Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Lovemore’s Residence at Bushy Park

This farmhouse must be one of the oldest houses in the Port Elizabeth area being constructed shortly after the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. Moreover, it is still in use by descendants of Henry Lovemore after 200 years, thus garnering the record of the longest occupation by the same family. That said, the original house with a thatch roof was burnt down in May 1822 possibly taking its replacement –  the current house – out of contention as the oldest house.

The bulk of this blog on this house is a verbatim extract from a lengthy article entitled Memoirs by Jessie Allen nee Lovemore who was raised in this house during the 1860s. This is indicated by the use of italicised text to indicate that it is derived from this article.

Main picture: Painting of the Bushy Park Residence in 1884 by Hannah Margaret Dicks

The House

It has been proved from the archives in Cape Town, and also from the remembrance of the eldest son, that on the day of his arrival in the S.S. John Chapman in Port Elizabeth, or Algoa Bay, as it was then called, grandfather [Henry Lovemore] rode with two men out into the country and evidently decided to buy Bushy Park, then called “Klaas’s Kraal”, and moved out there with his family.  The people living on the farm gave up the 3 roomed stone building to the new owners and moved into the Mill cottage.  I remember the old Mill. It stood in the long land inside the growing hedge.  A few stones were there until removed to enable the land to be ploughed for wheat growing.

On coming to South Africa, Henry Lovemore must have been a wealthy man, and had good taste, as all the furniture, pictures, books, etc., that he brought with him showed.  He either brought with him, or had sent out, masons, carpenters, etc., to build his large house at Bushy Park.  Once one of my brothers met a young man who, on hearing the name “Lovemore”, told him that his grandfather had been one of these brought to build the house.  It originally had 14 large rooms, 4 in front, and a wide hall running across from front to back doors – the walls very thick, built of stone brought from the sea shore, three miles away, and large windows with deep window seats.  A veranda 90 feet long and 10 feet wide, with pillars.  The roof of the house was of thatch and of the veranda iron.  All the woodwork in the house was of teak, very large shelves of teak – floors of yellow wood.  In later years, as my father’s family increased, four more rooms were added – a large room outside the main building for the boys, called the Barracks, dairy and larder, were built separately.  My grandfather built large stables, coach house and storeroom, and stables were added later.  There being no running water, two underground tanks were made, serviced with pumps.  In my very young days, I remember casks placed round the house which caught rain water from the roof, and in all the years there was never a shortage of water.  Horses were watered at a trough fed from a pump in a well, and the overflow of the water from the well gave drink to the cattle.

Bushy Park from the rear by Tony Grogan

At the time of my parent’s marriage, Port Elizabeth was a garrison town and a very gay place, many dances, balls, theatre (amateur) parties, etc., and a good deal of entertaining was done at Bushy Park.  I have heard the names of military men, such as Captain Coble and others, in my aunt’s talk of those times, and I have no doubt the two brides of the family, my mother and Aunt Lizzie Ogilvie, were shown off by their young husbands with great pride.  I have a very fond memory of Aunt Lizzie from when I was a small child until my sons, while at school in Grahamstown, used to go to her hospitable home.  She must have been a lovely girl, with soft brown eyes and hair and a sweet expression. Before she married Uncle Alfred, there had been another (Walford Harries) anxious to marry her, but she preferred Alfred.

The homestead on Bushy Park

There were large dining tables in both dining room and breakfast parlour. When there were more children than the family for meal times, the younger ones were placed in the breakfast parlour in the charge of a nurse, the “grown-ups” being in the dining room.  Tables were always laid with care, tablespoons across and salt cellars at four corners, with large, now old-fashioned, cruet stands in the centre of the table. On the sideboard some bottles of English ale, but none of the family in my young days took either wine or beer.

Bushy Park house today without the pegola which fell dowm some time ago

Growing wheat

When the wheat grown on Bushy Park was threshed or tramped out, the tramp floor was a scene of great excitement.  It was fenced round, ropes being fastened round the poles by which it was surrounded, horses were driven round, the wheat with stalks as it was cut, having been thickly strewed, and the horses trampled to separate the wheat from the stalks, which became chaff.  The horses were kept trotting by men with whips on the outside of the floor, and after a certain time of tramping, they (the horses) were let out and then the men tossed up the chaff with wooden shovels and, according to the wind, it was blown into heaps outside the tramping floor where we, as children will, rolled in it and became thoroughly dirty.  Burrowing under the chaff on one occasion we came upon a litter of piglets and their grumpy old mother, and we thought it fine fun to chase them under the chaff.

This process of winnowing and threshing often took more than a week.  The wheat was winnowed by being tossed up by the shovels until all the chaff had blown away.  Then it was put into bags, but later on was washed to get all the dirt out of it before being loaded on to a wagon to be taken to Uitenhage to be ground.  Once on the way to Uitenhage, an old Hottentot woman name Jocamane fell off, and the wheels of the wagon went over her.  She was lifted and put on the wagon as carefully as the Native boys knew how and they continued the journey.  They stayed a week having the wheat ground and did not see a doctor, then travelled home again, taking three days to do the distance of about twenty miles.  When they arrived home our Doctor Ensor, then a young man, happened to be on a friendly visit to the farm, and after Jocamane had been lifted off and laid on an improvised bed of grass and grain bags, father asked the doctor to examine her.  He did so and reported “No bones broken” and she seemed to be getting well.  Mother took good care of her for a few days and then she got up and very soon was at work again.  That wagon, with 30 bags of wheat, must have weighed at least 3 to 4 tones.  Let us hope the road was soft and sandy, for at least one wheel went over her.

The entrance but the old veranda is no longer in existence

Hunting at Bushy Park in the 1860s

In the 19th century, the Lovemores of Bushy Park were well-known for inviting dignitaries and friends to join them in hunting on their farm. Below is an extract from the article entitled Memories by Jessie Allan nee Lovemore in which she recalls the excitement, splendour and bonhomie of a bush buck hunt.

I have a picture of 1867 depicting the results of a hunt on which are shown, my mother on her fine horse “Dorwood”, father with the then fashionable Dundreary Weepers (whiskers) standing next to her and holding a gun.  His hat has a paauw feather in it and beside him were all the men who had been at the hunt, Mr Walford Harries, Willie Smith, Henry Deare, Orme Norris; the farm foreman, Masterton, and, lying on the ground, John Holland.  Near him was my brother Walter, about 6 years old, and on the other side of the group, brother Willie, about 4 years, holding a dog lying in an uncomfortable position.  Then there are Bob Pettit, Alphonse Taylor, Mr Mitchell, Alfred Ogilvie and George Hudson, dressed up for the occasion, native bearers, dogs, and many buck which had been shot.

Hunt at Bushy Park

The hunts took place on many occasions.  One was my parents wedding day, 6th August, and another Easter Monday.  Until I was an adult these took place, and as things have changed so much in later years, it may interest you to read how they were conducted.

The hunters who were invited were a regular party of old friends who were expected to come to all the hunts, and notabilities visiting Port Elizabeth were among them.  They arrived in carts bringing with them riding horses and a few dogs.  Then there was much talking and loading of guns on the wide stoep.  The guns were all muzzle loaders and powder were measured and poured down the barrels, then wads were put in and firmly rammed with a ramrod, which had a metal holder in the hollow between the barrels.  After that loopers or buckshot was measured and poured in and again wads were put in and rammed.  Putting the cap on the nipple was usually reserved until away from the house.

Hunting at Bushy Park

Then, with a great bustle, the horses and carts and (riding) horses were brought round and all set off for the appointed bush.  My father would give each man his station, and care had to be taken that no one should shoot across another.  Only one accident happened that I ever knew of, and that was caused by the man leaving his place and creeping between the monkey ropes through the bush, when he was mistaken for a buck.  He received a few loopers which did not cause a serious wound.  It caused a great deal of excitement seeing a man being lifted out of a wagon and carried into the house and put to bed.  Soon dear old Dr. Ensor was there and took out the pellets – ant there was B L O O D!! on some rags!

We, the women of the family (when I grew older, I was allowed to go) were taken in carts to the place where the warriors would assemble for lunch, and there was a great deal of chaff and fun.  Liver was grilled and there were cold chicken pies and coffee.  If any special boyfriend (present day language) was there, there was much interest in his experiences and prowess, and among the older men were many practical jokes – tickling a sleeping man with a feather, etc.  There was a short session in the afternoon and then, with Hurrahs and thanks and dividing the spoil, our friends drove away to town and we to the farm.

The usual hunters who lived in Port Elizabeth presented to father a large silver urn on which all their names were engraved, in memory of happy days hunting.

Above: Lovemore’s silver hunting trophy from 1875

Swimming

Here is a brief vignette from Jessie’s article on swimming in which she is probably referring to the Bushy Park Beach. Most of the beaches along that part of the coast are treacherous with rip tides and potent backwashes but there are some spots which are safe for swimming.

Then to bathe in the sea.  No mixed bathing in our young days.  The boys had a beach to themselves and so had the girls and the bathing dresses were any garment that was handy – no special make or size.

Outside the stables

Current status

The house is currently occupied by Keith Lovemore and Jenny Lovemore nee McCleland, but modernity has intruded in multiple ways both for good and sad. The bad was in the form of a house invasion that has upset the equanimity of many farmers and plot owners and the original verandah had collapsed necessitating its removal. But above all else, the greatest threat of all to the continued existence of this house will ultimately be the encroachment of the town. Unless it is declared a national monument, it will eventually be demolished to make way for townhouses.

Jenny Lovemore (nee McCleland)

Finally note that being a McCleland by birth, Jennifer Lovemore is related to me being my second cousin.

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