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Malcomess House
East London, Eastern Cape

Street:23 St Peter’s Road


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33°00'08.94" S 27°54'16.80" E Alt: 78m

Hermann Wilhelm Malcomess (1848-1921), the German Consul in East London, built a large distinguished home in St. Peter's Road, Southernwood. It was utilised as an orphanage after his death and was called 'Malcomess House'. Demolished by neglect in the late 1980's, it made way for an undistinguished retail development.

Malcomess was born in Homberg (Germany) on 15 April 1848 and was educated at Cassel. He came to the Cape in 1867, migrated to Bloemfontein where he enlisted for the Free State forces during the Basuto War of 1868, then moved to Tarkastad where he worked as a clerk. In 1869 he started a business in King William's Town which specialised in farm machinery and implements, with branches at East London and various towns in the interior. In 1875 he settled at East London where he went into a partnership known as Malcher & Malcomess, general merchants, with stores on both the West and East Banks.

Later he was able to take over sole interest and the firm thereupon became known simply as Malcomess & Company, produce merchants and sellers of machinery of various descriptions, ranging from wagons to windmills, as well as furniture and cattle dip. He also owned timber yards in what was eventually named Malcomess Street, and he served at various times as a commissioner on the Harbour Board and on the Chamber of Commerce. Apart from that, he owned several farms in the Aliwal North district.

Malcomess became a Town Councillor in April 1899 when he won the election to replace Thomas King in Ward 4. With the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in October 1899, however, he became unpopular because he chose to obey the German appeal for neutrality, especially because he was the German Consul in East London.

At the relief of Kimberley, he refused to join in the festivities on the grounds that much of his trade had been with the Boers of the two Republics and he abhorred the bloodshed which the war was causing. His action was severely criticized and there was strong pressure for his firm to be boycotted, along with all other German businesses in the area.

It was probably as a result of his awkward position that Malcomess decided to resign from the Council in February 1900 so as to journey to Germany for a protracted spell. He did not attempt to gain re-election on his return. He died at East London on 13 May 1921, at the age of 73.

Reference for biographical information on Malcomess:
The Labyrinth of East London Lore

Submitted by William Martinson, December 2019.