Port Elizabeth of Yore: A Gentleman in the latter 19th Century

Apart from his name and a few other biographical details, there is a paucity of information regarding Howard Mapplebeck (1847-1909). Despite appearances that he was a prosperous individual, I am unable to establish much apart from the fact that he lived in a plush house on Emerald Hill. Having uncovered these photos on Flickr, I was intrigued. They cast a light on an elegant milieu and a graceful lifestyle.

Main picture: Howard Mapplebeck (1847-1909) with family and friends, Emerald Hill, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, 1886. Howard is in white with pith helmet. Seated in front of him are his children Sybil Mapplebeck (1875-1955) and Sydney Mapplebeck (1877-1904). Nanny Marie stands to the side. Photo taken in 1886 at the age of 39.

Apart from those threadbare facts, the one of the two other mentions that I can uncover about the mystery man is an entry in Margaret Harradine excellent tome: Port Elizabeth-a Social Chronicle to the end of 1945.

The entry is dated January 1883 in which Margaret recounts that “The South African Kennel Club was formed. For many years dog shows were held at the Show Ground as part of the annual Agricultural Show. The first do show was held on 14 and 16 March 1883 with about 200 entries. The judge was H Mapplebeck. Breeds represented were pointers, setters, retrievers, greyhounds, foxhounds, harriers, beagles, spaniels, sheepdogs, newfoundlands, bull dogs, bull terriers, rough-haired terriers, pugs, toy terriers, Pomeranians, mastiffs and boar hounds.

Howard Mapplebeck in 1886 in his Emerald Hill home with an unknown person. Typically he is dressed in white with a pith helmet

Howard Mapplebeck in 1886 in his Emerald Hill home with an unknown person. Typically he is dressed in white with a pith helmet

What this does indicate to me is that life in Port Elizabeth in 1883 was no longer in survival mode. Instead there was time to embrace the finer, more cultured things in life.  

Howard Mapplebeck, Birmingham, circa 1865

Howard Mapplebeck, Birmingham, circa 1865

In all of the photos in this collection, all taken in 1886, Howard is dressed in white with a pith helmet. Furthermore his children are also often included being his son Sydney Mapplebeck (1877-1904) and his daughter Sybil Mapplebeck (1875-1955). Their nanny Marie is also often shown.

Emerald Hill 1886. Howard in the background on a pony

Emerald Hill 1886. Howard in the background on a pony

As far as I can ascertain, Howard Mapplebeck was born in Birmingham in 1847. One of the photos of Howard as a young man is taken in 1865 at 18 years of age in Birmingham.

Howard with friends, children & their nanny, Maria

Howard with friends, children & their nanny, Maria

Whilst still residing in Birmingham, Howard had developed a passion for dog breeding. Howard had many of his prize breeds painted in water colour and these paintings are still extant. In fact he was extremely well known as a breeder of note even today.

A water colour painting of a Gordon Setter belonging to Howard Mapplebeck

A water colour painting of a Gordon Setter called “Blossom” belonging to Howard Mapplebeck

Presumably it was only after becoming famous as a breeder that Howard settled in Port Elizabeth. What is surprising is whilst many of his photos include his children and even the nanny, none show a Mrs Mapplebeck.

Howard with friends in Port Elizabeth in 1886

Howard with friends in Port Elizabeth in 1886

This detail is congruent with the picture of Howard as he is recorded as having judged a dog show in Port Elizabeth. From a notice in the Evening Post in New Zealand, the fact that a Howard Mapplebeck was a supplier of imported saddlery is also congruent with business dealings recorded in the London Gazette.

Howard with friend in 1886

Howard with friend in 1886

Without any additional information, it is possible that Howard only resided in Port Elizabeth for a short period and, as a minimum it must have been from March 1883 when he was a judge in a dog show until sometime in 1886 when all the other photos of Howard in Port Elizabeth were taken.

Howard with friends in PE in 1886

Howard with friends in PE in 1886

In his excellent book Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days, Redgrave makes mention of a Mr Mapleback [sic] who occupied a famous farm on Emerald Hill. Presumably, Mapleback and Mapplebeck are one & the same person. Redgrave records that a hotel licence was granted to Mr Mapplebeck. In his article on Emerald Hill in the 2007 edition of Looking Back, Richard Tomlinson refers to the Emerald Hill Hotel  which a Mr Eduard Steinmann opened in April 1883. He then goes on to state that Mr Steinmann was succeeded by a Mr Howard Mapplebeck as proprietor. Apparently eventually Mr Mapplebeck’s extensive house became the property of the Dominican Sisters who rebuilt it in order to run it as the St. Dominic’s Priory. The photo used in the blog from the Bunstead Collection showing this house, confirms it size.

The Emerald Hill Hotel tea gardens in 1898

The Emerald Hill Hotel tea gardens in 1898

Howard Mapplebeck (1847-1909) by O. Bättenhaussen, Port Elizabeth, c. 1890

Howard Mapplebeck (1847-1909) by O. Bättenhaussen, Port Elizabeth, c. 1890

From the Emerald hill homestead, one is afforded a panoramic view of the entire coast line around Cape Recife and the Bushy Park Estate which stretches for miles along the coast towards Cape St. Francis. Whether Howard ever experienced the warm-hearted hospitality of Bushy Park’s first owner, Charles Lovemore, one can only speculate. The chances are good that these two neighbours did indeed socialise. Maybe Howard did not share Charles’ passion for game hunting.

after-a-good-days-hunting

The final piece of information that I can uncover relates to a George Howard Mapplebeck who was admitted to the Holloway Sanatorium Hospital for the Insane, Virginia Water, Surrey for the period March 1901 – June 1902. That would have made Howard 54 years old. All in all, it is not outside the bounds of possibility that this is one and same person.

Case notes of George Howard Mapplebeck Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org p.136 George Howard Mapplebeck, 1903 case notes and photograph 1903 Holloway Sanatorium Hospital for the Insane, Virginia Water, Surrey Case Book No. 11 Certified Male patients admissted March 1901 - June 1902: p.136

1903 case notes and photograph of George Howard Mapplebeck 1903 at the Holloway Sanatorium Hospital for the Insane, Virginia Water, Surrey. Could this be the same Howard Mapplebeck?

PE in 1886. Howard with friends, c hildren & their nanny#02

Whoever Howard Mapplebeck was, he was certainly affluent and enjoyed the finer things in life.

Howard with friends in 1886

Howard with friends in 1886

A water colour painting of a Newfoundland dog named 'Leo' owned by Howard Mapplebeck

A water colour painting of a Newfoundland dog named ‘Leo’ owned by Howard Mapplebeck

Evening Post New Zealand 1881

Evening Post New Zealand 1881

Sources

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the End of 1945 by Margaret Harradine

Port Elizabeth of Bygone Days by JJ Redgrave

Photos from the Bunstead Collection on Flickr

Emerald Hill: The Farm, the Hotel and St. Dominic’s Priory by Richard Tomlinson in Looking Back 2007


4 Comments

  1. I found your information online and found it very interesting as we believe he was my great grandfather. He wasn’t married to my great grandmother her name was Mary Masters, who when living with Howard Mapplebeck in Chelsea, London was known as Mrs Matthews. Her youngest son George Howard was my Grandad. My Dad is called Howard. Howard Mapplebeck is connected to the company Mapplebeck and Lowe makers of Agricultural equipment in Birmingham, UK.

    Reply
    • Hi Juliet, Do you by any chance have any additional information about him such as when he arrived in Port Elizabeth, what his occupation was, did he ever return to the UK and when he died?

      Reply
  2. What I should say also that before my great grandmother lived in Chelsea as a land lady with Howard Mapplebeck in Chelsea on a previous census she had worked in service in Solihull. I wonder if Mary Masters was actually Maria the nanny that are in the photos. Of course this is just a guess but why would you have a servant in photos?

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