Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: The Cleghorn’s Building

Among the pantheon of buildings arranged around the Town Hall during the “classical” period of the town, was the Cleghorn’s Building. It is important not to forget that this building had a much more illustrious past as it initially served as the Herald’s offices after it relocated here from Titterton Lane just off Main Street.

Main picture: The original building at the foot of White’s Road, then occupied by the Eastern Province Herald

The original version of this building was built in 1861 for John Paterson, the proprietor of the Eastern Province Herald. Robert Stephen had been appointed as manager in 1884 and had been admitted as a partner in 1889.

Cleghorn’s Building on the right

The store was purchased by Cleghorn and Harris from the E.P. Herald in 1894. The timing of this move by the firm Cleghorn, Harris and Stephen’s was not fortuitous as on the night of Wednesday 6th May 1896 the building was gutted by fire. Apart from the complete destruction of the building, it also resulted in loss of life when coping stones fell onto a police constable and three firemen, killing Maxwell, the constable.

Cleghorn’s Building burnt down on 06 May 1896

Plans for the rebuilt store were drawn up by G.W. Smith. Further upgrades were made including a ladies’ tearoom in October 1904. This area was located on the verandah with its panoramic view across Market Square.

Cleghorns being rebuild

Cleghorn’s Building decorated for VE Day

In 1960, the Council sold the building to the Provincial Administration who proposed to demolish both Cleghorn’s and the Public Library in order to build offices. Fortunately for the citizens of Port Elizabeth, this plan was abandoned. In July 1972 portion of the plan was resuscitated when Cleghorn’s was demolished in order to widen White’s Road.

Cleghorn’s building

The department store was relocated to Westbourne Road but was permanently closed on 31st July 1972 and Garlicks took over the premises.

White’s Road today with the pigeons feeding on the former site of Cleghorn’s


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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