Port Elizabeth of Yore: Brickmaker’s Kloof

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.

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Looking down Brickmakers Kloof towards South End

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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.

Map of Brickmakerskloof in mid 1800s

Map of Brickmakerskloof in mid 1800s

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.

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An aerial view of the Port Elizabeth harbour in 1933 with Brickmaker’s Kloof on the bottom right. The original brick works had long since been shuttered.

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.

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A 58 seat Guy ‘Trambus’ of 1967 in Brickmakerskloof a casualty

A 58 seat Guy ‘Trambus” of 1967 in Brickmakerskloof was a casualty

Subsequent Floods

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.

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Brickmaker’s Kloof today

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Sources:

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

 

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