Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: The Mosenthal’s Building in Market Square

The demolition of this elegant and stately building was a loss in two aspects. Firstly in and of itself, due to its architectural merits, the building deserved to be retained. More importantly this building together with the other buildings in Market Square represented an integrated whole. The demolition of an elegant late Victorian building and replacing it with a faux modern prison-like building was unconscionable and unforgiveable. The whole area deserved to be retained as a whole

Main picture: Mosenthal’s building in Market Square

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Uitenhage enters the Industrial Age

By 1806, two years after the town of Uitenhage was founded, the districts of Uitenhage and Graaff Reinet possessed 72.9% of the sheep in South Africa. With only 19.2% of the Cape’s population, and 60.4 head of sheep per person in these districts, one has two wonder why this anomaly arose. It would take another 20 years after the establishment of Port Elizabeth in 1820 before the export of wool would make sheep breeding a profitable undertaking. It is these exports which would provide the impetus for the creation of wool processing industries in both Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth.

Main picture: Springfield – One of the first woolwasheries in Uitenhage

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Flip van der Merwe: With Tongue firmly in his Cheek

After 50 years the old Flip, or is that young Flip, instantly makes his presence felt. Within 30 seconds the serious tone belies a flippant comment meant to amuse and sometimes confuse the real from the unreal. Then comes the warning to me as I commence the interview: All replies must be taken with a boulder of salt. To expose the real Flip, I might have to interview “the girl”, now his wife of 50 years, Renée.  

Personally for me, three attributes define Flippie. If one could capture the essence and bottle it, they would be the car, the girl and witty tongue-in-cheek over-the-top statements and mannerisms.

Instead of a formal style I have adopted Flip’s flippant style. But in order to obtain a measure of balance, I have allowed Flip to write the captions to the photos.

Main picture: Na 36 jaar. “I have lost my class”

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Disorderly Haphazard Development of Embryonic Town

“Much like a latter-day squatter camp” best describes how Port Elizabeth commenced. Without a master plan or even a local government, houses and other buildings were built willy-nilly. Without standards anything was acceptable. Moreover, embodying this spurt of development was an entrepreneurial vibrancy which engulfed the populace endeavouring to cloth, feed and house themselves. Apart from the Rev. Francis McCleland, the Colonial Chaplain, who was paid a stipend of £150 per annum by the English government, the rest had not only to build their own homes but also to earn sufficient to sustain themselves.

The blog highlights the chaotic initial development of the town.

Main picture: 1822 Sketch by S.E. Hudson showing the shambolic layout of the town

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: From Commandant’s Quarters to Wool Market

Like many other sites in Central Port Elizabeth, this site has undergone a veritable melange of uses and buildings over the years. Originally it was the quarters of the Commandant of the Fort, Captain Francis Evatt. It was then used as the Court House, Jail and Police Station until August 1854 when it was burnt down. Subsequently it was used by a breakaway faction of St Mary’s Church to build their own church. That building was replaced by the Wool Market and in its final iteration, it became part of the market building.

Main picture: 1850 Castle Hill by H.F. White, better known for his construction of Whites Road, with the Commandant’s Quarters on the extreme left. The stand-alone building is the lock-up or jail.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Union Castle Corner

In the early days, the area was simply known as the Corner of Main and Jetty Streets, descriptive but unimaginative and boring. The name Union Castle Corner only arose once the Union Castle Steamship Company occupied these premises in 1901. From 1820 until it was demolished in 1978 to become a bus terminus, it had effectively only had two buildings on this site but with multiple tenants over the years and one major upgrade. With the harbour being the centre of the town’s focus, this area was prime real estate.

This blog covers the buildings and their major tenants which occupied this site over the years.

Main picture: The original multi-storey building before the extension of the building down Jetty Street

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Class of 1971: What did they do after school?

This blog was written by the pupils of the Class of 1971 themselves. It would be great to hear from everybody. Two photos of Then and Now would also be super. There are no rules about how much or how little you would like to share or indeed what you would to include. The latest submissions will be included at the top of the blog thereby making the unread entries at the top of the blog.  

Main picture: Montage of Class of ’71’s Assembly & Service Program as well as the Valedictory Address and Signatures [Thanks to Sonia Slement (Venter)]

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