Port Elizabeth of Yore: What Happened to the Bell of the Chapman?

One of the seminal events in the history of the Eastern Cape and ultimately South Africa, was the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820. Notwithstanding their importance and impact upon the trajectory of South Africa, no artefact of that landing is extant.

If an artefact were still surviving, should it not have pride of place at the Bayworld Museum? If such an artefact is indeed extant, where is it located?

Main picture:  The Chapman’s Bell is housed at the Centurion Bowling Club, Lyttleton Manor Centurion

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: From Sandy Hills to Tent Town to Sandy Hills Once Again

For the Settler, this voyage would be the quintessential destination to a terra incognito, not only from a location perspective but also from a livelihood point of view. Most had not been selected psychologically with the criteria of the rugged pioneer in mind nor did many possess any farming skills or aptitude. Apart from the tiny Deal Party, Port Elizabeth, or “landing place with fresh water” as it was shown then on the maps, was merely a waystation en route to the Albany District. As such, their initial impact on this hamlet was minimal; more like that of any itinerant or peripatetic soul. 

Yet their impact would ultimately be immense as those without the requisite farming skills would drift back to the area to apply their original trade. It was only then that the hamlet would be converted from sandy hills into a vibrant fast-expanding town vying with Cape Town as the Colony’s largest city. 

This is the story of this transient herd, their travails and their experiences whilst in Port Elizabeth. By now, the story of the 1820 Settlers is well known and does not form part of the history of Port Elizabeth per se. As such, this blog will focus on the salient facts but not the minutiae of the Settlers’ experiences.

Main picture: Arrival of the 1820 Settlers

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Canicide and the Rabies Epidemic of 1893

Over a period of several decades, the dog had been transformed from an animal into a pet, a mongrel into a pure-bred. Thus, the threat of mass canicide to obviate the menace of rabies in 1893 was met with implacable opposition by these canine owners. By the time that the harsh restrictions such as muzzling and tethering were relaxed in December 1893, 1,917 dogs had been destroyed and one human died, Lydia Gates. 

Yet again, class played a prominent role in how the epidemic was dealt with. 

Main picture: Prize dogs in Port Elizabeth in 1895 Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Settler ship “The Chapman”

Whereas the Aussies refer to the Chapman as the Convict vessel, South Africans refer to her as the Settler ship, one for confinement and the other for release. 

This is fascinating history of the 70 years service to colonialism of this renowned ship and some of its crew. Apart from trading and conveyance operations, it was also fitted out with guns for two periods of its life and was engaged in naval warfare. 

Main picture: A model of the Chapman

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