Port Elizabeth of Yore: HB Smith – The Saviour of No 7 Castle Hill

Perched on the brow of the hill overlooking the activity on the jetty and town below and the ships bobbing in the roadstead, was Number 7 Castle Hill. Sunday 10th July 1853, like all Sundays, was a sombre day, with no shops or amenities open with the only “entertainment” being the obligatory attendance at a church service. As is usual in Port Elizabeth, the swirling clouds of sea sand were channelled down the untarred Main Street tormenting the pedestrians while chubby clouds flickered past overhead.

Being weak and unwell over the past several months, the clergyman, the Rev Francis McCleland, had been unable to perform the Sunday service at St Mary’s Church that day. Apart from Castle Hill being one of the steepest hills in the town, Francis was too frail to even attempt the climb after the service. While the congregation below prayed for his speedy recovery and good health, Francis McCleland passed from this world.

The least of anybody’s concerns that day was the future of No. 7 Castle Hill. Yet by 1938 it was uninhabitable. It was at this point that the rare exception of a man would appear. This blog will accord Harold Bayldon Smith his rightful place in the history of this remnant of a bygone age.

Main picture: No.7 Castle Hill

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Port Elizabeth of Today: The Future of No. 7 Castle Hill

Perhaps I should have titled this blog “Quo Vadis” or maybe something more apocalyptic such as the End of No. 7. Whatever it should be will never encompass my dread more for its future. When I left PE on 11th February 1980 to seek my fame & (mis) fortune in the City of Gold, the future of No. 7 was sanguine. For the most part, its future now, like many other historical buildings, is precarious at best. 

Why do I anticipate such a gloomy future?

Main picture: Painting of Port Elizabeth by W.A. Harriers showing No 7 Castle Hill at the crescent [or is that the brow] of the hill

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