Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Harries Clan – Father and Son

Among the people who were influential in the nascent Port Elizabeth, was the Harries Clan. This blog recounts the life of the father and son who deserve greater recognition.

Main picture: Painting of Port Elizabeth from South End by Walford Arbouin Harries about 1851

William Matthew Harries

Background

William Matthew Harries was born in July 1797 in London, Britain. On the 10th September 1829 at the age of 32 in London, he married Anna Maria, the youngest daughter of Abel Walford Bellairs from Haverfordwest in Wales. Together with his newly-wedded wife, William emigrated to South Africa in 1830.

Haverfordwest Castle and Western Cleddau river, Pembrokeshire

In the article by Margaret Rainier entitled The Identity of W.A. Harries, she elaborates how W.A.’s father, W.M. Harries, came to settle in the Cape. This is revealed in a book entitled Philipps, 1820 Settler.  In this book, Philipps describes how, on the 17th February 1830 he met with his young kinsman, William Harries and his wife Anna Maria, who had arrived in Algoa Bay some two weeks earlier.  This man was evidently William Matthew Harries, who was to become a notable figure in his own day, but who has been largely forgotten.  His name, and that of R. Harries of Bernard Street, Russell Square, in London, who may have been his father, occur several times in the published text of Philipps’ letters, and more often in the manu­script.  It appears from these that William Harries had considered emigrating to the Swann River Settlement in New South Wales, but, largely on account of Philipps’ influence, chose to come to the Cape of Good. Hope instead.  He had some idea of joining Philipps as a farmer, at Glendour, between the Kowie River and the Kasouga, but on reach­ing Port Elizabeth decided, wisely as events were to prove, rather to remain, and engage in business there.

Involvement with St. Mary’s

William rapidly became involved in the affairs of the St. Mary’s Church, being appointed as a church warden together with J.C. Welford from the period 1833 to 1839.

View of Port Elizabeth before both St Mary’s Church & No 7 Castle Hill were constructed

The affairs of the church were managed by this Church Committee, which in 1830 prior to Harries’ involvement, made a public appeal to raise £103, which would enable the church, together with the funds already in hand, to roof the church at a total cost of £1043, exclusive of glazing.

The oldest extant document consists of a Deed of Sale by the Churchwardens of three plots of the church ground, which included the whole of St. Mary’s Terrace, for the sum of £33 to Mr William Matthew Harries. Suffice to state that one hopes that the church complied with all corporate governance principles when alienating portion of the church’s assets to a member of the committee. All that Mayo and Wirgman would state in their book on the history of this venerable church, is that the church was compelled to purchase back portion of this land at inflated prices some thirty years later, in order to accommodate the Rectory.

St Mary’s Terrace in 1875

Business interests

Rainier also notes that “W.M. Harries was active in commercial life and public affairs in the Eastern Province from the time of his arrival, playing a part in almost every aspect of its development.  For example, in the first issue of the Graham’s Town Journal, which appeared in December 1832, he advertised his merchant and auctioneering business.  Similarly, in the very first number of the Eastern Province Herald, on 7 May 1845, he advertised again, announcing a sale of valuable property in Port Elizabeth, “in the Assigned Estate of John Norton”.

Advert in the inaugural Herald newspaper

According to The Eastern Province Directory and Almanac for 1848 (p. 77, 78) Harries was at that date an auctioneer in Port Elizabeth, and was also one of the members of the Port Elizabeth Trust Associa­tion.  A share certificate of the Eastern Province Mining Company dated 1 December 1854, in the collection of Mr. E.L.H. Croft of Port Elizabeth, names him as one of its directors.

Involvement in military affairs

Early in 1835, with Port Elizabeth still a teenager at 15 years of age, experienced its first real emergency. With the Xhosa tribes restive once again and attacks imminent during what was to become known as the Sixth Frontier War, Port Elizabeth was compelled to prepare against a possible attack. In order to obtain a clearer understanding of the unfolding events, the deeply troubled governor, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, elected to make an in loco inspection. En route to the frontier, D’Urban landed at Port Elizabeth. Embarking from his ship onto a surf boat, the Mfengu boatmen hauled them ashore using [rope] warps.

William Harries was appointed as Captain of the recently formed Port Elizabeth Yeomanry for service in the war. As a Captain in command of the P.E. Yeomanry, he escorted a diplomatic mission to the “friendly” chiefs early in 1835. Within Port Elizabeth, two lines of defence were established, the outer one was a wagon line and the inner line would allow the women and children to be evacuated, Dunkirk style, onto ships in the roadstead. Subsequently, he engaged in some of the fiercest fight­ing that year, at Trompetter’s Drift and elsewhere in the Fish River bush, against tribesmen who were not friendly at all. Martial Law was in force between 3rd January 1825 and 9th July 1836. Peace was later again restored on the frontier.

In 1846 William was to again experience military service except that on this occasion it was as a Captain in the Mounted Burgher Corps. During this and later conflicts, Harries does not seem to have taken the field.

60th Regiment of Foot

Involvement in civic affairs

His business enterprises prospered allowing William Harries to devote his leisure time to public affairs.

By the mid-1840s, the residents were of the belief that the requirements of the town had grown beyond the scope of the Resident Magistrate and his small staff. At a meeting of householders on the 9th January 1947 with William Smith in the Chair, a committee comprising W. Fleming, W. Smith, C. Andrews, J.C. Chase and W.M. Harries was appointed. Their brief was to draw up and adopt various regulations for the establishment of a municipality. Thereafter they were forwarded to the government.  Officially William was the Town Commissioner in 1847 and in 1856 he was the Deputy Sheriff.

In the early 1850s, vociferous complaints were articulated through the press regarding the appalling conditions of the prisons of the Colony, accompanied by painful descriptions of the wretched treatment of the prisoners. They were herded together in rooms regardless of sex, colour or degree of offence committed. Moreover, corporal punishment was meted out to them for the least offence. Investigations into prison conditions were held in every centre of the Colony and it was then decided to institute a Prison Board in each centre. The members for Port Elizabeth were William Fleming, Caesar Andrews and W.M. Harries.

William Fleming Junior (1833-1894)

Apart from his involvement in church and municipal affairs, Harries was earlier involved in politics at the Cape, and he was appointed an unofficial Member of the Legislative Council (at the time a relatively powerless and toothless institution) from 1848 until 1849.

Appointment onto Harbour Board

After numerous attempts at improving the harbour facilities in Port Elizabeth, good news came in September 1847 when it was announced that a draft ordinance for the improvement of the colony’s harbours was being prepared. In October, Ordinance Number 21, “For Improving the Ports, Harbours and Roadsteads of this Colony”, was passed. Furthermore, it proposed to set up a harbour commission at each port to develop harbour facilities. The first “Commissioners for improving the Port and Harbour of Algoa Bay” were only appointed on December 29. They were W Lloyd 1846-48, (Chairman), T A Bennet (harbour master), W M Harries, W Fleming and E H Salmond.

Another harbour scene from the 1880s

Despite the complaints about the harbour commission’s inactivity, by June 1848 they had completed a report, the Pilkington Scheme, which W M Harries undertook to lay before the Legislative Council.

In 1856 construction of the breakwater was commenced. Part of the project involved opening a quarry opened to the south of the Baakens and laying a tramway in order to convey the stone to the proposed site. Meanwhile a controversy erupted over the trucks that had been supplied by the government engineer’s office for the tramway. The harbour board complained at the end of April that they were “perfectly useless” because they were made for a 1.83 metre gauge. In August W M Harries entered a “protest against what I consider to be an erroneous and unnecessary expenditure in carrying on the present wooden stage over the stone work as well as against the costly and wasteful system by which the stone is conveyed to the hands of the masons.” He further went on to propose a moveable stage for when pile-driving commenced. Woodifield, the consulting engineer, was asked to investigate the complaint. He felt that there was no other way to move five ton rocks down a 45` incline. Harries’s proposal to lay the tramway directly on the completed stone work would result in the risk of damage to it and no work being done during rough weather. The advantages of the present tram system would become apparent as work proceeded. The wooden stage was necessarily high because of the relative heights of the quarry and the high-water mark. Once the breakwater was completed it could be removed “and fitted as a landing jetty at very little expense.”

First breakwater

Involvement in Politics

Elected to the Cape Parliament in 1858, he represented Port Elizabeth. In the 1860s, he led the Eastern Cape “Separatist League” in Parliament, together with the likes of John Centlivres Chase, which fought for a separate settler colony in the Eastern Cape. William served as MLA for Port Elizabeth from 1858 to 1859 and MLA for Cradock from the period 1861 to 1864.

John Charles Molteno

In 1863, he successfully fought one of the early moves by parliamentary leader John Molteno and his allies Saul Solomon and Frank Watermeyer, to institute “responsible government” (i.e. locally elected democratic government). In the same year, Harries fought to have the country’s capital and seat of government moved away from Cape Town, to a new location in the centre of the country.

Harries’ parliamentary career was summarised by “Limner”, who wrote that he sat as the representative, “now and formerly, of Cradock”, and

… There is no member taking an active share in party measures who stands so well with all sides of the house as Mr. W.M. Harries.  He is a resident, not of Cradock, but of Port Elizabeth and he might have represented it – the chief commercial town in the colony … if he had so willed it … He is known in the House as the Father of Separation; not, I believe, because he is the parent of that measure; but because he has advanced the agitation for it by every means in his power, and is now the oldest member among the Separation Party … He is one of the most accomplished members of the Assembly – a scholar and a gentleman.  He speaks with great fluency … Colonial Parliaments would be much more respectable than they now are if more men of Harries’ stamp filled seats in them.  As our Parliament is at present constituted, Mr. Harries, with all his ability as a speaker, with all his attainments as a scholar, with all his knowledge of Old history – is not qualified to be the leader of a party.  He is not sufficiently brusque and uncompromising … He last year was mover of the motion which brought Parliament to the East, …for that alone, the East will be under eternal obligation to him.  His speeches never lack vigour nor eloquence, but he shrinks from meeting the personal charges of his opponents with personalities of a like coarse and vulgar character.”

Apart from these appointments, William was also at various times, members of the Library Committee and the Harbour Board as well as a violinist in the Amateur Orchestral Society.

After leading such as full life, William Matthew Harries was to die at the age of 68 on the 10th April 1865.

In passing, Rainier describes William Harries as “acute, shrewd, yet public-spirited man of affairs

Harries on Lovemore’s Farm

Per Mrs. Allen, eldest daughter of Charles Lovemore, this 1867 picture depicting the results of a Hunt on which are shown, “my Mother on her fine horse “Dorwood”, Father with the then fashionable Dundreary Weepers … his hat had a paauw feather in it, and beside him were all the men who had been at the hunt.  Mr. Walford Harries, Willie Smith, Henry Deare …John Holland, my brother Walter about 6 years old … Brother Willie about 4 years, holding a dog and lying in an uncomfortable position.  Then there are Bob Pettit, Alphonse Taylor, Mr. Mitchell, Alfred Ogilvie, and George Hudson, later British representative in Pretoria …

Walford Arbouin Harries

Born on the 3rd February 1832, Walford was the only one of William’s four surviving children who achieved some recognition. In his case, it related to his artistic skills. Walford’s enduring legacy is one of the best-known paintings of early Port Elizabeth. On the strength of this, perhaps we may accord him the distinction of being the city’s first artist of local birth. However, he left no descendants to perpetuate his name.

Business and legal interests

With the expansion of Port Elizabeth, the various kloofs were gradually filled in to make way

for roads. This road building removed the washing places of the local laundry women. To meet this need, the Steam Laundry Company was opened on the 20th May 1877. To this end, the wool-washing building of Dunell, Ebden and Co was purchased and converted into a laundry. Where previously wool had been spread out to dry, now clothes would be spread on the wooden racks. The Company was formed on 10th September 1877 with the Directors being J.A. Holland, E.B. Smith, R. Thompson, J. Levick and Mr Walford Arbouin Harries.

Walford practised as an attorney and notary. His legal association in Port Elizabeth was with a certain William Robert Kennerley, who started off as a lawyer in Somerset East.  Kennerley was apparently a brilliant lawyer who married Helen Stegmann whose father was of fame in the DRC in Adelaide.

Interests

Amongst his interests are included art, hunting and the Separation League. As regards his art, only two works can definitely be attributed to W.A. Harries, one is probably and another is a possibility. The most accomplished and important of these is the “Southern View of Port Elizabeth.”  Harries’ perspective, however, is more precise, the detail more faithfully repre­sented, and the composition altogether more firmly and assuredly handled.

During August 1851, this picture of Port Elizabeth from South End went on sale in lithographic form at the price of 10 shillings and sixpence. This well-known drawing was said at the time to be a completely accurate representation of the scene. Harries, then, was an accomplished draughtsman, whose best work can stand comparison with his professional contemporaries.  It would be most interesting to know how old he was when he executed his magnum opus.  Topographical details indicate that it was executed relatively early, although perhaps it was not reproduced in London until his visit of 1879-80.

The other definite work by WA Harries, is a view of Chelsea in 1855. This pleas­ant rural composition is recorded from an “ideal” viewpoint, in mid­air, for no situation exists from which a corresponding photograph of Chelsea can be taken.  Otherwise, however, the sketch is a precise record of the scene.  The house is very little changed a century later, although the trees have grown up around it.

View of Chelsea by Walford Arbouin Harries in 1855

Rainier also avers that an illustration of Cradock Place in 1860 is one of Harries “lost” pictures. As it is reproduced in art oval, as if to fit a frame, so that any signature there may have been in either of the lower corners has disappeared.  To her, there seems to be no doubt, however, that this is one of the “lost” pictures.  Not only is the script evidently by the same hand that signed the view of Chelsea, but a close comparison of the stylistic conventions used, especially in the treatment of the fore-ground vegetation, strengthens my impression that they are the work of the same man.

Finally, Rainier alleges that the sketch entitled the “D’Urban Rock” albeit elementary in style, is another work by WA Harries. Her conclusion is based upon the likeness in the writing style and the presumed date which would indicate that Harries would still have been developing his style.

View of Cradock Place by Walford Arbouin Harries in 1860

Death

The Eastern Province Herald for January 1881, the death of W.A. Harries is advertised twice, on the 4th and 7th:

Died, – at Port Elizabeth, on January 2nd, 1881, after a long and painful illness, WALFORD ARBOUIN HARRIES, eldest son of the late Wm. Matthew Harries.”

On 7 January there was also an obituary notice.  This, however, is a disappointingly vague effusion, declaring that “the name of Walford Arbouin Harries was ever associated with all that is bright cheerful and charitable”, and recalling a fancy-dress ball in the Town Hall organised by him for his many young friends.  It contains several factual errors, such as the statement that he was “the second son of the late Mr. William M. Harries who for many years represented Port Elizabeth in Parliament”.

D’Urban Rock at Cape Recife. The writing style is similar to that of Walford Harries

More usefully, it continues:

“Mr. Harries health failed him some time ago, and he visited England with a view to taking medical advice.  After remaining at Home some months, without deriving that benefit from the change which he expected, he returned to this colony but on reaching Cape Town was in so exhausted a state, that his brother-in-law, Mr. Henry Deare[1], was telegraphed for, urging him to go to Cape Town, at once if he wished to see his relative alive.  Mr. Deare went, and Mr. Harris [sic] rallied a little, so much so that he was able to return to Port Elizabeth, which he reached about three weeks ago … On Sunday morning last, about 8 o’clock, Mr. Walford A. Harries breathed his last, surrounded by his friends, and conscious to the close of his career.”

Walford died at the young age of 48. Mr. W.M. Harries, his wife Anna Maria, and of Walford Arbouin Harries, their eldest son, are all interred in St. Mary’s Cemetery. The inscriptions on the gravestones read as follows:

Sacred/ to the memory of/ William Matthew Harries/ who departed this life at Port Elizabeth/ on the 10th April 1865 / Aged 68 years.

In Memoriam/ Anna Maria/ Wife of William Matthew Harries/ died at Port Elizabeth/ 21st May 1878/ aged 77 years. / Let her own works praise her.

and, on the same stones as hers,

Also of/ Walford Arbouin Harries/ eldest son of the above/ who died at Port Elizabeth/ on the 2nd January 1881/ aged 49

 

Sources

“The Collegiate Church of Parish of St. Mary Port Elizabeth” by Archdeacon Wirgman & Canon Cuthbert Edward Mayo (1925, Longman Green & Co, London)

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (1996, E. H. Walton Packaging Pty Ltd, Port Elizabeth)

Wikipedia

The Identity of W.A. Harries by Margaret Rainier (Africana Notes and News, Vol. 17 No. 8, Dec 1967

Africana Notes and News, Vol. 17 No. 8, Dec 1967 – transcript, with additional explanatory footnotes.

Iris Allen, Nelson Mandela Metropole Art Gallery (King George VI Art Gallery.)

Dave Glenister

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Matthew_Harries

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THE IDENTITY OF W.A. HARRIES by Margaret Rainier

Who was W.A. Harries?  This artist, responsible for the original of the fine lithograph “Southern View of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, taken from the Hill Behind the Cemetery”, by T. Picken, and published in London by Day and Son, was, in 1952, when W. A. Gordon-Brown published Pictorial Art in South Africa, still “untraced” (p. 97).

My curiosity was aroused some years ago by seeing this picture, in its uncoloured state, in private ownership in Port Elizabeth, and, shortly afterwards, in another Port Elizabeth home, a small original picture of the homestead at Chelsea farm dated 1855, and bearing his signature [see later.]  I had also seen his name, with those of eleven other Port Elizabeth gentlemen, in the inscription on a magnificent silver cup, “Presented to C. Lovemore, Esq., J.P., in remembrance of many pleasant days’ sport enjoyed at Bushy Park, Port Elizabeth, 1875.”  Mr. John Lovemore of Bushy Park still has the cup.

These were all the meagre facts I had, when Miss E.K. Heathcote, owner of the manuscript of Thomas Philipps’ letters, drew my attention to a relevant passage.  This appears on p. 369-371 of Philipps, 1820 Settler, Pietermaritzburg, 1960, edited by A. Keppel-Jones in consulta­tion with E.K. Heathcote.  The MS. is preserved in the Cory Library, Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

The passage, dated 17 February 1830, from Port Elizabeth describes Philipps’ meeting with his young kinsman William Harries and his wife Anna Maria*[1], who had arrived in Algoa Bay some two weeks earlier.  This man was evidently William Matthew Harries, who was to become a notable figure in his own day, but who has been largely forgotten.  His name, and that of R. (Robert?)*[2] Harries of Bernard Street, Russell Square, in London, who may have been his father, occur several times in the published text of Philipps’ letters, and more often in the manu­script.  It appears from these that William Harries had considered emigrating to the Swann River Settlement in New South Wales, but, largely on account of Philipps’ influence, chose to come to the Cape of Good. Hope instead.  He had some idea of joining Philipps as a farmer, at Glendour, between the Kowie River and the Kasouga, but on reach­ing Port Elizabeth decided, wisely as events were to prove, rather to remain, and engage in business there.

W.M. Harries was active in commercial life and public affairs in the Eastern Province from the time of his arrival, playing a part in almost every aspect of its development.  For example, in the first issue of the Graham’s Town Journal, which appeared in December 1832, he advertised his merchant and auctioneering business.  Similarly, in the very first number of the Eastern Province Herald, on 7 May 1845, he advertised again, announcing a sale of valuable property in Port Elizabeth, “in the Assigned Estate of John Norton”.

With J. C. Welsford, William Harries was among the first Church­wardens of St. Mary’s Church.  His services, however, do not seem to have been wholly disinterested, for the earliest parish document extant is said to be a deed of sale of three plots of church land – the whole of St. Mary’s Terrace – for £35 to W.M. Harries, on November 12 1833.  The property had to be bought back by the church at an en­hanced price thirty years later, as is recorded in The Collegiate Church and Parish of St. Mary’s, Port Elizabeth, by A.T. Wirgman and C.E. Mayo (London, 1925) p. 11-12.

According to The Eastern Province Directory and Almanac for 1848 (p. 77, 78) Harries was at that date an auctioneer in Port Elizabeth, and was also one of the members of the Port Elizabeth Trust Associa­tion.  A share certificate of the Eastern Province Mining Company dated 1 December 1854, in the collection of Mr. E.L.H. Croft of Port Elizabeth, names him as one of its directors.

While establishing himself in business, Harries had also taken an active part in the defence of the colony.  As Captain in command of the Port Elizabeth Yeomanry, he escorted a diplomatic mission to the “friendly” chiefs early in 1835. (See R. Godlonton’s A Narrative of the Irruption of the Kafir Hordes into Eastern Province, etc., Grahams­town, 1835, p. 83.)  Subsequently, he engaged in some of the fiercest fight­ing that year, at Trompetter’s Drift and elsewhere in the Fish River bush, against tribesmen who were not friendly at all.  (See Godlonton and also vol. 3 p. 105, 114 of Cory’s Rise of South Africa, London 1919.)

Peace was restored on the frontier, and during later conflicts Harries does not seem to have taken the field.  His business enterprises succeeded, and his leisure was devoted to public affairs.  Thus, when the foundation stone of the Grey Institute was laid on 17 January 1856, a box in the cavity of the stone contained a document signed by J. M. Hill, the Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate, John Paterson, M.L.A., the Hon. W. Fleming, M.L.C., and W.M. Harries. (See ‘Neath the Tower, The Story of the Grey School, Port Elizabeth 1856-1956, Cape Town 1956, p. 7, by J.J. Redgrave and others.)

Soon, and for many years afterwards, Harries was himself a Member of Parliament.  In politics he became the spokesman of the Separa­tionists, those members whose aim it was to form a separate colony of the eastern districts.  A Bill to provide for this was first moved in the Assembly by Harries on 16 May 1861, and rated “by far the most im­portant event of the session”.  The debate lasted four days, ending in the defeat of the motion by seven votes.  On 10 July, 1862, Harries brought forward a similar motion, to be lost by two votes only.  (G. McC. Theal, History  of South Africa from 1795 to 1872, London, 1919, vol. 4, p. 7, 27.)

Harries’ parliamentary career was summarised by “Limner”, who wrote that he sat as the representative, “now and formerly, of Cradock”, and

“… There is no member taking an active share in party measures who stands so well with all sides of the house as Mr. W.M. Harries.  He is a resident, not of Cradock, but of Port Elizabeth and he might have represented it – the chief commercial town in the colony … if he had so willed it … He is known in the House as the Father of Separation; not, I believe, because he is the parent of that measure; but because he has advanced the agitation for it by every means in his power, and is now the oldest member among the Separation Party … He is one of the most accomplished members of the Assembly – a scholar and a gentleman.  He speaks with great fluency … Colonial Parliaments would be much more respectable than they now are if more men of Harries’ stamp filled seats in them.  As our Parliament is at present constituted, Mr. Harries, with all his ability as a speaker, with all his attainments as a scholar, with all his knowledge of Old history – is not qualified to be the leader of a party.  He is not sufficiently brusque and uncompromising … He last year was mover of the motion which brought Parliament to the East, …for that alone, the East will be under eternal obligation to him.  His speeches never lack vigour nor eloquence, but he shrinks from meeting the personal charges of his opponents with personalities of a like coarse and vulgar character.”

Having early in life adopted the motto “Measures, not Men”, author R.W. Murray, (Limner), Harries had recently made a notable speech opposed to the introduction of party government.  “Too ready to accept compromise, and the fair promises of his opponents, he treats them with courtesy, but is frequently met with outrage.”  He does retort, but

quietly turns his back upon those who so forget themselves … Harries is well down the down-hill of life, but has lost none of those powers for public business which distinguished his public career.” (R.W. Murray, Pen and Ink Sketches in Parliament, by Limner, Grahamstown, 1864 p. 38-39.)

As I picked up the name of William Matthew Harries here and there in local records and in national chronicles, the picture of an acute, shrewd, yet public-spirited man of affairs became increasingly clear.  But had all this any bearing upon the identity of the artist W.A. Harries, the shadowy figure whose story still eluded me?

The essential clue was provided by Mr. J.C. Kemsley, whose assistance I sought on account of his unrivalled knowledge of crumbling gravestones in St. Mary’s Cemetery, where so much history is recorded.  Unerringly, he led me to the graves of W.M. Harries, his wife Anna Maria, and of Walford Arbouin Harries their eldest son.

The inscriptions read as follows:

Sacred/ to the memory of/ William Matthew Harries/ who departed this life at Port Elizabeth/ on the 10th April 1865./ Aged 68 years.

In Memoriam/ Anna Maria/ Wife of William Matthew Harries/ died at Port Elizabeth/ 21st May 1878/ aged 77 years. / Let her own works praise her.

and, on the same stones as hers,

Also of/ Walford Arbouin Harries/ eldest son of the above/ who died at Port Elizabeth/ on the 2nd January 1881/ aged 49

This is a striking example of the value of gravestone inscriptions as an aid to biographical research.  The information so concisely stated establishes the relationship between W.M. Harries the businessman, and W.A. Harries the artist (giving their full names), and hints besides at the philanthropic activities of Anna Maria.  (She was in fact one of the earliest members of the Port Elizabeth Ladies’ Benevolent Society, which has grown with the city, and remains one of its principal charities.  Her name appears regularly in original Minute Books preserved by the Society.)

By recording the dates when father and son died, the epitaphs are a guide to obituary notices, a likely source of more detailed information, although regrettably none for W.M. Harries is available in Port Elizabeth now.  Further, the name Arbouin on the tombstones sent me back to Thomas Philipps’ letters.  Here, after meeting the newly-arrived W.M. Harries, Philipps writes “William … staid with Mr. Rawlinson at Uitenhage, I remained with Dalgairns, the former is a friend of Mr. James Arbouin’s[3], is much respected I am told …”  A footnote adds “Mr. James Arbouin was presumably a relation of Mrs. Philipps”.  No reason is given for this (p. 371, note 2).  However, according to genealogical notes sent me by Miss Heathcote, the name of Thomas Philipps’ wife was Charlotte Harriet Arbouin, and his mother before her marriage to a cousin[4] had been Katherine Harries, daughter of the Rector of Begelly, Lampeter and Menach in Wales. There is some account of these family connections in the Introduction to Philipps, 1820 Settler, but they are not made wholly explicit.

On turning up The Eastern Province Herald for January 1881, I found that W.A. Harries’ death was advertised twice, on the 4th and 7th:

Died, – at Port Elizabeth, on January 2nd, 1881, after a long and painful illness, WALFORD ARBOUIN HARRIES, eldest son of the late Wm. Matthew Harries.”

On 7 January there was also an obituary notice.  This, however, is a disappointingly vague effusion, declaring that “the name of Walford Arbouin Harries was ever associated with all that is bright cheerful and charitable”, and recalling a fancy-dress ball in the Town Hall organised by him for his many young friends.  It contains several factual errors, such as the statement that he was “the second son of the late Mr. William M. Harries who for many years represented Port Elizabeth in Parliament”.  More usefully, it continues:

“Mr. Harries health failed him some time ago, and he visited England with a view to taking medical advice.  After remaining at Home some months, without deriving that benefit from the change which he expected, he returned to this colony but on reaching Cape Town was in so exhausted a state, that his brother-in-law, Mr. Henry Deare[5], was telegraphed for, urging him to go to Cape Town, at once if he wished to see his relative alive.  Mr. Deare went, and Mr. Harris [sic] rallied a little, so much so that he was able to return to Port Elizabeth, which he reached about three weeks ago … On Sunday morning last, about 8 o’clock, Mr. Walford A. Harries breathed his last, surrounded by his friends, and conscious to the close of his career.”

Disconcertingly, there is not a word in the newspaper about his paintings – nor of any activity in business or a profession. In fact, he was a lawyer, as is indicated by successive entries in contemporary Directories.  In 1873, The Port Elizabeth Directory and Guide to the Eastern Province (Port Elizabeth, J.W.C. Mackay, 1872) records on p. 118

“Harries, Walford Arbouin, attorney-at-law and secretary Separation League, Town Hall building.”

The same source, in 1874 (p. 202) lists him again as a lawyer, does not refer to the Separation League, but adds that his residence was at No. 40, Havelock Street.  In 1875 and 1876 there is merely a repetition of the same facts.  Then, in 1877, he is practising as an attorney and notary at 20 Jetty Street.  In 1880 (p. 179) he has a partner named Kennerley[6], an office in the Market Square, and still resides at Havelock Street.

This partnership had been announced in The Cape Hornet during October and November 1879, perhaps before Harries left in poor health for England.  On various dates between 9 October and 20 November 1879, appeared this “Partnership Notice” – Mr. William Robert Kennerley, late of Somerset East, Attorney-at-Law and Notary Public, has, This Day been admitted as a Partner in my Business, which, will in future be conducted under the style of Harries and Kennerley.

Walford A. Harries

Solicitor and Notary

Herald Chambers,

Port Elizabeth, 1st Oct. 1879.”

In 1881, according to the Directory, the firm was still in the Herald Chambers, Market Square.  But Walford Harries was dead. Presum­ably for some time Kennerley had carried the responsibility for their joint affairs.  Harries’ home in Havelock Street cannot have survived him very long, for, unless the numbering of the houses has been altered since, No. 40 would have stood on the site occupied by St. John’s Methodist Church, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1893.

This, then, is an outline of the public career of W.A. Harries.  I have not been able to learn anything about his education, nor his legal or artistic training.  However, there are two brief glimpses of his personal life among close friends, in the unpublished memoirs of Jessie Allen, eldest daughter of Charles Lovemore of Bushy Park.  These manuscripts were presented to the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth and Walmer by their son, Mr. C.P. Allen.  The following quotation is from a typescript copy, by Mrs. E.K. Lorimer. (p. 7.)

Writing with affection of her Aunt Lizzie Ogilvie, she says she “must have been a lovely girl, with soft brown eyes and hair and a sweet expression. Before she married uncle Alfred, there had been another (Walford Harries) anxious to marry her, but she preferred Alfred.”

Later, Mrs. Allen writes (p. 20):

“I have a picture of 1867 depicting the results of a Hunt on which are shown, my Mother on her fine horse “Dorwood”, Father with the then fashionable Dundreary Weepers … his hat had a paauw feather in it, and beside him were all the men who had been at the hunt.  Mr. Walford Harries, Willie Smith, Henry Deare …John Holland, my brother Walter about 6 years old … Brother Willie about 4 years, holding a dog and lying in an uncomfortable position.  Then there are Bob Pettit, Alphonse Taylor, Mr. Mitchell, Alfred Ogilvie, and George Hudson, later British representative in Pretoria … “

The names of several of this group of friends are engraved on the Lovemore cup.  The Port Elizabeth Museum possesses a later copy of the photograph Mrs. Allen describes, but unfortunately the print is indistinct, and the details of Harries’ features cannot be discerned.

He is also mentioned in the unpublished shooting journal of William Armstrong, in the Port Elizabeth Public Library.  This includes regular reports of “The Easter Hunt”, a party of friends of whom Harries was one, meeting annually as the guests of James Coltman of Wycombevale, in the Alexandria district.  Armstrong writes that in 1879 they presented to Mr. Coltman “ … a handsome Silver Tankard, a model of ‘Bob’ his favourite pointer on the lid with heads of Bushbuck and Tiger at the sides.

This tankard was evidently very similar to that given to Charles Lovemore four years earlier.  W.A. Harries participated in the Hunt in 1879, but his name does not appear again, and we now know that his health was failing.

So much it has been possible to trace of the life and family connec­tions of Walford Arbouin Harries, who has been for so long, forgotten, and whose slender claim to some sort of immortality rests only upon a few landscape pictures, the painting of which he probably regarded as little more than a pastime.  It is even likely that none were initially sold (perhaps with the exception of prints of the Port Elizabeth pano­rama), but given to friends whose hospitality he could acknowledge with a sketch of their homes.

Harries’ pictures which are certainly known are only two.  The “Southern View of Port Elizabeth” is by far the more important and accomplished of these.  The other is the small view of Chelsea in 1855.  [See below.]

The former is undated, and has been tentatively set down at 1845 (King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth), c. 1854 by Mr. Gordon-Brown, and 1850, according to a crude post-card reproduction of it by Hallis and Co. of Port Elizabeth, evidently printed early in the twentieth century.  Harries, as we now know, was born in 1832, if he was forty-nine when he died in January, 1881.

This picture shows the developing town rising up from Algoa Bay, from much the same viewpoint as Bowler’s panorama of 1862.  Harries’ perspective, however, is more precise, the detail more faithfully repre­sented, and the composition altogether more firmly and assuredly handled.  Harries, then, was an accomplished draughtsman, whose best work can stand comparison with his professional contemporaries.  It would be most interesting to know how old he was when he executed his magnum opus.  Topographical details indicate that it was executed relatively early, although perhaps it was not reproduced in London until his visit of 1879-80[7], and, if he touched it up then (improbable, as he was an invalid), he did not introduce any later landmarks, such as the Town Hall (1860), or the Lighthouse on the Donkin Reserve (1861).

The Chelsea picture, measuring only about 8″ x 10″, is Harries’ original work, and here he has employed an unusual technique.  It appears to be sketched in Indian ink, and China white, on tinted paper (probably coloured chalk paper) the foreground a biscuit shade, the sky a light blue wash, with white clouds cut into the surface.  This pleas­ant rural composition is recorded from an “ideal” viewpoint, in mid­air, for no situation exists from which a corresponding photograph of Chelsea can be taken.  Otherwise, however, the sketch is a precise record of the scene.  The house is very little changed a century later, although the trees have grown up around it.

If Harries could produce these two pictures, he must have been responsible for others.  Where are they now?

In Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days, by J.J. Redgrave (Wynberg, Rustica Press, 1947), there is an illustration of Cradock Place in 1860 on p. 47.  This title and the date are written on the picture itself, but it is reproduced in art oval, as if to fit a frame, so that any signature there may have been in either of the lower corners has disappeared.  There seems to me no doubt, however, that this is one of the “lost” Harries pictures.  Not only is the script evidently by the same hand that signed the view of Chelsea, but a close comparison of the stylistic conventions used, especially in the treatment of the foreground vegetation, strengthens my impression that they are the work of the same man.  Regrettably, so far, I have not been able to trace the picture upon which this illustration is based.  Mr. Redgrave, in 1964, informed me that the illustration was “merely a photograph of the original,” and he had “no idea of the whereabouts of the original nor by whom it was executed”.  Walford Harries, of course, would have been well acquainted with the Chase family, and their home Cradock Place, built up by their ancestor Frederick Korsten.

In the same volume, on p. 29, is a drawing, very elementary in style, the caption of which also appears to be by Harries, entitled, “Sketch of the Rock selected for the site of the intended Light House at Cape Recif [sic] – 4 Feb 1837 [some words obscured] Durban Rock”  This would seem to indicate that the sketch was made in 1837 – therefore impossible to have been by Harries.  The likeness of the writing, however, is so strong, that I am tempted to hazard a guess that as a boy and before his technique was developed, he may have copied an older sketch, done, perhaps, by “RH”[8] on 4 February 1837.

W.A. Harries has left no descendants to perpetuate his name.  But he did leave us two or three accomplished pictorial records of Port Elizabeth in the middle of the nineteenth century – possibly more.  On the strength of this, perhaps we may accord him the distinction of being the city’s first artist of local birth.

*[1] Anna Maria Bellairs, youngest daughter of Abel Walford Bellairs of Haverfordwest and Susannah Lowley; she was born 1801 in Stamford, Lincolnshire, married 1829 at St George’s, Bloomsbury and died 1878 in Port Elizabeth.

*[2] This should be Roger, who was Katherine Harries’ youngest brother i.e. he was Thomas Philipps’ uncle.  Strangely, he married Charlotte Philipps’ eldest sister, Sophia Arbouin.  This means that Roger’s son, William Matthew Harries, who came to South Africa, was Thomas’ first cousin and at the same time, his wife Charlotte’s nephew!

[3] James Arbouin was Charlotte Philipps’ younger brother.  As far as we know, he never came to South Africa.

[4] Can it be that Thomas Philipps’ father, Rev Edward Philipps, was his wife’s cousin?  We have no record of another connection.  Or could Katherine Harries had been married to a cousin before Edward Philipps?  A licence was necessary for the latter marriage.

[5] Henry Deare was married to Walford’s elder and only sister, Catherine Sophia.

[6] This was William Robert Kennerley Snr.

[7] Not so … see the newspaper cutting from the PE Telegraph 1851

[8] “RH” – may be a misinterpretation of the letters AH, a portion of WAH.

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Descendants of Roger Harriers: HarriesRoger


2 Comments

  1. Dean you have uncovered a history of our city which many of us are not aware of, it will be a great book when these are incorporated into a book.Dean you are doing great work.

    Reply

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