A Description of Port Elizabeth in 1874

In his book A Descriptive Handbook of the Cape Colony, John Noble provides a description of all the major towns in the Cape Colony in 1874. His narrative about Port Elizabeth itself is glowing. However he concludes by stating that the “country about Port Elizabeth is very uninviting.” Included in the blog are the census figures for 1874 as well as a detailed description of the wool washing process which had by this time become more mechanised.

This is a verbatim transcription from Noble’s tome.

Main picture: View of Port Elizabeth in 1873

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Port Elizabeth 160 Years Ago

These reminiscences form part of a lecture presented by Mr. W. E. Vardy at St. Cuthbert’s Church on the 24th February 1913 entitled “Port Elizabeth 50 years ago.” This forms part of the second section entitled, “Political and Social Position.” Vardy was a merchant who resided in Havelock Street.

Port Elizabeth of the 1860s was expanding swiftly but it did not yet bear the mark of a grand, prosperous and salubrious town. The lifestyle was frugal in the extreme with most residents making their own bread and clothes as well as collecting their own water as the water from the Shark River was brackish and hence unpalatable. Modern services such as sewerage, electricity and the telephone were still 50 years in the future for most denizens.   

Apart from minor amendments and corrections, this is a verbatim copy of that speech.

Main picture: Main Street in 1864. The first block of houses on the right are bounded by Grace, Britannia and Staines Streets. The building on the right still stands today though its facade has changed immensely but the stone wall in Grace Street remains as it was then. Deare and Dietz, who occupied the premises, brought out H.W. Pearson to Port Elizabeth as their bookkeeper. The large buildings on the left are warehouses and stores belonging to the large merchants, one of whom was Dunells & Ebden. The smaller buildings in the middle are particular to the architecture of time when families lived above their business premises.

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