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: Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin

Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin was the point man for the British Empire in the Cape of Good Hope at the time of the arrival of the 1820 British Settlers. In his letters, Donkin reveals himself to be a kindly man unlike the cold autocrat that was Lord Charles Somerset. Furthermore, they reflect a desire to assist the colonists. In fact, he was not prepared to sacrifice principles for his own advancement. For these reasons, the Settlers were most fortunate in having him rather than Somerset in charge at this momentous period in the affairs of the Cape.

Main picture: Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin

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