Port Elizabeth of Yore: The little-known Folley’s Bridge across the Baakens River

Bridges featured prolifically in Port Elizabeth’s storied history. In the early days the town was bifurcated into Town and South End by the pesky Baakens River with its the rude predilection for periodically wash away the bridges leaving the South Enders trapped on the south side of the river until the water subsided. Local ingenuity would emerge and entrepreneurs would provide alternative means of crossing usually by means of a makeshift raft.

Main picture: Folley’s Bridge  

One of the bridges which has been lost in the mists of history is the Folley Bridge. It is never mentioned in any history of the town and would never have resurfaced but for the fact that it is marked on the 1849 map of the town. Then what spurred the search was the finding of two photographs of a puny bridge which could not have been more than a pedestrian or horse bridge viz a minor bridge even its heyday. This bridge was situated below Fort Frederick and must have served the residents in the western portion of South End.

Maps from 1849 & 1889 showing Folley’s Bridge

The Folley Bridge never left a lasting legacy nor was it the stuff of legends unlike the bridge in Union Street when it spectacularly overflowed. With few exceptions it would only have been remembered by the few who used this frail bridge.

Finally, it even disappeared off the maps and then the memory of the residents. This short humble blog will hopefully pique interest in the minor things which were emblematic of the town.  

Accidental drowning

At about 1 o’clock on Saturday 27th December 1845, John Smith Kemsley, aged 9 years and 3 months, a son of Mr. KEMSLEY, fell into the Baaken’s River, while crossing the bridge when returning home, and was drowned. Every means at reviving him was resorted to but proved ineffectual. It is presumed that this tragic accident occurred on Folley’s Bridge and not on the bridge near the mouth of the river.

Above: Not Folley’s bridge but rather another pedestrian bridge circa 1890 being the bridge over Bridge Street adjacent to Brickmakerskloof
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