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1820 Settlers - Stone of Memory
Selborne, East London, Eastern Cape

People:

Brian W WATSON: Designer

Date:1953
Type:Memorial
Status:Extant

The memorial was designed by the East London Municipal architect, Brian Watson. Originally erected in 1953 on the corner of Settlers' Way and Whitworth Road on the West Bank, the memorial comprised a rectangular rough hewn granite slab, mounted within a tapered concrete plinth block surrounded by a rectangular stone paved area. The front face of the memorial had the words SETTLERS WAY incised into a faced rectangular panel which surmounted a rectangular cast bronze inscription plaque. (The wording on the bronze plaque has unfortunately not yet been determined).

By 1962, increasing industrialisation of the West Bank caused the context of the memorial to be compromised. It was now badly placed in proximity to the back of a factory and was almost completely obscured from the road. This prompted the proposed transfer of the memorial stone to Settlers' Heights – also on the West Bank. The prime movers behind the idea of re-siting the memorial were Mr. L. Bagshawe-Smith (honorary Vice-chairman of the 1820 Settlers' Association) and Mr. T. W. Greenwood (Secretary).

The new site overlooked the East London Grand Prix Circuit and was in close proximity to the Berkshire stocking factory. The memorial was placed on a rectangular paved stone base, surrounded on all four sides with five broad stone steps forming an architecturally appropriate base – measuring 25 feet (7.6 metre) by 14 feet (4.3 metre). The Divisional Council made a R100 grant to relocate the memorial - which was added to the R1 000 provided by the 1820 Settlers' Association.

The 1820 Settlers' Association was granted six acres (2.4 hectare) of land by the East London Municipality and the relocated memorial was positioned at the highest point of the site to form a focal point from the road above and the Grand Prix track below it. The Municipality further intended to develop another 20 acres (8.1 hectare) of ground around the memorial with indigenous flora to form an attractive natural open area. The official opening of the relocated memorial by Mr. Ian Mackenzie – the national Chairman of the Association - was scheduled to take place on 15 October 1962.

Ten years later, the Settlers' Heights site was apparently needed for industrial development and it was decided that the memorial stone should again be moved. By February 1972, it was reported that work had started on building a plinth for the memorial stone on an open piece of ground between the Guild Theatre and Botha Road in Selborne. An official unveiling ceremony was to be arranged once the work had been completed on the plinth and gardens laid out around the memorial.

An article in the Daily Dispatch of 17 May 1972 regarding the re-erection of the memorial included a photograph with the following caption:

"The 1820 Settlers' Memorial Stone, which has been removed from its original site on Settlers' Way in East London because of industrial development there, has now been erected near the Guild Theatre in the city. Seen examining the re-cut stone yesterday were (left to right) Mr H. H. Driffield, an East London historian; Mr G. Chapman, chairman of the East London branch of the 1820 Settlers’ Association; Mrs. A. O'Carroll, the association's Welfare officer; and Mr T. Greenwood, secretary of the branch."

The wording on the re-cut stone now read:

1820
SETTLERS

THIS STONE
OF MEMORY
WAS ORIGINALLY
ERECTED ON
SETTLERS' WAY
IN
1953

The longer inscription had been accommodated by enlarging the faced rectangular panel for the full height of the memorial. The 'memory' of the original bronze inscription panel remains on the front face of the memorial – with four circular fixing holes still visible on the edges of the faced panel.

An article in the Daily Dispatch of 4 September 1973 mentions a tree-planting ceremony that was held to celebrate Settlers' Day, which took place opposite the site of the Settlers' memorial.

William MARTINSON, August 2017.

References:

Daily Dispatch, 17 August 1962
Daily Dispatch, 18 October 1962
Daily Dispatch, 11 February 1972
Daily Dispatch, 17 May 1972
Daily Dispatch, 4 September 1973

Archived copies of articles from the Daily Dispatch kindly provided by Glenn Hartwig, Reference Librarian at the East London Public Library.

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