Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Road through Target Kloof & its Predecessors

Due to the Baakens River Valley, Port Elizabeth is effectively cleaved into two. Instead of having to take a circuitous route around via South End or use a track from Gubb’s Location, during 1896 it was decided at a Town Council meeting that the Divisional Council’s proposed plan to build a road through Target Kloof from Port Elizabeth to Walmer be approved.

This blog covers the history of the various tracks and roads linking these two towns.

Main picture: The original proper road across the Baakens River was merely called New Road. Also note the footbridge on the left of the road. It was probably used by pedestrian traffic when the river was in spate and water flowed over the road. The hill in the background is where Wellington Park is situated today. Wellington Park is a small Municipal open space on the edge of the Baakens Valley at the corner of Main Road and 5th Avenue. It used to consist of two sports fields that were voluntarily maintained by the nearby Clarendon Primary School.

Original “roads” to Walmer

For its first 10kms, the Baakens River forms an effective boundary between what was to become Walmer and Port Elizabeth, with the Port Elizabeth side of the valley rising in almost vertiguous ramparts suitable as impenetrable walls for any Middle Ages castle. That does not mean that there was not a need to cross the river. In pre-Settler days the area south of the Baakens River was offered by Lord Charles Somerset to Dr. van der Kemp as a site for his mission station, but he was rebuffed, preferring Bethelsdorp, near the salt pans.

Having been spurned once, his second suitor would not be so coy. In January 1815 Lord Charles Somerset granted “Welbedacht” to Mynheer Antony M. Muller. In doing so, the seeds of a future Walmer were planted, albeit that those seeds took years to take hold in Walmer’s sandy soil. In spite of this, there was still a need for Muller and his tenants residing on the plots leased from him to attend to business in Port Elizabeth. As the surrounding kloofs were too rugged, they initially used the trail through Papebise Fontein, the future South End.

810 map of the Baakens Valley showing the path through the future South End which crossed the Baakens River at a drift several hundred metres from its mouth. In all probability, this drift would later become the site of various bridges across the river.
1810 map of the Baakens Valley showing the path through the future South End which crossed the Baakens River at a drift several hundred metres from its mouth. In all probability, this drift would later become the site of various bridges across the river.

As areas around Mill Park were developed, this circuitous route would never suffice in the long term . A more direct route was required. On page 87 of his book “Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days” Redgrave describes the new direct route as follows: “The old main road from the Bay to Walmer……passed through Gubb’s Location [which was located in the future Mill Park] down to some old tracks where the new Valley Road has since been constructed. It then skirted the Baaken’s River and emerged on the flats above the residence of the late Mr. Burchell”.

Using the map of 1884 of this area, I have drawn in blue the probable route of this “road/track” between Walmer and Port Elizabeth.

The original road between Port Elizabeth and Walmer marked on a 1884 map of Walmer. The successor to this “road” would cross straight over Baaken’s River and ascend Valley Road.

New Road to Walmer

Target Kloof#06

The continued growth of Walmer led to its status being reviewed. In view of its expansion, it was now classified as a village and, as such, a Village Management Board was appointed in 1881. Presumably one of the pertinent issues that were raised at their Board meetings was the lack of a proper road across the Baakens River to Port Elizabeth.  Without question, the lack of an adequate road connecting the two towns in order to facilitate trade and the movement of people, was an impediment to growth.

Target Kloof in 1906

Target Kloof in 1906
Target Kloof in 1906
Target Kloof in 1906#03
Target Kloof in 1906

As all areas outside the municipal boundaries fell under the jurisdiction of the Divisional Council, it fell onto their shoulders to provide the necessary road infrastructure. Presumably the Walmer Management Board [WMB] would have approached the Port Elizabeth Divisional Council to construct this road. In turn, the Divisional Council would have sought some method of recouping the cost of the project. Normally these roads, at least in the early days, were funded by setting up tolls. This solution was not pursued in this case, as no mention is ever made of this possibility.      

Target Kloof in 1906
Target Kloof in 1906
Target Kloof#04

No doubt numerous options being considered  and proposals made. But there was really only one solution. As a consequence, at a Town Council meeting held on the 22nd April 1896,  the Divisional Council tabled a plan to build a road through the Kloof. The approval of this plan at this meeting made provision for a road 60 feet wide, fenced and maintained by the Divisional Council.

Under construction

Target Kloof under construction
Target Kloof under construction
Target Kloof 1907
Target Kloof 1907

Officially the road through Target Kloof is only 1.33kms long which implies that it must have ended once it crossed the Baakens River and connected with River Road. In November 1896, the original road through the Mill property and Gubb’s Location was closed and the New Road to Walmer, as it was uninspiringly referred to at that time, was opened. Whether in fact the road was officially called the New Road is highly unlikely but all the photographs of this road during its early years refer to it by this name.

Target Kloof shortly after completion of the New Walmer Road as it was called at the time
Target Kloof shortly after completion of the New Walmer Road as it was called at the time
Target Kloof known in those days as the New Walmer Road
Target Kloof known in those days as the New Walmer Road or the New Road
Target Kloof with Grey School in background circa 1930s
Target Kloof#13
Target Kloof in 1947 during the Royal Visit
Target Kloof in 1947 during the Royal Visit
Target Kloof#11
Target Kloof in 1947 during the Royal Visit
Target Kloof#12
An old aerial view of Target with the nascent Grey High School on the right
An old aerial view of Target Kloof with the nascent Grey High School on the right and the Provincial Hospital on the left

 

Upgraded Road Through the Kloof

Target Kloof#03

1968 Flood

Bottom of Target Kloof just before the bridge
Bottom of Target Kloof just before the bridge

This new road was a vast improvement on the original informal road, but it was not ideal. Apart from being too narrow, it also followed the exact contours of the kloof as it wound its way down to the river below. As traffic volumes soared, the twisty winding curvy road was hazardous and hence regarded as unsuitable. Sometime during the 1950s, a mayor upgrade was performed removing all of these dangerous sections. Whilst driving down Target Kloof to the Baakens, various sections of the old road are still visible as they hug the sides of the kloof.    

How was the name “Target Kloof” derived

There is always some reason or story behind the naming of geograhical places, sometimes obscure and other times self evident such as the ubiquitous Rietfontein. Similarly it was so with the name “Target Kloof”. As a young child I concocted a story that it related to speeding drivers demolishing the lamp posts. Only subsequently did I read in the Gazeteer by Margaret Harridene that it related to the fact that there was a shooting range close to Gubb’s Location.

And now

Target Kloof#10
The Forgotten Stairway linking Mill Park with Target Kloof below

The Forgotten Stairway linking Mill Park with Target Kloof below

Target Kloof-Recent
Target Kloof
Target Kloof
Map of Target Kloof
Map of Target Kloof

 

Sources

Books:

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (2004, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth)

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

Photos: Two recent photos by Jonker Fourie, other photos unknown

Related Articles:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial

The Parsonage House at Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth

What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?

A Pictorial History of the Campanile in Port Elizabeth

A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922

The Three Eras of the Historic Port Elizabeth Harbour

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Railway Station

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Great Flood of 1st September 1968

The Friendly City – Port Elizabeth – My Home Town


9 Comments

    • Hi Linda, Thanks for the feedback. It is much appreciated. I am in the process of writing a whole bunch of blogs on PE, my home town. You can access them on the left panel under “Port Elizabeth of Yore”. I also have more personal memories under “Family Histories – McClelands”

      Reply
    • Thanks a million. I am in the process of writing a whole bunch of blogs on PE, my home town. You can access them on the left panel under “Port Elizabeth of Yore”. I also have more personal memories under “Family Histories – McClelands”

      Reply
  1. I have lived in Walmer since 1947! That is a long time ago!
    I remember sitting on the wall of my grandparents home called “Chesterton” at the PE side of Target Kloof to see the Royal Family pass by.

    Reply
    • Then I had better not ask you your age. I was wondering where the Royal Family stayed and how long they were in Port Elizabeth for?

      Reply
    • Hi Linsley, You have piqued my interest about the Royal visit to PE in 1947 but I have found it extremely difficult to obtain much of the basic information about their visit such as where they stayed et cetera.

      Reply

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