Port Elizabeth of Yore: Charles Lovemore

Henry Lovemore was the progenitor of the extensive Lovemore clan from his “kingdom” known as Bushy Park on the west coast of Port Elizabeth. Charles was the fortunate son who inherited this vast area on his father’s death. Eleanor K Lorimer recorded that “Charles was the youngest son of Henry, a much-married gentleman of means who, on his arrival in 1820, purchased a large estate a few miles from “the Bay” and built on it a rambling colonial house, which is still standing. Bushy Park as it is called, is still occupied by the Lovemore family. Charles, born about 1826, grew into a gay young man who would often ride 12 miles to Port Elizabeth to attend a dance after his day’s work on the farm. He would be back on the job by six the next morning in spite of the wolves (hyenas) which ravaged the woods along the road.”

Main picture: Charles Lovemore

The young man inherited Bushy Park from his father and, being a keen farmer, travelled to Swellendam hoping to obtain cattle for breeding from the Moodie herds at Grootvadersbosch.

Above: Moodie House at Grootvadersbosch

There he met and fell in love with Marjorie, the daughter of Benjamin Moodie (Head of a Scottish group that came to the Colony in 1817). He married her in 1856 and brought her back with him to Bushy Park. The journey must have been a great ordeal for the 22-year-old bride. The couple travelled in a tented wagon through the Langkloof, crossing rivers and mountain passes – country still swarming with wild beasts. They arrived at Bushy Park at night, to be greeted by two austere maiden ladies, elderly stepsisters of the bridegroom, who had been brought up by them after his mother’s early death.

Port Elizabeth, although described by others as holding no attraction for young people, was a garrison town at that time, and dances, balls and amateur theatrical performances were organised by the Military for those who, presumably, moved in the right circles. Large parties were also entertained at Bushy Park. Young Mrs Lovemore enjoyed this social life and soon became noted for her beauty. “The loveliest girl I ever saw” said a Mr. Pearce of Cape Town who met her eldest daughter in later years.

A long line of children was born to the Lovemores, and two of the daughters, Mrs Jessie Allen and Mrs Mary Cripps, both wrote down, in extreme old age, their reminiscences of early days at Bushy Park and Port Elizabeth. Jessie, eldest daughter and second of the twelve children, was born in 1859, and one of her earliest memories was of the great fire in the Tzitzikama Forest in the 1860’s. Although Bushy Park was eighty miles away, dense smoke penetrated to it and plans to escape, if necessary, were made. Elephants were roasted alive and many white and coloured people burned to death, but the fire was arrested before it reached Bushy Park.

Above: The children of Charles and Margery Lovemore

Left to right: (Back) Charles, Walter, Alfred and Harry

                      (Middle) Hector, Florine, Jessie, Mary, William

                      (Front) Ina and Sinclair

Jessie learned to ride when she was four years old, and within two years was riding the twelve miles into town with her father. Her riding hat of brown beaver, ornamented with an English cock pheasant’s tail feathers, and neatly fitting Holland habit with its long skirt, were a source of great pride. All the family rode at times, the beautiful mother on a black horse, Dorwood. She wore a brimless hat, and her brown curls hung on her shoulders. The children’s ponies were cream, with black mains and tails. The little girl was left for a time with an aunt in Port Elizabeth in order “to learn the ways of girls and to play with dolls instead of climbing trees and running races with her brothers”. On an afternoon visit to a friend she had an unfortunate experience which is best described in her own words. “I, being six years old, sat on the swing, dressed in the fashion of the time with drawers almost to my ankles and a crinoline, and as I sat my crinoline bobbed up in front. Thinking this unseemly, I tried to push it down, and in doing so I let go my hold on the rope and fell in the cobbles, hurting my back.” Although the injury did not seem serious at the time, she suffered from it considerably in after life, but those were Spartan days and “children did not mention any injuries they received in playing, afraid, I dare say, that they might be blamed for playing rough“. Crinolines must have been the cause of embarrassment, if not injury, to others than six-year-old girls, and certainly their management was a rich source of inspiration to caricatures of the period.

Hunt at Bushy Park

Bushy Park hunts became famous and were a feature of Port Elizabeth life for many years. Those invited “arrived in carts, bringing with them riding horses and dogs. There was much talking and loading of guns on the wide stoep…. The women of the family were taken in carts to the place where the warriors would assemble for lunch, and there were cold chicken pies and coffee.”

The Lovemore children went to schools in Port Elizabeth, Jessie to Miss Holl’s and her two brothers to Sandford’s, which stood above a long flight of steps up from Russell Road. The little boys were so homesick that they climbed on to a passing wagon and were taken the twelve miles to Bushy Park. Alas, they were made to walk the whole way back again, in the care of an old coloured woman. The boys and their younger brothers later went to the Grey Institute and thence to St Andrew’s, Grahamstown. Jessie progressed to the Holy Rosary Convent and then was one of the first pupils of the Collegiate School for Girls, opened in 1874, but much of the family’s early education was given by a succession of governesses.

Jessie retained clear memories of a visit paid to her aunt by the artist, Thomas Baines. “He and myunt appeared to have known each other in earlier years. He dined with her and us and we children took him for our favourite walk to the Lovers’ Rock, overlooking Handfield’s Valley. He was charmed with the view, and as he sat chatting with us on the rock, took sheets of paper from his drawing block and gave them to us, telling us to put five dots, one to represent the head of a man, and four for hands and feet, in any position we wished, and he would draw a man to suit them. We tried to puzzle him, putting them in different positions, but he [always] fitted in the man most cleverly.”

Above: McWilliams’ house in Baakens Valley

Was it on this occasion or on a later visit, in 1874, that Baines sketched the old McWilliams house in Brickmaker’s Kloof, with grounds belonging to the Alabaster family and their bakery, with the Baakens River and busy washerwomen in the foreground? The artist seems to have been sitting on the heights above and looking down on the scene. We know that on several occasions he spent a. few days at the Bay on his way to or from England, and during his last visit, in 1874, he not only painted a busy harbour scene, but delivered two lectures. Baines was an artist of considerable ability, and his works are not only valuable as documentary evidence on Southern Africa before the days of photography but show artistic competence of no mean order.

He illustrated each of his two lectures with two large poster-like sketches, which are still in the possession of the Port Elizabeth Public Library and are probably unique in the immense volume of work Baines left behind him. He had accompanied Livingstone on an expedition to the Zambesi, a venture which had a disastrous conclusion as far as he was concerned, and he was the first artist ever to record the Victoria Falls. Baines’ second lecture was on early methods of gold washing and extraction, and the illustrations are of interest and importance. The painting of ships in the Bay in 1874 shows that steam was gradually taking the place of sail.


Lovemores Then and Now June 2000 (2000, Port Elizabeth, Down Town Print & Copy)

 Panorama of Port Elizabeth by Eleanor K. Lorimer (1971, A.A. Balkema, Cape Town)

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