Port Elizabeth of Yore: Wicksteed – Engineer of the Van Stadens Water Scheme

Port Elizabeth, like so many South African towns, suffered severe water shortages as it developed rapidly during the 19th century. Given the fact that the supply from the Frames Dam on the Shark River was inadequate, an additional dam had to be built post haste. Despite the urgency of the matter, it still took from took from the 28th June 1865 when the first petition was tabled in Parliament until 1877 id est 12 years later, before the Port Elizabeth Water Supply Act of 1877 was passed.

Given the fact that there was a paucity of suitable engineers in the Cape Colony, the first priority was to obtain one overseas.

This blogs covers the work and life of this respected but frail engineer.

Main picture: John Hamilton Wicksteed

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Water Supply from the Sand & Bulk Rivers

Port Elizabeth’s earliest water supply came from the Shark River at Happy Valley and the Donkin Stream next to the Donkin Reserve.  As the city started to grow in its early days of development the demand for water far exceeded this meager supply.  After a competition held by the Port Elizabeth city council in 1862 to find proposals to supply the city with water, a weir and small dam was built in the Van Stadens River.  This was later followed by the Bulk River (1903) and the Sand River (1907) dams in the Elands River Valley, both which can be seen driving along the Elands River Road.  Of course these dams have since been replaced as the main supply dams by the Kouga, Churchill and Mpofu dams.  Both the Sand River and Bulk River are tributaries of the Elands River which in turn at its concourse with the Kwazunga River forms the Swartkops River.  

This blog is a photographic gallery of the construction of the dams on these tributaries of the Elands River based upon photos supplied by Robert Pringle.

Main picture: Junction of the Sand & Palmiet Rivers – Flood in October 1904

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