Port Elizabeth of Yore: Cleghorns on Market Square

The building on the northern corner of White’s Road opposite Market Square was originally built in 1861 by Paterson, the owner of the Eastern Province Herald. In 1864, just after the construction of the grand Town Hall was completed, he named the building the Herald Chambers”, and relocated his newspaper there.

In March 1884, the department store, Cleghorn and Harris, was opened in “Herald Chambers” in the Market Square. A decade later, in January 1894, they purchased the building.

This store was located in a prime location overlooking the pivotal point in Port Elizabeth. It was not the hoi polloi and the down-at-the-heel who were attracted to the restaurant with its view of the Town Hall but the elite.

Main picture: Cleghorn’s Building burnt down on the 6th May 1896

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Birth of the Standard Bank

John Paterson was at the forefront of many of the developments in Port Elizabeth. Amongst these were the establishment of the Grey Institute and the Eastern Province Herald. Perhaps the least obvious creation of John Paterson, was that of the Standard Bank. 

It was to be in 1857, that Paterson, a prominent Port Elizabeth businessman, was to turn his hand at banking when he attempted to commence a bank with the title The Standard Bank of Port Elizabeth. A prospectus was duly issued reflecting a proposed capital of £ ¼ million. 

Main picture: The first building erected specifically for the Standard Bank

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Match Manufacturing

In the publication “The Match Industry in South Africa,” Mr. D.R. Leith notes the following: “Matches were first manufactured in South Africa in July 1885, in Port Elizabeth, by Mr. Thomas Milward.”

After an auspicious start in Port Elizabeth, match manufacturing operations were set up elsewhere in South Africa. In 1903, the light of a new industry was extinguished in Port Elizabeth when the factory was shuttered.

This is the story of why that initial attempt did not ignite a new industry in Port Elizabeth.

Main picture: The staff of the first match factory founded in Port Elizabeth in 1885. Mr William Brooker is seated in the middle, with his son, W.H. Brooker on his right. The other sons, C.F. and A.V. Brooker are, respectively the lad in a hat at the right in the back row, and the small boy seated on a case at the left. The photograph was taken circa 1902.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: John Paterson vs PE Municipality in 1863

John Paterson must have finished Friday 22nd May 1863 in a euphoric mood. The Town Council had accepted his proposal to use the unwanted obelisk as a memorial to the betrothal of the Prince of Wales and Alexandria of Denmark. So far, Paterson had experienced improbable good luck, much like the Midas Touch. During that day’s festivities, Paterson had been royally feted with cheers of acclamation. 

On the other hand, the next day, Saturday 23rd, would be a stark contrast to this, culminating in a legal confrontation with the Port Elizabeth Town Council. It was marred by an accident which would cost John Paterson the best part of £600, a King’s Ransom in those days.

Main picture: John Paterson

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Saga of the Obelisk

Originally intended by John Paterson as a tombstone to his business partner and friend, George Kemp, but when rejected as inappropriate by Kemp’s family, it was salvaged and placed in Market Square where it majestically stood for 58 years.  

Instead of connoting its initial conflicted sepulchral/royal origins, it should have been dedicated to Paterson himself, who could, if you will, be characterised as Port Elizabeth’s greatest son.

This is the story of that saga.

Main picture: The obelisk with its prominent position in Market Square

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Schools

The first order of business when the Settlers landed in Algoa Bay was to establish some sort of permanent roof over their heads. As such, schooling was not a priority. Nonetheless the residents desire for schooling for their children remained strong. To this end, a meeting of the inhabitants of Port Elizabeth was arranged for Friday 20th February 1824 at the Red Lion Tavern which at the same time was being used as the Custom’s House and as Public Offices. 

Main picture: Algoa House serving as Mrs. Harriet Joanna Eedes’s School for Young Ladies

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