Port Elizabeth of Yore: Securing the Town’s Water Supply

The accepted norm when establishing a new town, is to locate it on a perennial water source. By non-adherence to this immutable law, the residents of the town were to suffer for 50 years. The first attempt to supply the residents of Port Elizabeth with water was not hugely successful. As the water was delivered by means of gravity feed from the Frames Reservoir on the Shark River, only the residents not residing on the hill could be serviced. Furthermore, the quality of the water was questionable. Far-sighted residents and officials agitated for a more reliable source of potable water. This is their story.

This blog has largely been based upon David Raymer’s excellent book entitled The Streams of Life: The Water Supply of Port Elizabeth and UItenhage.

Main picture: Weir on the Van Stadens River

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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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