History - The Bluff Past:
October 1955 alarm gripped residents of Brighton Beach following a
report that borers had inflicted severe damage to the homes of six
residents. The type of borer was identified as an Italian beetle of
the Hylotrupes bajulus species. In three of the cases the borer
emanated from furniture brought from the Cape. Mr TH Marinowitz of
the Timber Control Office remarked that the mobility of the borer
was such that it could fly up to two miles at a time. He warned that
householders who failed to report the presence of borer could be
subsequent report noted that a further ten Brighton Beach homes had
borer infestation. Meanwhile building societies announced that they
would grant advances to bondholders affected by borers so that
repairs could be carried out. Borer treatment was cited as costing
about £90 for an average house.
Bridge over the Bay:
idea has surfaced on and off over the decades. But 26 November 1955
seems to have been its debut. Bluff Councillor Spanier Marson made
the request in a letter to the Works Committee. He cited the
increase in the traffic along South Coast Rd, then the Bluff's only
link with the city, as motivating the construction of an alternative
route. In addition, he said, the bridge would provide easier access
for travellers in the city and northern suburbs to reach Louis Botha
like subsequent occasions when the idea of bridging the Bay has made
brief headlines, the 1955 one came to nought.
Railway housing scheme:
1955 the SA Railways set aside £6,5 million to expand services to
its staff in Natal.Specifically it sought to purchase land from the
City Council in Durban for its staff housing scheme. Parts of the
Bluff that the Railways would focus on were Bluff Rd, Norman Rd and
Sidmouth Rd. The Council wanted the Railways to contribute £45,000
towards the development of road and storm water infrastructure in
across the city. Each house was expected to cost between £3,000 and
£3,500. But the Bluff Ratepayers objected. Its chairman, Harry
Lewis, said the Bluff did not want "another unwanted gift foisted on
Durban's Cinderella suburb" (Daily News, 3 August 1955).
No to maisonettes in
Marine Dve area
have seen with the recent chairman of the Bluff Ratepayers, Ivor
Aylward, his erstwhile predecessor, Harry Lewis, was outspoken when
it came to the appearance of the Bluff. In August 1955 Lewis accused
the City Council of treating the Bluff as a "dumping ground" and
that it was "contemptuous of the Bluff." His remarks related to a
Town Planning recommendation for maisonettes to be built in Herbert
Andrews Dve, off Marine Dve.
basis of Lewis's opposition was that maisonettes would "lower the
aesthetic standards" of Marine Dve which was noted for its fine
gardens. He said experience showed that maisonettes tended to be
occupied by a transient population many of whom cared little for the
upkeep of gardens and buildings. Lewis's opposition was supported by
Bluff Councillor Sidney Smith and as a result the application to
build those maisonettes was turned down by the full Council.
under the bay:
HARD on the heels of Bluff councillor Spanier Marson’s
request for the construction of a bridge across the entrance of the
bay to the Bluff, came a new request: to construct a tunnel under
the bay to reach the Bluff so as to alleviate traffic congestion on
South Coast Road.
A report in the Mercury dated 2 December 1955 noted that the
city engineer, Mr Kinmont, had been asked to investigate the issue.
The council’s works committee had agreed that in addition to the
request for a bridge, the tunnel proposal should be considered as
there was need for another outlet to the south of the city. With the
onset of municipal elections in 1956, the tunnel idea, like that of
the bridge over the bay, sank out of sight.
Bluff headlands view site:
FROM December 1955 until late in September 1956, news and
speculation about the re-opening of the Bluff headlands view site to
the public featured regularly in press reports.
With the outbreak of the war in 1939,
the area was closed to the public for security reasons. It was – and
still is – a favourite showplace for visitors to enjoy unrivalled
views of the beachfront, city, harbour and beyond. Then-mayor Vernon
Essery had raised the possibility of the site being re-opened to the
public with then-minister of defence, FC Erasmus. In typical
bureaucratic fashion, a committee was appointed to investigate the
In February 1956, minister Erasmus indicated his approval of
the re-opening subject to whatever conditions the department of
According to the MP for Umlazi, Norman Eaton, Marine Drive
would be extended to a point some 300 yards short of the tip of the
Bluff headland, at which point there would be a car park.
A month later, further conditions were disclosed by mayor
Essery. These included that the city would have a 99-year lease on
the three-mile extension of Marine Drive into the headland area in
which dwellings and residences would be prohibited. Once again it
was stated that the re-opening was imminent.
In March 1956, Bluff councillor Lionel Richardson of the
council’s finance committee stated that £8,000 would be spent on
fencing, tarring the extended three miles of Marine Drive, and the
intended car park along with installing stormwater drains.
An election and several other issues (which will be discussed
in subsequent articles) sidelined the opening of the view site until
finally at the end of September 1956, public access was restored.
For security reasons, the view site was closed to the public
There was another side to the access and ownership of the
Bluff headland which surfaced in the Sunday Tribune of 4 March 1956.
Councillor Leighton Black argued that the re-opening of the view
site was “just a sop by the minister. The city council must insist
on the surrender of the whole [headland] area and nothing less”.
Cllr Black claimed that the headland area no longer served any
military purpose. A gunnery officer in the war, Cllr Black argued
that the gun emplacements on the Bluff headland were World War I
vintage and belonged in a museum. In modern warfare, he said,
coastal artillery was “an anachronism”.
Scanned dated 26 October 1956 – newspaper source not stated
Salisbury Island beach
A REPORT in the Mercury in December 1955 projected a ‘new
playground’ for Durban – a beach on Salisbury Island. Enthusiasm for
the idea stemmed from the need to replace Fynnland Beach which was
scheduled to disappear when the new tanker turning basin was
Bluff councillor Spanier Marson said he had put forward the idea
because the railways and harbours ministry had “deprived the people
of Fynnland of their beach”. The chairman of the council’s beach
committee, Leo Boyd, supported Marson’s suggestion. At the time
there was a rumour that the naval forces on Salisbury Island would
be relocating to Simonstown.
A further report, headlined the ‘Pleasure island plan’, appeared
early in 1957. But a new snag had materialised – sharks in the bay.
Apparently the presence of sharks had increased considerably and
were particularly prevalent in the channels leading to Salisbury
Island. The cost of providing a shark-proof bathing enclosure seemed
to curtail interest and nothing further came of the proposal.
Bayhead Road plan
April 1956 saw serious discussion underway between the city council
and the national transport ministry on the construction of a new
road link – Bayhead Road – from Kings Rest station to Maydon Road
near the graving dock. Agreement had been reached on the intended
siting and routing of the road. Local member of parliament, Norman
Eaton said it was “essential to improve road communication between
the Bluff and the city”.
Zanzibari land and race
Known as the Zanzibaris today, back in the 1950s, they posed a
dilemma for both the city council and the government in terms of
apartheid laws concerning racial classification and residential
Following a decision by the railways administration to acquire land
in the vicinity of Kings Rest where the Zanzibaris lived, their
relocation became a thorny issue. According to the native affairs
department, they were not ‘natives’. Nor were they white, Indian or
coloured, according to the city council. As such, there was no
official certainty as to where they should live in terms of the
Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act.
They were descendants of African and Arab slaves who were liberated
from slavery in 1873 by a British warship and brought to Durban. A
report in the Mercury on February 2, 1956 referred to them as
‘clannish people’ who were determined to stay together and resist
being individually dispersed.
More than a year later, the Daily News of 13 May, 1957 reported that
the city council was negotiating with the Juma Musjid Trust to buy
26 acres of land on which the ‘lost tribe’ could be settled. But the
final decision on the Zanzibaris’ fate was reported to be in the
hands of the minister of the Interior, Dr TE Donges.
‘entitled’ to a public swimming pool
The loss of bathing facilities at Fynnlands Beach through harbour
development and the council’s decision to build a public swimming
pool in Durban North had Bluff councillor Spanier Marson fuming in
March 1956. “What has the Bluff got? No (tarred) roads, no pavements
and no halls. Now that the Tesoriere Bath is established in Congella,
Bluff residents are entitled to the facility of their own swimming
pool,” said Marson. “An ideal site would be the Lieut. King Park
which would cater for the Bluff population of almost 8,000.”
The council’s beach committee subsequently prioritised a
construction list of public swimming pools. The Bluff was second on
the list after Durban North. The list included pools for coloured
and Indian residential areas and formed part of capital expenditure
for the 1956/57 budget (Mercury, 21 March 1956).
RATEPAYER brickbats – and a bouquet
Why does the Bluff pay rates?
That is a question still asked today by ratepayers who are
frustrated with service delivery.
Mrs JM Astrup of Marine Drive posed that very question in a
letter to the Mercury published on 10 March, 1956. She resented the
council’s interest in opening up the Bluff headland for sightseers
while Marine Drive had no pavements or stormwater infrastructure.
“Doubtless the lack of funds will be the excuse. But why is it that
there is never a lack of funds for the corporation’s pet suburb –
Durban North?” Ouch! Mrs Astrup’s remarks were endorsed by a Mrs
Rowntree of Wylie Road (March 21) who pleaded for roads on the Bluff
to be tarred.
A correspondent who signed himself “Disgusted” and who lived
in Brighton Beach, stated: “Why do we Bluff residents tolerate such
shocking neglect? Our roads are a danger and a disgrace. The poor
street lighting is a menace.” He went on to cite the hazards of
walking down Noel Road after dark – untarred, slippery, steep with
no street lights (Mercury, June 13, 1956).
In a letter in the Mercury on April 18, 1956, Mr H Blight of
Brixham Avenue complained about the lack of drainage outside his
property. Apparently a deep pool of water some 30 metres in length
had accumulated, rendering the road impassable for vehicles and
pedestrians. Appeals to the council had proved fruitless with lack
of funds being cited as the excuse. The Mercury headed Mr Blight’s
letter “Snorkel Avenue.”
However, the council did receive a bouquet alongside Mr
Blight’s letter. “Trained Nurse” wrote to thank the bus drivers of
Durban Transport for “their unfailing kindness and courtesy” in
assisting her and her ailing mother during their many trips to and
from the Bluff to the city.
Councillor Sidney Smith’s perspective
Doubtless stung by the complaints regarding lack of service
delivery, Bluff Councillor Sidney Smith (the Bluff was represented
by two councillors then) attempted to put the Bluff’s case in
perspective. In a letter in the Mercury published on April 27, 1956,
he said that while the Bluff was the fastest growing suburb in
Durban, it was still regarded by many as the “bundu.”
He acknowledged that stormwater drainage and the tarring of
minor roads was sorely needed. He noted that the Works Committee had
voted £35,000 for stormwater drainage and a potential further
£15,000 if additional staff could be obtained. He conceded that such
sums were trifling compared to the Bluff’s legitimate needs.
On September 26, 1956, the Mercury published a detailed
report based on the recollections of two Bluff pioneers, Mr WA Doble
and Mrs AH Freer.
They had both settled on the Bluff in 1899. Then the Bluff
was an ‘outpost’ of thick bush and the home of wild animals. Known
to the Zulus as Isibubulungu, it meant a long, bulky thing or a big,
long sweet potato. The Dobles owned 22 acres of land in the Ansteys
beach area. The only other resident in that vicinity then, apart
from the Catholic Mission station, was Mr Garcin. Further south, Mr
Gray founded what became the Brighton Beach area.
Across the swamp in the valley, where Wentworth now is, was
the Clarkson family. Fynnland was the oldest residential part of the
Bluff where five families had lived since the 1860s, of which the
Armstrongs were the oldest. In 1906, when Mrs Freer’s husband was a
trooper in the Natal Police, the total number of Bluff residents
recorded in their patrol book was 25. There were no roads, just
tracks through the bush. The road to the Bluff ended at Wentworth
railway station. Marine Drive was built in the early 1930s by
After 1920, surveyor Clement Stott bought extensive property
in the Fynnland area which led to a building boom there.
THE BLUFF’S LINK WITH
Prior to white settlers taking up residence, the Bluff peninsula was
the home of the Thuli people under Chief Mnini. They claimed to have
lived there for almost four generations – possibly since around
But prior to and
in the wake of the Byrne settler scheme (1849-1851), the Thulis’
welfare came under pressure. In 1847, without any consultation,
4,500 acres of Thuli territory was granted to a Mr Ogle. In turn, he
rented out those lands to tenants who then accused the Thuli people
of being “squatters.”
Matters worsened when in 1851, again without any consultation, 1,500
acres of the Thuli lands were advertised for sale in the Natal
Government Gazette, priced
at between £1 and £2 per acre. Alarmed at the plunder of his land,
Chief Mnini met with the Secretary for Native Affairs, Theophilus
Shepstone. He complained that his Bluff lands had been so reduced
that they could no longer support his 600 people who were also being
harassed by Ogle’s tenants; also that there was insufficient
pasturage for his cattle and that access to springs of water was
Stephen Walcott, Secretary of the Colonial Land and Emigration
Office, was extremely concerned at this development and stated that
the “territorial rights” of the Native should be seen as a “very
delicate” issue. He believed that a bad precedent was being set if a
chief’s “hereditary possessions cannot be secured” and recommended
compensation for Mnini in the form of “a liberal grant of land in
(a) new location.” In so doing, Walcott, argued that the colonial
rulers “must not let any other consideration shake the confidence in
the Native mind as to the justice and generosity of the white man.”
In endorsing Walcott’s view, Sir John Pakington, the Secretary of
State for Colonies, instructed that the land given in compensation
to Mnini be greater than that “of which he has thus been deprived.”
He also specified that “the most rigid good faith be observed in all
land transactions with the Natives.”
That is how Mnini and the Thuli came to occupy the Umgababa area.
They were relocated there after 1853 and given almost 8,000 acres
compared to the 6,000 they previously occupied on the Bluff. In
terms of an agreement signed in 1858, the Mnini lands were placed in
a Trust which has survived to this day. Unfortunately, few
subsequent land resettlements or relocations adhered to the spirit
and guidelines which characterized Mnini’s experience.
Researched and written by Duncan Du Bois
From May 1901, large adverts appeared in the Natal Mercury concerning the development of a township on
the Bluff. Among the remarks contained in the blurb was that the Berea had become too expensive and crowded
whereas property prices on the Bluff were inexpensive and affordable; that from a scenery and health point of view,
the Bluff was a superior prospect to the Berea.
In the July 2 and 13, 1901 issues of the Mercury some 90 sites in the Fynnlands and King’s Rest areas were advertised. Sales were brisk. A report on 27 December 1901 remarked that since the ‘opening up of the Bluff’ property prices there had increased from between 100 and 500%
LEPERS ON THE BLUFF: 1893
An advertisement in the Mercury of 23 August 1893 advised that a public meeting
would take place in the Bluff Hall on 26 August to consider means of having lepers removed
from the Bluff and Wentworth district.
A news report in the Mercury of 29 August 1893 noted that the Bluff meeting had
been well-attended. Messrs Parsons and Clarkson were tasked to see the Resident
Magistrate of Durban as to the relocation of six Indian lepers
The association comprised of 17 members. Eleven were resident on the Bluff
and Wentworth; one lived at Clairmont, three across the bay in Durban; two lived
down the South Coast and as such were absentee landlords. Amongst those present
at the AGM were: Catholic mission priest Father Baudry, Captain Armstrong and a Mr Boyne.
The main topic of discussion was crime the state of which was described (exaggeratedly)
as ‘perfect pandemonium.’ The ‘natives’ were treating the efforts of the white settlers to
maintain law and order ‘with impunity.’ The illicit traffic and trade in liquor was the chief grievance. The meeting decided to form a ‘Surveillance Association’ to police the crime
Nowhere in the report was there any mention of agricultural matters
Portland Bentinck Shortt, one of the Bluff's earliest residents, settled at 'New Brighton' on the Bluff in 1869.
On 21 October 1869, in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, Shortt drew attention to the 'reckless cutting of timber around the shores of the bay' and especially on Salisbury Island.The mangroves, he said, were being destroyed. In response the Colonial Secretary thanked Shortt for his observations and referred his letter to the Conservancy Board. [See: CSO, 342, No. 2250 - Natal Archives, Pmb.] No follow-up details are provided in the records. Enforcement of laws then, as it is today, was haphazard and inconsistent. Sawyers' licenses were obtainable then from local magistrates at the cost of £1 per month.
Shortt and his wife Jane lived at New Brighton until his death on 28 February 1885.He made a living from fish-curing, a salt works and king jam.
[Wests station on the Bluff headland is not named after James
The Durban County Council
to a Mr
name of Umnini
kept at Killie
, or the
The worst damage that occurred during the floods of July 25 and 26 2016 was in Kingsley Rd Brighton Beach where a six metre deep chasm opened taking the street light, the left lane and the pavement with it.
Apart from collapsed walls in Watsonia and Bluff Rds and a great deal of sand and sediment onthe roads, we should be thankful that infrastructural damage was far less than in other areas.That needs to be acknowledged given the fact that 440mm of rain fell in a three day period which is a recordfor July. Add that to the 318mm of rain early in May and it means that we have had the wettest winter since rainfall records for Durban commenced in the 1850s.
the Mercury of
the Mercury slated
THE BLUFF RAILWAY -1856
In 1856 a wooden railway line was constructed around the Bluff from the bay-side to where the stone was located. From here it was hauled in wheeled ox-drawn carts, along the tracks back to the bay were it was ferried across the entrance to the bay to the Point where Milne’s Breakwater was been constructed.