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
Prior to the establishment of woolwasheries in Port Elizabeth, there were no industries in the town. The salient feature of economic activities was a focus on merchanting and activities related to the harbour. Activities such as house construction, shoe and bootmaking were prevalent but they were not undertaken on an “industrial scale.” Instead they were all undertaken on a “made to order” basis on the owner’s property rather than for stock in a factory.
With the burgeoning wool trade, various entrepreneurs sensed a business opportunity. Thus commenced the woolwashing industry for which Port Elizabeth is still renowned.
Main picture: Woolwashing in Humewood Continue reading