes. At the AGM on 29 July 1911 Sir Edgar Walton was elected President and D.M. Brown elected District Commissioner. The Scouts were a feature of Port Elizabeth life and present on all official occasions, playing a useful part in the proceedings. Their fund-raising efforts on behalf of charities were also notable.

Alfred Brookes’ auctioneering business of A.E. Marks & Co was located on the corner of Rodney Street and Main Street. Further on down Rodney Street the first hospital in Port Elizabeth was established by Dr. Dunsterville.

Newspaper cutting by David Raymer
Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (1996, E H Walton (Packaging (Pty) Ltd, Port Elizabeth, on behalf of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth).

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