Port Elizabeth of Yore: In the Era of the 1837 Royal Engineer’s Map

What can be learned from examining a map in detail? Plenty. But in this case not so much. Being a military map, it does not include all the non-military buildings. This does have an advantage as it eliminates all the clutter. Hence it provides an overall perspective

Main picture: The complete 1837 military map of Port Elizabeth as drawn by the Royal Engineers

Military installations

Legends of all the existing and proposed military buildings

Evatt’s mill

Previously this mill was known as Gubb’s Mill as it was located on Gubb’s property which ultimately became Mill Park. As Captain Evatt was commander of the British forces based in Port Elizabeth from 1817 to 1847, it was in all probability him who organised to store gunpowder in this mill in 1834. The road on the right side states “To Cape Town”. Further up is a stream flowing down into the Baakens River. Later a road constructed in this valley would be christened Target Kloof. On the left side of the map is a road marked “To Muller‘s Farm, Buffelsfontein and Chelsea”. Muller at that stage owned the whole of the future town of Walmer. Buffelsfontein used to house the khoikhoi of the London Missionary Society at Botha’s Place before relocating to Bethelsdorp.

Rivers in the east

Two rivers are shown, the Baakens with its majestic lagoon before it was canalised by using the lagoon as a dump for rubble from 1864. The river which disappears before it reaches the sea, is the Shark River. Across the peninsular all the way to Schoenmakerskop was a sea of sand, aptly known as driftsands. The road from Buffelsfontein, came down “Walmer Road” swung left into South Union Street and crossed the Baakens at a drift with a blockhouse on the western bank.

Main and Queen Street

By 1837 High Street was known as Main Street. When the change occurred is unknown but an 1842 map in Chase’s book still refers to this prominent road as High Street. All three main roads to the Hill were originally kloofs with streams. As the kloof up Donkin Street was the not carved into a deep narrow valley with chasms and gorges and was instead a relatively smooth and less steep incline, this path was used as the main road to Cape Town. In 1837 neither White’s nor Russell Roads were used as thoroughfares but their pools of water were useful for the locals to wash their clothes in them. What is not mentioned is a toll gate below Hartman’s house after the future Russell Road.

Brickfield and Brickmakerskloof

The brickfield at the top of Brickmakerskloof.

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