Port Elizabeth of Yore: When Developers almost Built on the Donkin Reserve

It was a grieving Sir Rufane Donkin who arrived in Port Elizabeth on the 5th June 1820. Even though he had married Elizabeth Markham in Yorkshire under a traditional organised marriage which was the custom in those times for the social upper classes, remarkably, he had truly fell in love with his beautiful young wife. En route back to Great Britain, he had been diverted to the Cape as temporary Governor.

It was during the laying of the foundation stone of a proposed hotel for Captain Moresby that Donkin proclaimed that the nascent town would be named Elizabeth, after his beloved dead wife. Port Elizabeth had been conceived.

As well as naming the town after his deceased wife, he had other plans to commemorate her: proclaiming of a reserve on which a pyramid would be built as a monument in perpetuity.

Main picture: Pyramid on the Donkin in 1920

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Donkin Lighthouse



Because they are in such close proximity to one another, I have often considered this lighthouse and the adjacent pyramid as being contemporary structures. Nothing could be further from the truth. This blog, largely based on the 1986 thesis by Jon Inggs, provides the historical detail from the conceptualisation to the erection of the Donkin Lighthouse.

The combination of the pyramid and the lighthouse symbolises Port Elizabeth and is so integral to Port Elizabeth that it could be considered as its trademark. The unique combination very nearly never came into existence as the Harbour Master, Mr H.G. Simpson favoured dismantling the pyramid and using its stone to construct the lighthouse.

Main picture: Signal Ball at Donkin Lighthouse in 1860s

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