W. P. M Henderson.

Durban: fifty years' municipal history online

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^ci ■. . .

lt~ '"■:''-?^-' - !^^B

i*J^i^f »•

1889— 1892 ..

. 140


,, ,,

1S92— 1895 . .

• 154


>) )>

1895— 1897 ..

. 170


.. ,.

1897 -1901 ..

• 175


1> >)

1901— 1902 ..

• 194


.. >.

1902— 1904 . .

. 205


Water Supply

. 225


Electric Lighti

ng and Traction Works

• 251


Municipal Tramways

. 272


Sewerage Works

. 284


Storm Water Drainage

. 288


Admiralty Reseive and Victoria Rmbankmeu

t 293


Public Health

and Sanitation

• 299


Municipal Art


. 317


Municipal Telephones

. 328


Police and Fire Brigade

• 334



and Geology of Durban

• 352


Durban in 1904

■ 358


. .


. 355

Town Councillors of Durban (1854 to 1904)

. 37S


• 1 • •

. . 1 .

■ 385



1. I*roposed New Town Hall .. .. .. Fronttspiece


2. Mayors: G. C. Cato, E. vSiiell, S. Pinsent, and A.

W. Evans . . . . . . . . . . 26

3. Mayors : J. R. Goodricke, W. Hartley, A. McArthur,

and H. Gillespie . . . . . . . . 50

4. The Town Gardens . . . . . , . . 54

5. Mayors: John Hunt, R. W. Ty/.ack, Arthur Harvej-,

and John Millar . . . . . . . . . . 70

6. Mayors : Wm. Field, J. D. Ballance, Richard Vause,

and William Palmer . . . . . . . . 76

7. Mayors : John Goodliffe, K. Pickering, vSir B. W.

Greenacre, Sir William Arbnckle . . . . 90

8. Mayors: H. W. Currie, J. W. Stranack, W. E. Robarts,

R. L. Cunningham .. .. ..

9. The Town Hall .. .. .. .. ..126

10. Jubilee Fountain, Town Gardens . . . . . . 135

11. Borough Officials: Town Clerk, Town Treasurer,

Town Solicitor, and Borough Engineer . . . . 144

12. Durban Railway Station and Offices .. .. 150

13. Statue of the Right Hon. Harry P:scombe, P.C. .. 15S

14. Town Hall Organ . . . . . . . , . . 164

15. Statue of Queen Victoria .. .. .. ..181

16. Borough Market House .. .. .. .. 1S9

17. Ma3-ors : J. J. • Hillier, J. W. Leuchars, G. Payne,

Hon. R. Jameson .. .. .. .. 190

18. Mayors: E. I-,. Acutt, C.M.G., and John Nicol, C.M.G. 202

19. J. Ellis Brown, Mayor, 1902-3-4 .. .. .. 21c

20. Waterfall, Umbilo Waterworks . . . . . . 225

21. Junction of River and P.eservoir, Umbilo Waterworks 228

22. Intake Dam, Umlaas River . . . . . . 235

23. 160,000,000 Gallon Reservoir (Umlaas) . . . . 239

24. "The Intake," Umlaas River .. .. .. 240

25. The Dam, Camperdown . . . . . . . . 244

26. Bird's-Eye View of Camperdown Retervoir . . 248

27. Alternators and Traction Generators, Electric Power

Station . . . . . . • • • • • ■ 257




ILLUSTRATIONS— aw //«//6'fl'.

Coudensinj,' Plant aud Cyliiulcrs of Traction Plant.
West Street, corner of Gardiner Street
Electric Lighting Alternator Sets . .
I^Iunicipal Tramcars : Old Style aud Xew Style
X'ictoria Ivnibanknient near Royal Natal Yacht Clul

Victoria Ivnibanknient, Koenig's Buildings, Durban

Club and Marine Hotel ..
"Flag jMaidens of Taunton," by A. C. Gow, R.A
"The Broken Idol," by Val. Princep, R.A.
" The Victoria Cross," by W. B. Wollen, R.I.
Central Telephone Ivxchauge
Musgrave Road and Point Police stations
Main Police Station
Fire Float, Durban Fire Brigade
Central Fire Station, Pine Street ..
Gardiner Street, Ba}-, and Bhi.T
West Street, looking East . .
Smith Street, looking East
Main Wharf, Point . .
Town Councillors of 1904 ..











Towards the end of 1903, when the Durban Town
Council had under consideration the question of cele-
brating the Jubilee of the Borough, it was decided to
publish the history of the fifty years' Municipal work.
In the following pages, therefore, an attempt has been
made to trace the gradual improvement and opening
up of the Borough Lands, the origin and progress of
the various Municipal undertakings, and the measures
from time to time adopted for the amelioration of
those disadvantages inherent to Colonial life in the
early years of the Municipality.

When it is remembered that fifty years ago the
township of Durban consisted of a few wooden huts
and shanties, that the roads were but sandy tracks cut
through virgin bush — without drains of any description
or any attempt at public lighting — and that the water
supply was obtained from primitively sunk wells yield-
ing water of an indifferent quality, it is difficult to
realise that within so short a period the beautiful town
of Durban has been built up and equipped with all the
modern conveniences and luxuries which the Burgesses
of Durban now enjoy. No finer object lesson of pure
municipal administration could be found than the


resTilt of the fifty years' labours of the men who during
that period have served their fellow-townsmen in the
capacity of Town Councillors. With no emolument
•or privilege attaching to the position, but on the con-
trary frequently exposed to misconceptions by those
wliom they represented, nothing but a stern conviction
of the importance of their public duties and responsi-
bilities could have induced these gentlemen to devote
their time and energies so ungrudgingly to the work
■of the Town Council. Durban has perhaps been
peculiarly fortunate in obtaining as Councillors men
influenced by conscientious motives and possessed of
keen business acmnen and that far-sightedness which
has characterised the decisions of past Councils. To
the gentlemen who have occupied the positions of
Mayor and Town Councillors during the past half
•century the present generation is indebted for the
transformation of an unhealthy, sand-swept flat into
the most beautiful South African seaport town on the
shores of the Indian Ocean.

The story of the early days of the town anterior to
its incorporation has been related so thoroughly and
60 skilfully by J. Forsyth Ingram in " The Story of an
African Seaport," and by George Eussell in " Old
Durban," that it is unnecessary to refer here to the
terrible vicissitudes experienced by the early settlers.
It was therefore decided to confine this book to the
history of the Corporation from the date of the pro-
clamation of the township as a Borough in 1854. As
far as possible the history has been arranged in
chronological order, special chapters being devoted to
the more important Municipal undertakings.



On the 15th jMay, 185-J-, Litnitonant-CTOvernor B. C. C.
Pine proclaimed the township of Durban to be a
Borough in terms of Ordinance No. 1 of 1854 " For
•establishing Municipal Corporations within the Dis-
trict of Natal." Under this Proclamation the boun-
daries of the Borough were fixed as follows: East, by
the Indian Ocean; North, by the Umgeni River; North-
west, by the Farms Springfield, Brickfields, and Cato's
Manor; and South and South-east, by the Lots 1 to 11
•on the Umbilo River, by the Umbilo River, and the
Bay of Natal. The Proclamation also divided the
Borough into four Wards, eacli of which would be
represented by two Town Councillors. Under the
Ordinance it was provided that the first and every
subsequent election of Town Councillors should take
place on the first Wednesday in August, and the elec-
tion of Mayor on the first Saturday following, so the
Burgesses had ample time in which to select candi-
dates for the honour of representing them in the Town

The first Burgess Roll was published on the 1st June
by the Resident Magistrate (Mr. H. J. Meller), when
out of a total European population of 1,204 (including
women and children) it was found that 329 persons
possessed the necessary qualification for civic rights,
viz., that a burgess must be a male inhabitant over 21
years of age and the possessor of landed property of £25
value, or a renter to the extent of £5 yearly for six
luonths prior to June 1 in each year, Councillors, how-

4 DUKBAx: [1854]

ever, being required to own property to the value of
£100 clear of mortgage.

Meetings were held during June in the several
Wards, and ultimately the following gentlemen were
nominated for election as Councillors: Ward 1, G. C.
Cato, Alexander McArthur, James Blackwood ; Ward 2,
John Millar, G. H. Wirsing, James Brickhill, William
Smerdon; Ward 3, Eichard Harwin, A. W. Evans;
Ward 4, W. H. Savory, Kobert Raw, Charles Johnston,
Francis Harvey, Edward Snell, and William Hartley.
The election was fixed for August 2nd, and at the close
of the poll the Eesident Magistrate declared the fol-
lowing gentlemen to have been duly elected as the first
Town Councillors for the Borough of Durban:

Ward 1 : George Christopher Cato and James

Ward 2 : John Millar and George Henry Wirsing.

Ward 3: Alfred Winter Evans and Richard

Ward 4: Charles Johnston and Robert Raw.

In accordance with the Ordinance, the first meeting
of the Council was held on Saturday, August 5th, for
the purpose of electing the Mayor. By permission of
the Resident Magistrate, the meeting was held in the
Magistrate's Court Room, and a considerable number
cf Burgesses attended. The votes were taken by
ballot, and resulted in Mr. G. C. Cato being elected
Mayor. The Councillors' choice was heartily approved
by the Burgesses, and during the two years that Mr.
Cato occupied the position of Chief Magistrate of the-
Borough of Durban he proved himself, by his keen
business ability and deep interest in the welfare of the
Borovigh, worthy of the confidence reposed in him by
his fellow-Councillors, and set a brilliant example of
disinterested service and strenuous exertion in the
advancement of tlie interests of the ]\Iunicipality.


At the second meeting of the Council, held on 10th
August, the question of appointing a Town Clerk and
defining his duties was discussed, and the Mayor was
authorised to frame an advertisement for insertion in
the two local newspapers (the " Natal Mercury " and
"Natal Commei'cial Advertiser") calling for applica-
tions for the post of Town Clerk at a salary of £50 per
annum. At a subsequent meeting nine applications
for the post were received, and eventually Mr. Mark
Foggitt was appointed on Gth September, 1854.

The transfer of the Town Lands of the Borough
was a burning question during the first Municipal year,
and cropped up in one way or another at most of the
Council meetings. The general plan of the Borough
made by Thomas Okes in 1846 comprised an area of
7,165 acres, but between 1846 and 1854 Government
had made several grants of portions of these lands,
amounting in all to 853 acres. The Councillors were
by no means satisfied with this area, describing it as
" far too limited for the probable wants of the town,
considering it is the only port in the Colony." They
contended that after deducting building ground, bush,
sand, and Government Eeserves there would not be
1,000 acres of grazing ground available, and consider-
ably more than that area would be needed for grazing
and outspan purposes when the interior and coast trades
were developed, ox-wagon transport being practically
the only means of trading at that time. The
Lieutenant-Governor was therefore memorialised to cede
to the Corporation, in lieu of the areas alienated by
Government, an additional 400 acres of the Bluff
Lands, reserving " such portion thereof at the ex-
tremity of the promontory as may be required for the
purposes of the public service." The Mayor, speaking
from his experience of the troublous times through
which the town had passed, urged as a further reason
for the Corporation acquiring the Bluff Lands tliat the
Bluff would form a most eligible place of refuge for

6 dueban: [185J:-55]

women and cliildren in case of an attack on the

The Lientenant-Governor, however, conld not accede
to this request, and the Council learnt that they were
not even to have the whole of the lands as surveyed by
Okes, less the 853 acres already alienated by Govern-
ment, a communication being received from the Colonial
Secretary stating that " the land to the south of the
line of West Street produced to the sea would be re-
served to the Crown for the use of a future Harbour
Commission." The Councillors were highly indignant
on the receipt of this intimation, describing this further
deduction by Government as " a despoilment of the
rights of the townspeople," " a downright robbery,"
&c., and at a meeting held on 17th November, 1854,
the following resolution was carried unanimously:
" That this Council, having taken into consideration
the letter of the 14th November instant, do hereby
positively decline to accept on the part of the Bur-
gesses of Durban the curtailed extent of the Town
Lands as proposed by His Honour the Lieutenant-
Governor, refusing to make themselves parties to a
despoilment of the rights of the townspeople, and
which is totally unwarranted on any grounds of public
necessity as at present submitted to the notice of the
Council by the Local Government." Eventually, find-
ing the Lieutenant-Governor adamant to their pro-
tests and demands, the Council accepted the Title
Deeds of the Borough on July 30th, 1855, the un-
alienated area being 6,096 acres after deducting the
Ordnance Lands (a block of 324 acres in the centre
of the town set aside for military purposes), the Ad-
miralty Reserves (amounting to 140 acres), the land
reserved for the Harbour Commission (known after-
wards as the Addiugton Lands, in extent 215 acres),
and the lots alienated by Government prior to the in-
corporation of the Boroughr

The first Valuation Eoll of the Borough was pre-


pared by the Town Clerk, and formally approved by
the Town Council on 16th January, 1855, when the
Town Clerk was appointed Kate Collector. The
rates were fixed on the estimated annual rental
of all buildings and the freehold value of vacant erven,
the total valuation of annual rentals being £4,487 and
freehold values £10,286. On March 7th, 1855, the
assessment was declared at Is. in the £ on annual
values of occupied properties and 4d. in the £ on the
freehold value of unoccupied properties. This assess-
ment should have yielded an income of £341, but
considerable difficulty was experienced in collecting the
rates, and in view of possible litigation Mr. Lawrie was
appointed Town Solicitor. In May, the Treasurer (Mr.
John Ward, who had been appointed at a salary of £15
per annum) reported that only £100 of the rates had
been collected, that some ratepayers had asked for
more time, and some had refused to pay at all. Sum-
monses were ordered to be issued against rate de-
faulters, and an action was brought against Mr. Henry
Milner, ship-owner and sugar planter, for the recovery
of the sum of £4 10s., amount of rates due. The case
was heard before the Eesident Magistrate, Mr. J. E.
Goodricke (Solicitor) appearing for the defendant, and
Mr. Lawrie for the Corporation. The case was dis-
missed on an exception to the summons — the precursor
of many such dismissals of summonses issued by the
Corporation. The exception upheld by the Magistrate
was a somewhat novel one, being that the Town Clerk's
appointment as Eate Collector was not in order as he
had not been appointed " imder the Borough Seal "
in terms of the Ordinance. The Coimcil at that time
had no Borough Seal, and therefore all acts of the
Town Clerk might have been deemed illegal, but for-
tunately for our predecessors no cognisance was taken
of this fact.

The Council took prompt steps to supply the omis-
sion, and called for competitive designs for a Borough

8 DURBAN: [1855]

Seal. Mr. C. J. Cato's design was accepted, repre-
senting a view of the town, Point, Bay, and Bluff, sur-
mounted by a five-pointed star (taken from the design
of Mr. George Kussell, one of the unsuccessful com-
petitors) intended as an emblem of the Star of
Bethlehem and typifying the Nativity and the East.
The design was cut in silver and attached to a handle
of native ivory in a silver band, on which were in-
scribed the names of the Councillors. The Seal was
a very creditable example of local workmanship, and
was presented to the Council by the Mayor. It con-
tinued in use until September 19th, 1883, when the
present Seal was adopted. The old Seal at a later
date was handed to the Durban Museum.

Eules of Order were drafted by Mr. Councillor Evans
and approved on 16th January, 1855, after which the
Council proceeded to draft Borough Bye-laws, which
were approved on 29th May, 1855, and forwarded for
the sanction of the Lieutenant-Governor, which was
communicated in the following month.

The Council being desirous of leasing certain areas,
Mr, E. S. Upton was appointed Borough Surveyor on
23rd January, 1855, and was promptly directed to
survey sites for slaughter houses and brickyards. The
first sale of leases was held in 1855, being conducted
by Mr. Eobert Acutt,

The first record bearing on the finances of the
Borough is dated 10th January, 1855, when the Town
Clerk was instructed to apply to the Directors of the
Natal Bank for the loan of a sum not exceeding £50
to the members of the Council to meet current ex-
penses. On January 23rd accounts were submitted
from Messrs. Wirsing & Acutt, for candles and Minute
and other books, £1 2s. ; " Natal Commercial Adver-
tiser," for advertising, 12s.; and Town Clerk's salary
for four months (£16 13s. 4d.), and £1 8s. for candles
and stationery supplied by him. These accounts were


passed by tlie Council and the Treasurer "' authorised
to pay the amounts from tlie first moneys that eome
into his possession." At the next meeting, the Town
Clerk reported that the Treasurer had obtained from
the Branch Bank the sum of £25, less discount, upon
the personal guarantee of the Mayor, and the accounts
had therefore been paid.

The newly dignified Town Councillors were ex-
tremely zealous in safeguarding their rights and privi-
leges, and would brook no interference by Government
officials. In April, 1855, a public meeting of the in-
habitants was convened by the Resident Magistrate to
give effect to Her Majesty's Proclamation concerning
the Patriotic Fund for the relief of the sick and
wounded in connection with the Crimean War. The
Council objected to the meeting being convened by the
Magistrate, and passed a resolution regretting " that
the Corporation was so unaccountably overlooked by
the Secretary of the District as not to receive any
direct official instructions to carry out Her Majesty's
wishes and intentions, and this Council cannot but con-
sider the Resident Magistrate's calling this or any
public meeting of the inhabitants of this Borough as an
infringement of the rights and privileges of this Cor-
poration." A reply was received explaining the reasons
for the action of the Resident Magistrate, pointing out
certain inaccuracies in the Council's statements, and
taking exception to the Council censuring the Lieu-
tenant-Governor. This exasperated the Councillors
still more, and elicited the following resolution, which
may perhaps be considered an entirely unique example
of official correspondence as conducted in the early
days of the Borough's existence:

" That this Council deeply regrets that His Honour
the Acting Lieutenant-Governor should have deemed
it compatible with his dignity and with his duty to the
public interests to authorise a communication which
offers a gratuitous insult to any incorporated body of

10 DUEBAx: [1855]

Her Majesty's lo3'al subjects exercising an important
trust and acting conscientiously in the vindication of
what they believed to be their rights. That when
persons holding public situations voluntarily descend
to misrepresentation and insult they can no longer ex-
pect to receive that deferential consideration to which
their position would otherwise entitle them. That
the charge of a wilful disregard of facts brought
Rgainst this Council by the Colonial Secretary, under
the alleged authorit}^ of his Honour the Acting
Lieutenant-Governor, is one wdiicli would subject the
accuser in private life to consequences from which
official position may be a legal but certainly is not a
magnanimous defence.

" That it does not comport with the self-respect of
this Council to reply to that charge; and it will not
condescend to retort it, notwithstanding the ample
materials for so doing supplied in the letter of the
Colonial Secretary."

In justice to the Mayor, it must be noted that he
dissented from this resolution.

In May, 1856, the Town Council again asserted its
presumed rights by passing the following resolution:

" That this Council records its gratification at the
intelligence which has recently arrived of peace having
been re-established in Europe; but the local Govern-
ment having omitted to communicate officially any
information on the subject of the holiday, the Council
can take no other steps to celebrate an occasion so
worthy of general rejoicing on the part of an English

Finally, in order tbat there should in future be no
question as to the status of the Mayor of tlie Borough
of Durban, the following resolution was passed, but no
evidence can be traced in any Statute Book of the
Council's desire having been acceded to:


" Eesolved : That this Council considers it desir-
able that the rank and position of the Mayor, in his
official character, and his priority in precedence over
all Her Majestj^'s subjects (except the Administrator
of Government) Avithin the precincts of the Borou

Online LibraryW. P. M HendersonDurban: fifty years' municipal history → online text (page 1 of 24)