Port Elizabeth of Yore: Through the Eyes of the Poulter Family

The Poulter Family of Port Elizabeth might not have been prominent socially or in municipal affairs yet through the prism of this family, one is able to view life of the Port Elizabeth of yore. All of this information has been kindly supplied by Dale Poulter, the current generation of Poulters.

Main picture: Louis John Poulter as a member of the Southern Rifles

Henry Poulter

Henry Poulter, Dale Poulter’s great-great grandfather, was born about 1834 in , Crondall, Hampshire, England to Daniel Poulter and Mary Lovelock. He married Harriet Whatley in 1873 at George, Cape, South Africa. They had 9 children: Mildred Millicent Poulter, Henry Daniel Poulter, Louis John Poulter, Frederick Alfred Poulter, Harriette Eleanor Poulter, Ellen Blanche ‘Elaine’ Poulter, Annie (Johanna Louisa) Poulter, Lillie Maria Poulter and Thomas Lance Poulter

Henry moved to Port Elizabeth from George around 1893-1895. He had a sister, Anne Stevens (nee Poulter) who had emigrated to George in 1849.

Henry died in 26 July 1912 at Walmer, Eastern Cape, South Africa at the age of 80 years.  He was buried at St John the Baptist Church in Walmer on 27 July 1912.  His cause of death was senile decay and at the time he lived in Prospect Road in Walmer and his occupation was Gardener.

Home of Henry Poulter destroyed During early November 1908, a fire destroyed the home of Henry Poulter. Below is the report in the Eastern Province Herald of the 7th November 2008 written by Ivor Markman.

SHORTLY after 7 o’clock last evening the inhabitants of the south side of Park Drive, Cape Road Extension, and other places commanding a view of Walmer were startled by the sight of a conflagration, seemingly of considerable magnitude, which was raging in the heart of the “pushful suburb.” At the corner of Prospect Road and 11th Ave, within the grounds of the Walmer Gardens Hotel, stood a wood and iron house of six rooms and a kitchen.

This house was rented by one Richard Samuel CRAMER, a man of the working class not too well endowed with the wealth of this world, who lived there with his wife, his son-in-law, Henry POULTER, his daughter Mrs. POULTER, and the POULTER’s five children, Daniel aged 10, Ernest aged 7, Frank aged 4,Percy aged 2 and a girl aged one month. At 7 o’clock last evening the entire family, with the exception of three, were at tea in the dining room.

The youngest boys, Frank and Percy, were asleep, while Ernest was undressing to go to bed in the same room as them. Suddenly a crackling noise was heard in the direction of the CRAMER’s bedroom, which is situated on the other side of the house to that in which the three children were lodged.

On investigating and opening the door they were faced with a solid sheet of flame. The room inside was a positive furnace.

Some attempts were made to drown the blaze by throwing buckets of water on it, but the occupants were forced instead to make their escape from the building. Outside it was found all were safe except Frank and Percy.

With great pluck and presence of mind, POULTER, the father of the children, dashed back into the building and succeeded in bringing them out safe and sound. The house was consumed like matchwood and within a few minutes was burnt to the ground.

Louis John Poulter

Dale Poulter’s great-grandfather, Louis John Poulter, was probably born in Port Elizabeth as he is unable to locate find any records of him in George where birth records of all his brothers and sisters have been found.  The newspaper article , Couple had Diary Farm in Walmer, written in 1977 mentions that he had been in Port Elizabeth for 82 years which means that he had been there since he was 2 as he was born on 3rd Jan 1893.  So it’s possible that he was not born in Port Elizabeth but elsewhere and also probably not in George.

He was married  to Elizabeth Honigold on the 6 October 1917 at St John the Baptist church in Port Elizabeth by the Rev Hubert Mosel where Mr Poulter was bell ringer for 12 years. They had 6 children: Neville Geoffrey Poulter, Leonard Elwyn Poulter, Daphne Margerie Poulter, Erica May Poulter, Trevor Ivan Poulter and Vernon Godfrey Poulter.

In 1918 when the Spanish flu spread around the world, Elizabeth contracted the flu but survived.  A book on the Spanish Flu in South Africa lists her amongst the survivors. Louis joined the Southern Rifles when he was probably about 18 years and he may have served in the campaign in South West Africa.  Dale’s father had heard that his grandfather had served in WW1 but did not have any details but suspected it is in German SWA.  In all probability, this assumption is correct as the Southern Rifles formed part of General Botha’s troops which advanced from Swakopmund onto the capital Windhuk, later to be renamed Windhoek.

Louis Poulter passed away at the Red Cross Home, Walmer, Port Elizabeth, South Africa on the 12th  July 1984.  He was buried on 16 July 1984 at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Mr Louis Poulter as a Dairy Farmer

Poulter started Golf Villa Dairy in Walmer. It was situated on land bordered by Church and Short roads between 13th Avenue and 14th Avenue. In those days instead of the tarred roads of today, there were only narrow tracks then. Poulter built up his dairy herd to 72 and with the aid of eight labourers, he did his own deliveries while his wife, Elizabeth Poulter was the book-keeper.

He purchased his first few Frieslands from Jack Harvey at Barkly Bridge and later decided to cross-breed with a Jersey bull that was purchased from the Rev Hutton of Addo. This was an ideal combination as the Frieslands supplied the milk quantity and the Jersey the milk quality.  The cows were stable fed three times a day. He would just ring a bell and the herd would saunter walking back from across the valley.

Golf Villa Dairy in Walmer, on land bordered by Church and Short roads between 13th Avenue and 14th Avenue

A cousin of mine, Greville Wood, who used to live in Walmer as a child, recalls that the dairy used to deliver milk about 4 am in the morninf in a rattle trap bakkie. His mother used to put out a steel milk can on the stoep and a delivery man would run in and grab the can, exchanging it for a full one, run back to the bakkie with the chain holding the lid to the can rattling.

Holidays at Willows

One of the Poulter family recalls his holidays spent at the Willows. As the McCleland family would also spend their Easter Holidays at Willows during the 1960s, I can relate to the experiences recorded in this article from the brack spring to fishing in the various pools.

From the time [that] I was 11 months old, my family camped at the Willows for a few weeks every summer. Occasionally the wind blew us home with torn tents. We also went home periodically to wash our hair and clothes, collect post and water the garden. Dad fished from the rocks or went to the office to work. He dug trenches around the bottom of the tents when it rained to divert the water. Mom cooked or entertained friends who visited us or who were camping there too. She taught us all to swim by hanging onto her shoulders and kicking behind until we were brave enough to let go. Then she taught us to  dive off the wall which was built across a natural gap in the rocks to form a sheltered pool. A 44-gallon drum raft was anchored in the middle and grandpa pumped up inner tubes for us to play on. A natural brack water soring constantly  gushed from a pipe near the showers, before being channelled down to the beach. Hundreds of children learnt basic dam building skills at this green lined gutter. We explored the rock pools, caught ‘bollies’ on bent pins baited with crushed periwinkles, allowed shrimps to nibble our toes and make starfish zoos. We collected empty bottles, which we traded in at the café to buy nigger balls or Chappies bubble gum. As we grew older, we ‘checked out the talent’.

Our bedroom cottage tent was furnished with an old carpet, a chest of drawers and metal divans. The kitchen bell-tent had a wooden table, folding chairs, a Primus stove and Paraffin cooker with a blue flame, on a smaller table. Our water was stored in brown eathen-ware demijohns. Hurricane lanteens hung on nails on the tent poles. All this was carted down on the back of the RSCo truck. Once a mattress blew off. I remember thinking [that] it was a piece of paper blowing down the road. The dod, cats and budgie travelled in the car. Our site was in front of Tecoma at the south end of the Willows. All the thatched rondawels had indigenous flower names. Inside the thatch and support beams looked like spiders reflected in pur porridge spoons. Later we camped around the corner where garndpa dug a long-drop loo in the bush. There we saw real spiders. One night a wild car attacked Tinker who was sleeping on my legs. I still have the scars. Christmas beetles, plums and watermelon remind me of our happy times there. A tortoise visited us daily to gorge on plums.

Devastating fires occasionally ripped through the site which was surrouned by thick Port Jackson willow. The winds of change have blown, but we still have memories of fun in the sun at the Willows.

Later recollections

Mr Poulter, who had lived in Walmer for 82 years, could recall how initially there were a few little wood and iron houses around this part of Walmer at that time of which none still exist. They had watched the area change from a farming area into a residential area. Ultimately, their property shrunk to the house and garden they shared with one of their sons at 193 Church Road.


Information and photos supplied by Dale Poulter

Article by Ivor Markman dated November 2008 on the fire which destroyed Henry’s Poulter’s house during early November 1908.

Article by an anonymous member of the Poulter clan on holidays at the Willows

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