This steep Kloof which extends from the Baakens River at its foot to what is today Park Drive at the top must have obtained its moniker due to the activities of a Mr John Matthews. In 1822 he opened a brickfield at the top of what was to become Brickmaker’s Kloof to manufacture normal building bricks.
By as early as 1826, the well-known red roof tiles which are so prominent of the old houses in Port Elizabeth were also being made here. Captain Evatt even sent some samples of “his invention” to Cape Town, the purpose probably being to stimulate demand for this tile.
Main picture: View of Brickmaker’s Kloof from South End
Unlike the other kloofs, Brickmaker’s Kloof has never been afforded the recognition that they have. Perhaps that is due to the fact that it never had famous buildings lining it or perhaps for most people, it was merely regarded as a link road.
In my case, the reason why it is so ingrained in my psyche, is that I had to cycle up it when returning back from a swim at Humewood beach.
The Bus Garage
With its plentiful supply of water, the lower reaches of the Baakens River attracted some of Port Elizabeth’s first industries. On the site at the foot of the Kloof, a variety of different undertakings had operated. Amongst them on the site had previously been located a wool washery, laundry, sweet factory & finally a candle factory.On 15th March 1934, the Tramway Company took over this site & instead opened a bus garage at the bottom of the Kloof.
The 1968 Floods
Over the years earlier in its existence, Port Elizabeth had experienced numerous devastating floods but the previous floods were nothing compared to what happened in 1968 when 355 mm of rain fell in four hours. None of the kloofs & streams could cope with the downpour. The tramway company was particularly badly affected as the company’s main depot at the foot of Brickmakerskloof was cut off, with 90 buses trapped inside. Moreover, the workshops and precision machinery were buried under tons of rubble.
With the Baakens River being restricted by being canalised, the lower reaches are prone to flooding. Whenever Port Elizabeth experiences heavy downpours, Brickmaker’s Kloof can be flooded, dislocating traffic flow.
Brickmaker’s Kloof today
Port Elizabeth of Bygone Days by JJ Redgrave
Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine
Two recent photos by Jonker Fourie
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Enclosed Harbour Scheme in the 1930s