- Motivation for Richmond Park, Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth, to become registered as a National Heritage site
Early days ( 1855 - 1900 )
When PE, the second oldest city in the country, began to develop, the English settlers lived in Central, and the workers lived on the adjacent hill, (now known as Richmond Hill) across Hyman’s Kloof, which later became Russell Road. An extremely early map, drawn in 1849, and found in Redgrave’s “Port Elizabeth in Bygone days” shows the area with a cluster of huts labelled Fingo City.
The Land was formally granted for a “Stranger’s Location” on 27th June 1855. Many lived in beehive huts, and the London Missionary Society was granted land to build a church to serve them, and also to build houses. The surrounding land was marked on early maps as wasteland, or grazing land. However, there was an area which was traditionally used as a graveyard, When the land was divided up in 1866 and sold to pay for the building of Albany Road down Cooper’s Kloof, (onto which this graveyard bordered), a circular park was left where this graveyard was situated. Some early maps (in particular these 2 from 1905) still show it as “old Native Burial Ground”, while the 1915 drainage maps show it as a black circle. Since the development of this part of the city in 1866, it has been a park, and remains so to this day. One section is a public park, and the other (next to the Old Erica School, which is itself a monument) was fenced off and apparently belongs to the government.
- 1849 Port Elizabeth.jpg
- Richmond Park, Port Elizabeth. Old 1905 map showing Mfengu burial ground.JPG
- 1905 map of Port Elizabeth showing Richmond Park labelled as Native Burial Ground.jpg
- Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Richmond Park and Red Location.jpg
- Then and now - Maps of Richmond Park
File:Beehive hut in the strangers location in Port Elizabeth during the late 1800s (note the Victorian clothing).JPG
later developments ( 1900 - 2000 )
In 1903 there was an outbreak of bubonic plage among the residents of the Strangers Location and London Missionary society lands. This was used as an excuse to burn the homes to the ground, and relocate the residents to other parts of the City. Specifically, in New Brighton, an area of shacks built from rusted metal reclaimed from the Bloemfontein Concentration camp was established, which became known as Red Location. There is now a modern Apartheid Museum located in Red Location. Sadly, the remaining shacks, which were a central point in the development of the struggle against oppression, and thus of great historic importance, have been plundered, but a replica has been built outside the new art museum. The old burial ground, now richmond park, is on a cliff overlooking the northern part of the city, and new Brighton can be seen from there, so a visual connection remains between the two locations and the ancestors/descendants.
In 2009, residents (of ????) were very concerned to hear that the Public Works Department, on behalf of the Police, had designed a modern 4 story building to be erected in the fenced off section of the burial ground, for a 10111 call centre. A public participation process was launched, but all arguments in favour of preservation of heritage etc were ignored. SAHRA was contacted for help, because it seemed that this building was going to be steamrollered ahead regardless, and SAHRA insisted that a proper site inspection must take place to establish the presence of human remains.
Machines were brought in to dig deep trenches, and the Ward 5 Councillor and interested residents watched to make sure that any finds were reported. When several bones were found, SAHRA was contacted and insisted that all digging must stop and the bones restored to their resting places and the holes filled. As a result the 10111 call centre was built elsewhere, but the PWD said they would still want to build on the site at some stage.
These photographs were taken by the Ward 5 Councillor at the site.
File:Richmond Park, Port Elizabeth. digging for graves in early 2010..JPG File:Richmond Park, Port Elizabeth. human bones found in trenches.JPG
Due to the historic heritage nature of the site, and its connection to the Red Location and freedom struggle, as well as the ongoing vulnerability to further attempts to build on the site or disregard the sanctity of the graves, the petitioner would like to motivate that it be considered for declarition as a National Monument. The petitioner further recommends that the fenced off portion be reincorporated into the park, with some sort of memorial and information plaque to inform the public of the special significance of the place. A plaque pointing to the view of Red Location and explaining the connection would also add value to the site.