Port Elizabeth of Yore: Town Officials and Residents in the 1840s

By virtue of the town still being so small less than three decades after its establishment, it was still possible to print a comprehensive list of all its officials and residents. The List of Town Officials was published in 1843 whereas that of all Town Residents was published in 1849. 

What do they reveal about the character of these people and the occupations that they held? 

Main picture: Port Elizabeth in 1840 with its short-lived first jetty

List of Town Officials in 1843

What is of interest apart from some of the salaries which are mentioned, are the types of jobs held such as Distributor of Stamps and Tidewaiter.

One can also speculate what Mr Biggar would have earned as Postmaster when Mrs Mary Biggar, the Postmistress, was earning £40 p.a. My guess would be a whole lot more. A Tidewaiter was a customs officer who boarded ships on their arrival to enforce the customs regulations.

Wooden Jetty in 1840

Wooden Jetty in 1840

Civic Officials

Port Office New

Early morning market in Market Square

Early morning market in Market Square

Customs House Department

St Mary's Church

School Commission

Professionals

Leper Institution

Union Chapel

Union Chapel in Chapel Street. Completed in May 1828. Rev Adam Robson in charge from 1832 to August 1870

Union Chapel in Chapel Street. Completed in May 1828. Rev Adam Robson was in charge from 1832 to August 1870

Weslyan Missionary Society

Roman Catholic Church

Other Prominent Residents New

Military Departments New

The Fort Frederick gateway and ramparts with a British soldier in uniform standing at the gateway

The Fort Frederick gateway and ramparts with a British soldier in uniform standing at the gateway

Residents of 1849

Of the 362 residents listed, it should be noted that females or minors clearly did not count and hence were not listed unless they were either widowed or they had some form of occupation such as being a milliner or a school teacher. Furthermore of this number, only 262 list some form of vocation.

In order to understand the nature of the inhabitants jobs, I have categorised them into skill levels and overall type of job. Based upon this analysis, the following picture emerges.

Population per skill level

The category entitled Managerial / Skilled jobs / Non-Manual jobs is predominatedly filled by merchants of various descriptions totalling 55 persons. Interestingly, overall the most prevalent job given was a merchant or purveyor of goods of some description. Less than a handful of occupations falling under the category Managerial et al correlate to today’s suit-wearing manager. Into this category was included a job title Wagon Proprietor, that is somebody who hired out wagons. Complicating the allocation of job titles into skill categories is the fact that the job could comprise a large manual component as well. Taking the Wagon Proprietor’s job as an example. This job would probably also have encompassed the repair of defective wagons. After Merchant, the second largest occupation was clerk at 35.

Job titles per occupation category:

Job Titles per Occupation Category


Explanation of Job Titles:

Meanings of jobs no longer performed or alternatively, their modern equivalent:

Carman – a driver of a van or cart

Apothecary – chemist

Cooper – a maker and/or repairer of casks and barrels

Smith – a worker in metal

Groom – a person employed to take care of horses

Ironmonger – a person or shop selling hardware such as tools and household implements

Milliner – a person who makes or sells women’s hats

Wharfinger – an owner or keeper of a wharf

Wagonsmith – one who builds and repairs wagons and carts

Wagoner – the driver of a horse-drawn wagon

Limeburner – a person whose job was burning limestone in order to obtain lime

Mason – a person skilled in cutting, dressing, and laying stone in buildings

Slater – a person who slates roofs for a living

A farrier at work

A farrier at work

Generic job titles

In order to accommodate the diversity of titles for similar jobs, I have taken the liberty of creating some generic job titles:

Hotels/ Hospitality – included are operators or owners of hotels, canteens, restaurants, lodgings or boarding houses

Music – includes organists and piano tuners

Building artisans – includes bricklayers, builders, carpenters, glaziers, painters, masons & slaters

Clothes making – includes dressmakers, milliners & tailors

Merchant – includes general dealers, greengrocers, hawkers, ironmongers, jewellers, merchants, shopkeepers

Smith – includes coppersmiths & tinsmiths

Apothecary shop

Apothecary shop

As  is apparent from an analysis of the jobs occupied, unlike today most residents were employed in manual jobs such as artisans with very few inhabitants employed in offices as managers, team leaders or supervisors in the modern sense. 

List of Residents

Residents in 1849 commencing with A

Residents in 1849 commencing with B

Horse groomer at work

Horse groomer at work

Residents in 1849 commencing with C

Residents in 1849 commencing with D

Coppersmith at work

Residents in 1849 commencing with E

Residents in 1849 commencing with F
Residents in 1849 commencing with G

Residents in 1849 commencing with Ha to He

Horse drawn cart and tram

Residents in 1849 commencing with Hi to Hu
Residents in 1849 commencing with I

Auction in progress at the bottom of Donkin Hill

Auction in progress at the bottom of Donkin Hill

Residents in 1849 commencing with K

Residents in 1849 commencing with L

A Cape slave fisherman

A Cape slave fisherman

Residents in 1849 commencing with m

Residents in 1849 commencing with N

Ox wagon driver or wagoner

Ox wagon driver or wagoner

Residents in 1849 commencing with O

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

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

Residents in 1849 commencing with R

Gamtoos Ferry keepers house in 1875

Gamtoos Ferry keeper’s house in 1875

Residents in 1849 commencing with Sa to SiGamtoos Ferry in 1875
Residents in 1849 commencing with Sl to St

Residents in 1849 commencing with T

Residents in 1849 commencing with U
The list below summarises where the residents claimed they resided. Three inhabitants admitted to living on the beach whereas 97 stated that they resided in Main Street. Presumably many residents did live in Main Street especially as the vast majority of those who disclosed their occupation as merchant would have used the upper floors of their offices as residential accommodation. Others presumably provided their place as work as their residential address much like black staff do today.

As can be seen from the sketches above of the town in 1840, the Hill was largely devoid of houses and the town probably did not even extend to Russell Road.

Addresses given:

Comments about listed inhabitants

G. Payne, listed as a storeman from Tittertons Row was George Payne who married an 1820 Settler, Mary Ann Cronk at St Mary’s Church in the 1830s. He was at one time one of Sterley the jailer’s assistants. The Payne family went into the clearing and forwarding business and their building in Fleming Street is still there next to the Harbour Board building.

Source

Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days by J.J. Redgrave (1947, Rustica Press)


4 Comments

  1. I was interested to see the name G. Payne listed as a storeman from Tittertons Row. He was my late wife’s ancestor. He was George Payne and he married an 1820 Settler, Mary Ann Cronk at St Mary’s Church in the 1830’s. He was at one time one of Sterley the jailers assistants. The Payne family went into the clearing and forwarding business, and their building in Fleming Street is still there next to the Harbour Board building.

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