I’m sure most Port Elizabethans who grew up here would have played in the playpark at St George’s Park at one stage or another as a kid and would remember the oxen and wagon. I remember playing on it and so do my kids. After taking a walk around Art in the Park on Sunday, Miggie couldn’t wait to hop on just for the fun of it.
I took a walk up Happy Valley last week while I was doing a recce for an Amazing Race I organised. Early morning and with no wind walking there was absolute bliss. Not a soul in sight, birds chirping and the cool air on my face. What a spot and so under-utilised. The lawns were cut, gardens mostly well looked after and the pathways cleaned. A little maintenance is needed on two or three of the figures and some of the railings next to the Shark River but otherwise Happy Valley is still as beautiful as always and crying out to be enjoyed.
I took a walk through St George’s Park a week or so ago and along the way I wondered how many people actually know how old St George’s Park is.
St George’s Park was laid out and opened on 6 August 1861 to commemorate the visit of Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria, to Port Elizabeth exactly one year earlier.
Flags and streamers were flying in every direction, all shops were shut, people dressed in holiday attire, and expectation stood on tiptoe. By a sort of instinct the Market Square (now Vuyisile Mini Square) seemed to be the centre of attraction. Here the naval brigade all dressed in blue and white stood mustered under Captain Chapman and Lieut. Wheatland. The worshipful concillors in ‘tails and gloves’ began to assemble at the Town Hall and looked most grave and dignified. Presently the band struck up and matched smartly down Main Street (now Govan Mbeki Avenue) and up Donkin Street past the Scotch Church. The concillors then proceeded to the Hill and by the time the brigade had reached the spot, a good crowd of people had assembled to witness the ceremony of planting the first tree in the newly-named St Georges Park. A fellow townsman, Mr Birt, had presented the Mayor with a young oak and this was to be the tree.
The Mayor, Mr William Smith, then explained to the assembled crowd the purpose of the meeting, after which he called upon Mr Pearson, the originator of the idea, to address those present. In brief, it was to the effect that for some time a public playground had been needed in Port Elizabeth and that the Mayor was about to plant the first tree in what it had been decided to name ‘Prince Alfred’s Grove’. In later years when people would assemble in St Georges Park they would point to the Prince’s Grove and say; ‘for that and for this spacious playground we are indebted to the foresight and kindness of a former Municipal body who commemorated the first anniversary of a Royal Prince’s visit in inaugurating for the comfort, health, and recreation of their fellow-townsmen for all time these shady walks and extensive beautifully laid-out grounds.’ After this, champagne was produced and amid a volley of popping corks and several repartees, healths innumerable were drunk, and success to St. Georges Park and to the Prince’s Grove pledged over and over again.
— Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days written by JJ Redgrave and published in 1947.
A weekend or two ago we went for a photo shoot in St Georges Park. No, I don’t mean I went to take photos in St Georges. In February the Damselfly gave me a voucher for a couples shoot with Champayne Creations for Valentines Day and we were in St Georges to have our photos taken. I’m not one who always like photos being taken of me, especially posed ones, but Lundi did an amazing job and the pics look stunning. I did take my camera along to get a couple of snaps myself though.
For the second time in a week I visited a park with a little monument and plaque while Geocaching. This time it was John Shelton Park in Humewood. So who was John Shelton? John Shelton was the Director of Parks for Port Elizabeth until his retirement in the late 1970’s and played an important role in the establishment of Mannville Open Air Theatre in St. George’s Park in 1972.
This morning a quick Geocaching outing took me to a small park in Fernglen where I found an equally small monument located to the one side of the park. The monument stated:
IN MEMORY OF
1787 – 1856
LEADER OF A PARTY OF SETTLERS
FROM DEVON TO SOUTH AFRICA IN 1820,
AND PROMINENT IN THE EARLY
DEVELOPMENT OF PORT ELIZABETH
THE SUBURBS IN THIS AREA
STAND ON WHAT WAS ONCE
JOHN PARKIN’S FARM OF 1421 H.A.
WHICH HE ACQUIRED IN 1826.
I never knew this little monument was here not that the suburbs in the area (probably Fernglen, Sunridge Park and Framesby) is located on what was once a Settler farm. Just shows once again that there are still things in Port Elizabeth even I haven’t discovered and how big a role Geocaching can play in discovering these places.
You can see how dry it is in Port Elizabeth at the moment by looking at the grass. Brown and dry.