As David Raymer points out in his excellent book on the water supply to Port Elizabeth entitled ‘Streams of Life’, “until 1880 the greatest problem [that] the settlement of Port Elizabeth faced was the question of a dependable and adequate supply of fresh water for the residents”.
This blog covers the first attempt to address this challenge.
Main picture: One of the original wells in Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth periodically experiences floods. Amongst the most devastating was the flood from Tuesday 19th November to Thursday 21st November 1867. During 11 hours on the Wednesday and Thursday, 161.5 millimetres of rain fell bringing the total for the three days to 225.5 millimetres. While only two lives were lost, damage to roads and houses was estimated to be as much as £30,000.
Perhaps its effect was exacerbated by the fact that the roads were not tarred and the flood waters gushed down the natural water courses, formally kloofs or streams, causing mayhem. But the most catastrophic effect was the silting up of the harbour. As a consequence, the recently completed breakwater had to be demolished.
Main picture: Rudolph Street, South End after the floods of November 1867
There can be little doubt that Port Elizabeth offers some superb opportunities for the ill-advised youths in Port Elizabeth to partake in speed related challenges. Needless to say, my brother Blaine has finally revealed some incidents in his ill-spent youth in which he might have met his maker long before his allotted three score and ten years.
Main picture: Blaine’s Yamaha which was the crux of Blaine’s follies
Like all the major roads up from the centre of town to the top of the hill, these roads were originally kloofs with streams, jagged rocks and steep cliffs. So it was with White’s Road. The original steep embankments on either side precluded the construction of buildings except for the Opera House. Except in historical circles is the engineer in charge, Henry Fancourt White, today remembered for his legacy. Even his name has been obliterated, being replaced with the name, John Kani. Despite this iniquity, he will be recalled by golfers in an elite manor house in George, renamed in his honour as Fancourt.
This is the story of this significant road in Port Elizabeth’s history.
Main Picture: This is the earliest extant photograph that I can find of White’s Road. It shows the devastation after the torrential rains of 20th & 21st November 1867.