Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Changing Face of Happy Valley and Humewood Beach

Ironically just over a century ago, the puny stream which flowed through Happy Valley was well-known whereas the area through which it flowed, Happy Valley, was unknown to the resident of Port Elizabeth. It was this non-descript trickle which supplied this nascent town with its first piped water albeit that it was only to the low-lying areas as the water was gravity fed. In September 1968, this stream barely a trickle, was transformed into a raging torrent probably about 1 metres deep and 70 metres wide.

From providing a vital commodity it now only serves as an entertainment area. This blog deals with the changing character and importance of this area from necessity to a luxury.

Main picture: Frames’ Reservoir on the Shark River

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Living Conditions during the First Decades

Initially there were 4000 Settlers camped in tents amongst the sand dunes without running water or ablution facilities. Upon their departure, those who, for whatever reason remained, would have faced the nightmarish twin plights of erecting a shelter and eking out a living. Both were daunting. Nothing was uncomplicated. Everything was a challenge. Nothing could have prepared them for what they had to face.

At best the living conditions in this undeveloped land must have been primitive and at worst squalid. JJ Redgrave in this book, Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days, provides a peak into this unknown world.

Main picture: Examples of Settlers’ Homes

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Unlikely Dam

The saga of how Port Elizabeth acquired an unsuitable dam on a trickle of a river as its first primary water supply in the 1860s, is explained in this blog. Sadly after a few decades the water became saline and no longer potable. Perhaps this venture was emblematic of the era where vision was limited by parsimony and where, despite the Council’s laudable motives, was doomed to failure. 

For all that, the Town Council did protect the interests of its residents by not financing the project itself. So, when bankruptcy did occur, no losses were borne by the denizens of the town. 

Main picture: Opening the valve at the Frames Dam in 1863

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Water, water, everywhere but……..

In the annuals of history, one of the key criteria for the establishment of a town was a ready water supply. What this meant in reality was that towns were located on a perennial river with a persistent strong flow. Not so Port Elizabeth. This problem was to bedevil its development over the years. 

Where did Port Elizabeth obtain its water supply from, especially in the early years? 

Main picture: On this puny stream, grandiloquently called Shark River, that supplied Port Elizabeth with its first piped water

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