Archiver > SOUTH-AFRICA-IMMIGRANTS-BRITISH > 2003-02 > 1045937777

From: "Becky Horne" <>
Subject: [ZA-IB] Settler Country - Port Alfred
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2003 20:16:17 +0200

Hi Russell

Hope this helps a little pertaining to harbours and shipwrecks.

ALBANY (or Lower Albany) is a district on the Eastern frontier of the Cape
Colony. The area, roughly is from Grahamstown, down to the sea, between The
Great Fish, and Bushman's River. This is a very "glib" guide, as the areas
surrounding, and branching off, are all part of the history of "The Kowie".
It is an area, with a harsh climate, (temperate climate) which you can see
by the natural growth, as you travel, not only along the coast, but up to
Grahamstown, and the surrounding villages. Water is scarce, and there is a
lot of sourveld in the region. In all cases, there are exceptions, and
one can travel through the most
glorious valleys, find waterfalls and kranses, and the flora and fauna,
whilst not as prolific as in days past, one finds magical areas of vynbos,
lilies, and aloes, found and the indigenous trees are spectacular!

One of the many problems faced by the 1820 Settlers was poor accessibility
to the outside world. The mouth of the river known to Europeans as the Kowie
seemed to be an answer. It was wide and deep enough to allow the entrance of
fair-sized sailing ships. In 1821 the first coaster entered the river and
this was the start of Port Alfred, first known as Port Frances, after the
daughter-in-law of the governor Lord Charles Somerset, but in 1860 renamed
in honour of Prince Alfred, who was then visiting South Africa.

For years attempts continued to develop the port. Many ships visited the
place but the river mouth was difficult to enter and several ships were
wrecked, In 1881 a railway was built connecting Grahamstown to Port
Elizabeth. The construction of the railway put Port Alfred into decline as a
harbour. Today the mouth of the Kowie is a holiday resort. Small craft
meander in land through a spectacular wooded valley. The beaches at the
mouth are safe for swimming. Among remnants of settler times is the Settler
Church built by the Methodists in 1826 and used as a place of refuge in
troubled times as well as a place of worship. Alongside it is settler
cemetery. The church bell comes from the wreck of some forgotten ship. The
town's Cock's Castle was built in 1840 by William Cock, a man involved in
the early attempt to develop a port. He built his home in romantic Gothic
style,with strong crenulated walls and a flat roof reinforced to support a
cannon. Over 1800 different types of seashells, including rarities, have
been collected on the beaches. Such shells as the perlemoen, phasignella,
nautilus and turbonilla are often found.

Port Alfred, which has undergone numerous name changes, i.e
PORT-O-GRAHAMSTOWN, PORT ALBANY, (later the Port was dropped), KOWIE TOWN,
east bank), 1860, PORT ALFRED, (combining the two villages), nestles between
rather steep hills, and there is a great deal of land, known as the "flats",
which makes up the bulk of the centre of town. The most prominent feature of
Port Alfred is the glorious KOWIE River,which has its beginnings in the
hills around Grahamstown, meanders through the countryside, and eventually
rushes out to sea between man-made breakwater, and pier - this is the new
river mouth as in 1825; The Honourable William Cock, decided to re-route
the river to aid in the harbour project which he was instructed to
investigate. Mr Dyson, had previously done the investigative work to the
rerouting of the original river.

For years attempts continued to develop the port. Many ships visited the
place but the river mouth was difficult to enter and several ships were
wrecked, (86) The development of a seaport at the mouth of the Kowie River,
was a measure commended itself to Somerset, notwithstanding the fact that
Donkin had previously given the scheme his active support! The Elizabeth
having been wrecked shortly after Somerset's return from England, he ordered
two other small ships to be procured for the purpose of conducting coastal
trade and provided for the erection of a customs house and other necessary
buildings for the harbour master and customs officer. A township was laid
out on the East bank of the river, building plots were sold and houses soon
began to spring up.

A romantic look at Port Alfred, it's beginnings and struggles, tells of the
1820 settlers, who after having landed in Algoa Bay, trekked up towards
their destinations Grahamstown. As in all history, the time it took, the
illnesses and disasters that over took them on their journeys, is left to
historians. Some settled in Alexandria, some broke away and went North, but
the ones who eventually arrived here, their road long and fraught with
danger of the unknown, their journey was nearly over. The West Bank of the
settlement, the road, which can still be seen, went through what was known
as "Hope farm" a vast spread of land that belonged to the Keeton family.
This land stretched from the farm as it is now, to the banks of the river.
Called at the time, Port Kowie, the people camped, out spanned their stock
and as is the nature of man, some built huts, bought land, planted crops and
set up trade, in the area around Wesley hill, alongside the home known as
Richmond House, or Cocks castle.
Some landed at the out span, known as MEDOLINO, which is now a caravan park,
and this is where the first market was developed.

Simultaneously, there were people who had landed on the shores on this side
by ship. Their were sailors who jumped ship and traders who were looking
for a new way of life. The first hotel or inn here, was 'THE COVE" now
known as Ferrymans Hotel. At the top of the hill, directly above the old
mill, is the Grand Hotel, which was built as a 'stopover' for visitors.
This was a little later, but almost as old. Now one must picture the
buildings at that time, not as we see them today, but as 'daub & wattle'
buildings, tents, tin shacks and wagons. The mill, which was used by Captain
Cock, was the main attraction to the area. He in turn, used to climb the
'zig zag stairs' which are still there, and go up to the tiny house, which
he shared with Mr Henry Norse. (Richmond House). He had, so they say, built
himself another house, not as high up, which was known as 'the Captains
cottage." Evidence of this structure is visible today. All the land known as
the 'hospital' was land covered in water which was all the way into town.

The settlers in the meantime, some who had decided to go onto Grahamstown,
crossed over the river, in front of the Ferrymans hotel, and made their way
to the East Bank, which too was showing signs of a development. They
trundled up the road, stopped over to greet the harbour master, Mr
Dyson.,who was living alongside the old customs house, which is now known as
the Royal Alfred Estate. People had begun to land on this side from ships
and with the settlers, started off the village (Port Francis). Up High
Street, and towards the VICTORIA HOTEL, (this was the first inn on this
side, known then as Berringtons). Those that decided that this village best
suited their needs, started up their businesses, churches and schools.
Others, who were determined to go on, made their way to BATHURST, which was
then, and still remains the 'Drosdty' of Port Alfred. Bathurst, because of
it's wonderful climate, attracted many of these settlers, who abandoned the
idea of Grahamstown, and started life in this village. There were those
too, who wanted to farm, and in 1820 farm land was allocated to many of the
settlers. Names of these may be seen at the 'toposcope' in Bathurst, and
many of the families, generations later, still own and farm in the area.

Best wishes
Port Elizabeth, South Africa


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