Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Origin of the name Newton Park

Having been brought up in Newton Park. I always assumed that I should know the origin of the suburb’s name, but like most people, I am blissfully unaware of how it acquired its name let alone the history of the area. Hopefully this blog puts this lack of information partially to rights.

Main picture:  Aerial view of Newton Park in 1938

Early history

In Margaret Harradine’s superb book on Port Elizabeth, she states that in 1818, the Baakens River Farm was granted to John James Berry. The numerous Berry family was well-known in the early days. His sons, Richard John and Matthew, were personalities in the early town. In 1826 the farm passed to 1820 settler John Parkin. Like all farms in that era, it was extensive comprising the current suburbs of Newton Park, Sunridge Park, Fernglen and Fairview.

John Parkin

The subsequent owners cannot be ascertained but in 1902, George Newton, born on 2nd April 1857 in Port Elizabeth, and his brother James, were both members of the Town Council when this piece of land came onto the market. With a few friends, they made an offer on this property. At that stage, this whole farm, comprised eleven hundred morgen, was known as Fairview. On successfully concluding the purchase of this property, the Fairview Suburban Estate Company was established in 1902 with Sid Hurd as the company secretary.

Memorial to John Parkin

Development of the suburbs

On the 24th July 1903, The Fairview Suburban Estate Company’s reservoir, a thirty-foot square structure built on the highest point, behind the old hotel in Cape Road, was ready for use. A windmill pump brought water from the Baakens River.

Ten Pounds for a plot in Newton Park in 1945

Thereafter a start was made to develop the area; roads were laid, attention was given to laying of stormwater drains, sewage, electricity and potable water etc. Only later were plots sold.  A deposit of £5 had to be made and the balance of £45 had to be repaid at £1 per month. The building of houses could now begin.

George Newton painted by G Harrison

During 1907, Fairview and Newton Park are laid out. Because George Newton had the foresight to establish a company, the first portion of the land was named after him: Newton Park. Other portions that were developed were Glen Hurd, Mangold Park and Walmer extension 12. Another portion of 60 ha which was developed, was prime land suitable for smaller factories.

Sunset in Cape Road, Newton Park

Later developments

In January 1926, the Newton Primary School was opened. The name was later changed to the Hendrik Verwoerd School. The foundation of the new school, designed by Eaton and Tait, was laid on 12 April 1930 by Mrs. Lilian Marks on land given by the Fairview Suburban Estate Co. The school was opened on 19 July 1930 by George Newton, Chairman of the Estate Company.

Herbert Hurd Primary School

In November 1939, the Fairview Suburban Estate Co donated land for a second primary school, to be named after Herbert Hurd, the sole agent for this company.

St Hugh’s Church

During November and December 1943, the problems of Newton Park, described as the “Cinderella” suburb) especially the lack of sewerage, proper roads and stormwater drainage, were aired at meetings and in the papers.

On 25th February 1925, the first mail plane from Cape Town landed on the Newton Park sports field. This was an experimen­tal air service organised by the Post Office and the SAAF, flying between Cape Town and Durban via Oudtshoorn, P.E. and East London. It was not viable and was terminated on 11th June.

Later life of the Newton family

The Newton family never made a fortune from this investment but there was always a modest income which was earned. George Newton believed that it was his duty to establish his sons in some type of business. To meet this requirement, he decided to sell his small properties in Port Elizabeth and relocate to Middelburg in the Cape. The land that he purchased was at Matjieskloof just outside the dorp where he stayed until his two sons had found their feet. Only then did he purchase two properties in the district.

Monument to David Baillie Lovemore at the Third Avenue ‘Dip’

These two sons, Herbert and one other, relocated to Bechuanaland, now Botswana, where free land was available for farming purposes. They quickly learned that there were no business opportunities. The only business transaction that Herbert concluded, was the purchase of 60 donkeys. After this, they decided to return to Middelburg with all 60 animals in tow.

Alexander Road High School

George Newton then laid out the first bowling club in Middelburg in Van der Walt Street. In recognition of this, one of the parks at this Bowling Club were named after him. Later Herbert, George’s son, purchased the farm, Die Vlei, which his son, Herbie eventually inherited.

One of  the lessons that George Newton’s applied in his life was “What you do, do it to the best of your ability”. His leadership ability was ultimately recognised by his appointment as president of the Middelburg Agricultural Union.

Effect on the 1968 floods on 83 Mowbray Street, Newton Park

Sources

Die Oorspong van die Naam Newton Park, Die Burger, Wednesday, 2nd July 2008

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


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