Port Elizabeth - a City of
Port Elizabeth's history as a city
was foreshadowed during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars
with France. When the French invaded Holland and established
a puppet regime, the British occupied the Dutch possessions
at the Cape to forestall any French move upon the shipping
route to India. In 1799 the British established a fort and
garrison on the escarpment overlooking a fresh water lagoon
at Algoa Bay and named it Fort Frederick after Prince
Frederick, the "Grand Old" Duke of York, then
commander-in-chief of the British army.
Also in 1799 there took place in Algoa
Bay South Africa's only naval battle. The French
frigate La Preneuse tried to land arms for the van
Jaarsveld rebels at Graaff-Reinet who had rebelled against
the Dutch authorities at the Cape but was engaged by the
British sloop-of-war HMS Rattlesnake and the storeship
The battle was indecisive but the French were
thwarted in their purpose and La Preneuse was sunk
soon afterwards off Mauritius by HMS Adamant.
The sinking of La Preneuse by
Prior to this, the only European presence
in the area had consisted of farmers but a hamlet came into
existence on the foreshore, beneath the guns of the fort.
It was here that in 1820 the British
settlers landed who were intended to populate and stabilise
the turbulent border area in the region of the Great Fish
River. This has to do with the history of the Frontier
Some of these settlers returned to Algoa Bay
to live and work and the hamlet started to become a town.
The governor at the Cape, Sir Rufane Donkin, named the place
Port Elizabeth after his late wife.
This little bit of history is
commemorated by the well-known pyramid on the Donkin Reserve
while the landing place is marked by a tall campanile.
Since then, Port Elizabeth's history has never looked
back, growing in both size and importance and bequeathing
much fine architecture to us.
During the history of the Anglo-Boer War both
Port Elizabeth itself as well as it's dam about 40 kms away were
entrenched and fortified. Although Jan Smuts and his
commando came within sight of the sea not far from the city
during a raid, Port Elizabeth was not attacked.
was, however, an important logistic base and many of the
British remounts were shipped through the port. A memorial,
believed at the time to be unique, was subsequently erected
to the horses who suffered during the war.