Port Elizabeth of Yore: Depictions of a Struggling Town in 1830

One can safely assume that prior to the establishment of the first newspaper, the E.P. Herald, in Port Elizabeth in 1845, and before the establishment of Port Elizabeth as a borough in July 1860, very little historical information was formally recorded. In their endeavours to earn a living in a town without facilities, recording history took a low priority in their lives. Until that time, it was visitors and travellers who recorded their observations of the town. Most of them were not complimentary about it but that is the only source of information of this nascent town.

In this blog, it is the journal maintained by the Assistant Surgeon on the ship, the Falcon, which forms the basis of William Dunn’s observations of the town. They are trenchant and incisive, unflattering in their candour but were no different from those of many an observer from that period.

Main picture: Port Elizabeth in February 1835 painted by Charles Michell. The Inn at which Gunn and his fellow mariners shared breakfast is the large building on the hill

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Early Hotels

The initial accommodation of the 1820 Settlers left much to be desired: rows of tents in the sand dunes where Strand Street is now located, with Algoa Bay’s incessant wind whipping sand into all the exposed orifices. Some might even have been told shameless falsehoods about their future accommodation to lure them to the Cape. But once they stepped off their vessels, they would have to don the mantle of self-motivating, independent pioneers. The unspoken reality is that they would have to turn a pipe dream of a new life into reality. Perhaps they encountered dispiriting moments, but most would batten down the hatches and endure. 

But what the Colony lacked was proper temporary accommodation in the form of hotels especially for visiting colonial officials. 

With their keen enterprising spirit, many would swiftly erect buildings with more than a passing resemblance to hotels. As Port Elizabeth was the entrepot to the Eastern Cape hinterland and later to the Diamond Fields, it rapidly upgraded these Spartan dwelling into respectable establishments.  

This is the story of that evolution. 

Main picture: Scorey’s Hotel being depicted as the large building on the left with the garden of Anne Scorey just below the hotel

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Memoirs of James Alexander on the 1835 Frontier War

Having obtained a commission from the Royal Geographical Society to explore and investigate Africa west of Delagoa Bay, James Edward Alexander was thrust into the Kafkaesque world of the 1835 Frontier War for which he might not have purchased front row seats, but they were not the cheap seats from which the action is barely visible. Port Elizabeth itself might not have been engulfed in the war but the hordes of African warriors knocked on its front door, the Sundays River.

This blog details the defensive lines constructed, military plans drawn up and other martial actions undertaken

Main picture: Port Elizabeth’s Defence Lines during the 1835 Frontier War

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