Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Untimely Demise of the First Jetty

When the elements defeat ingenuity and determination

The first practical scheme to improve Port Elizabeth’s harbour facilities was mooted barely ten years after the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. This reflects the stunning growth of Port Elizabeth as a harbour. Notwithstanding the determination of the local residents, politics and other considerations would intrude to prevent the hopes and aspirations of this dream being realised.

Nine years after being mooted in 1831, construction of the First Jetty commenced in 1840. The maxim, “The past we inherit and the future we create,” was now validated. This blog covers the cycle of this project from its initial conceptualisation to its unfortunate, untimely and unexpected destruction in 1843.

Main picture: The first jetty

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: J.C. Chase Recalls the Town’s Development to 1848

Like his father-in-law, Frederick Korsten, John Centlivres Chase also had a profound influence on the development of the Eastern Province, and especially Port Elizabeth.  

From the formal establishment of Port Elizabeth in 1820 by Sir Rufane Donkin, the nascent town experienced unprecedented growth for the following 50 years. For the first half century after 1820, this development is sparsely documented due to the paucity of official documents or even a newspaper. 

The 1848 edition of the Eastern Province Directory and Almanac carried an article entitled “Algoa Bay and Port Elizabeth” by J.C. Chase. Clearly enamoured with its progress and prospects, he elaborates and enthuses over the development of the late starter, Port Elizabeth. This article represents one of the few original sources of information about those formative years. The article forms the basis of this chapter and is largely verbatim.

Main picture: Paddle Steamer Phoenix

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood

Most residents of Port Elizabeth are unaware what the purpose of the concrete pillars jutting out of the sand between Hobie and Humewood Beach represent. It was a slipway built in 1903. By the 1850s Algoa Bay was attracting swarms of vessels of all shapes and sizes. Many used the Bay as the location to effect minor repairs before proceeding on their voyage.

It took an entrepreneur by the name of John Centlivres Chase to envisage constructing a slipway in Port Elizabeth to provide this vital service.

Main picture: Humewood 1910 with what appears to be a fishing boat being hauled up for maintenance

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