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Public Library
East London, Eastern Cape

PAGE and CORDEAUX: Architect

Street:Cor Argyl and Cambridge Streets


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33°00'51.78" S 27°54'17.97" E Alt: 59m

This building is also listed as being designed by CORDEAUX & WALKER

(SAMBF Jnl Aug 1905:18) (Picton-Seymour 1977:221) (Watson, J, The Urban Trail - A walk through the Urban Heritage of East London's Central Business District and older suburbs, 1989. p 15)

This fine neo-classical building was officially opened by Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, the Governor of the Cape Colony. The stately building was provided with a simple hipped corrugated iron roof, behind a dentilated parapet wall. The colonnade functions to effectively screen the windows of the building.

The Library moved to new premises in 1958, and the building was then used by the East London Publicity Association. It is currently used as the 'Whippery' of the Buffalo City Municipality. The 'Whippery' is the collective of Chief Whips of the different political parties represented in Council.

[Ref: Watson, J, The Urban Trail - A walk through the Urban Heritage of East London's Central Business District and older suburbs, 1989.]

Relevant transcribed portions of an article published in the East London Daily Dispatch of 18 June 1905, following the laying of the Foundation Stone:





We are a stage nearer the possession of a public library building, and one worthy of a town of the growing importance of East London. On Saturday afternoon, in the presence of a gathering in every way representative of the Fighting Port, the foundation stone of the new library building in Argyle Street was laid by Mrs. W.H. Fuller. The weather, if one may except a slight shower which fell towards the close of the function, was ideal for an outdoor gathering and thanks to the co-operation of the heads of private and public schools, and the officers of the Kaffrarian Rifles, the proceedings passed off in a manner which cannot fail to be gratifying to those who are entrusted with the control of an excellent institution. The building, or that part of which is so far erected, was decorated with appropriate bunting, and the Union Jack was swathed around the derrick above the stone. A similar emblem was displayed in front of the Town Hall, thus notifying that something under the patronage of the City Fathers was toward.

Long before the hour announced for the commencement of the proceedings – 4 p.m. – large numbers of people had assembled, and at 4 p.m.; there was barely standing room. In addition to the speeches, which are given below, the items of an excellently arranged programme included instrumental selections by the fine band of Kaffrarian Rifles, and vocal items by the school choirs under the able direction of Miss Pearce.

One of the most interesting features of the ceremony was the march past the foundation stone by school children – the male section of which included Cadets, who will one day fight our battles – all of whom seized the opportunity to contribute their mites towards paying off the amount still owing on the building, which amounts to something like £500, exclusive of furniture. It may here be stated that the architect for the building is Mr. Cordeaux, and the builder, Mr. Chas. Keam.


The following list gives the names of those invited (most of whom were present). The Mayor (Mr. Richard Walker, J.P.) was unable to attend, owing to his presence being required at the Mayoral Congress. Mr. David Rees, J.P., a member of the Library Committee, was also unable to be present, having left East London for a visit to Cape Town.

Mr. J.G. Hellier, M.L.A., and Mrs. Hellier, Mr. T.W. Irvine (Acting Mayor of Cambridge), the Deputy Mayor (Mr. W. Medefindt, J.P.), and Mrs. Medefindt, Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Fuller, Councillor C.K. Humphrey, Councillor Hartley, Councillor Gulden, Councillor Gierke, Councillor Wiggins, Councillor Maytham and Mrs. Maytham, Councillor Bisseker, Councillor Goldschmidt and Councillor Currin.

(Note: Balance of the long list of names of those invited has been omitted from this transcription).


The following is a copy of the scroll:

"This foundation stone was laid at 4 pm., on Saturday, 17th June, 1905, A.D., by Mrs. W.H. Fuller, wife of the Chairman of Committee of Management, William Henry Fuller, Esq., J.P. The reigning monarch was His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII.; the High Commissioner for South Africa was His Excellency the Earl of Selborne, P.C.; the Governor of Cape Colony was His Excellency Sir Walter Francis Hely Hutchinson, G.C.M.G.; the Prime Minister of Cape Colony was the Right Hon. (Dr.) L.S. Jameson, C.B.; the members of the Legislative Council for the Eastern Circle were: Hon. William Rogers, Hon. Colonel Zachary S. Bayly, C.M.G., Hon. David Solomon Barrable, Hon. Donald Strachan. The members of the Legislative Assembly for East London were the Hon. (Dr.) T.W. Smartt, Commissioner of Public Works, John G. Hellier, Esq., and General Sir E.Y. Brabant, K.C.B.

"The trustees of the Library were Messrs. William Henry Fuller, J.P., David Rees, J.P., Richard Walker, J.P. (Mayor of East London), and Chas. G. H. Bell, C.M.G. (Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate). The Committee of Management of the Library were Messrs. S.T. Wakefield, B.A., J.P., Will Crosby, J.P., John Wood, R.H. Poole, R.H Friend, Wallace Mackay, Geo. Rattray, M.A., B.Sc., W.M. Greig, B.A., also the Rev. Father Kelly and Venerable Archdeacon Grant. The officials were Mrs. Furmage (Librarian), Miss T. Critchfield (assistant), R.H. Poole, Esq. (hon. treasurer), and Mr. Charles Fraser (secretary).

"The ground was valued this day at £3,000 (three thousand pounds), and was given by the Town Council.

"The principal donors towards the building were Harry Gibberd, Esq., of London, formerly of East London, who contributed £1,100 (eleven hundred pounds), Hermann Malcomess, Esq., German Consul (and of Messrs. Malcomess and Co.), who contributed £250; Edmund Bryant, Esq. (of Messrs. Gibberd Bryant and Co), who contributed £200; and Thomas Peel, Esq., who contributed £100. The Government paid £ for £ up to £2,500. The architect was Mr. Herbert J.C. CORDEAUX, of Messrs. CORDEUAX and WALKER, and the builder Mr. Charles Keam."

The inscription on the foundation stone read as under: -

"This stone was laid by Mrs. W.H. Fuller, 17th June, 1905."

The K.R's. (Kaffrarian Rifles), who presented a very smart appearance, furnished one squadron and two bands, the officers present being Capt. E. Smedley Williams, Capt. J McLean, Capt. Georgeson, Lieut. Innes, Lieut. Goodwin, Lieut. Stirling, Lieut. Reynolds, and Lieut. Quartermaster Dickerson.


The proceedings commenced with the handing of the title deed of transfer of the site to the Town Clerk by the Deputy Mayor, after which the Town Clerk read the title deed.

The Deputy Mayor said he heartily congratulated the subscribers to the Library upon the progress, which had been made. They would all agree with him when he stated that the Town Council had done the right thing in granting this piece of ground for a library building (hear, hear). A library was not a money-making affair, it was an institution carried on entirely for the benefit of the public – it was open to all, rich and poor alike, and therefore he believed that the Town Council had done the right thing in granting this piece of ground for the Library (hear, hear). He had much pleasure in handing over the title deed to the trustees of the Library, and he wished the Library progress and success (applause).

The Deputy Mayor then handed over the title deed to Mr. W.H. Fuller, as representing the trustees of the Library.


(Note: Lengthy text of Mr. Fuller’s speech has been omitted from this transcription).

Mr. Fuller concluded by moving a vote of thanks to the Town Council for giving the Library Trustees the ground, and to the donors who enabled the trustees to build upon it. The vote of thanks was awarded with enthusiasm.

Mr. CORDEAUX, the architect, then handed over the plans of the building to Mr. C.G.H. Bell, C.C. and R.M.


Mr. Bell said that on behalf of the Government he had to express approval of the plans just handed to him. The Government, he said, always had taken, and always would take, a kindly interest in libraries, and the thought that the efforts of the Government in that direction had met with success throughout the Colony (hear, hear).

After a selection by the band of the Kaffrarian Rifles, a glass vial containing divers coins of the realm, newspapers and scroll, were sealed up.

Lieut-Colonel Price, C.M.G., said that owing to the unavoidable absence of Mr. Hermann Malcomess, it was his privilege on behalf of the principal donors, to ask Mrs. W. H. Fuller to proceed with the most important part of the ceremony (applause). He would like to take this opportunity of congratulating the donors upon the choice they had made (applause). In asking Mrs. Fuller to lay the stone, they had not only carried out their own wishes, but the wishes of every inhabitant of East London (loud applause). Mr. W. H. Fuller was not a gentleman who went out of his way to court popularity, but East London knew how to recognize true merit (hear, hear). In addition to the very great and responsible public duties which he performed, Mr. Fuller had for nearly a quarter of a century devoted many hours of hard work to the development of the public library, and it was upon that account that they were glad to have this opportunity of expressing to him and Mrs. Fuller their deep appreciation of their work (applause).


The Ven. Archdeacon Grant having offered prayer, Mrs. Fuller laid the stone with an exquisitely finished silver trowel, presented by Mr. CORDEAUX. Having completed her labours in a highly expeditions and skilful manner, Mrs. Fuller was greeted with applause.

The stone having thus been "well and truly laid."

A school choir, under Miss Pearce, rendered the "Rhine Raft Song," by Ciro Pinsuti.


Mr. C. G. H. Bell then addressed the gathering.

(Note: Lengthy text of Mr. C. G. H. Bell’s speech has been omitted from this transcription).

The school children then marched past to view the stone, accompanied by music from the band. The school choir next sang the part, "Bright Feet of May", by Jos. Sneddon, Mus. Bac.


The Rev. Father Kelly said it was his pleasant task to convey to Mrs. Fuller the thanks of the subscribers for her presence that afternoon, and he thought he ought also to thank Mrs. Fuller for the general and careful manner in which she had performed her allotted task (applause). The members of the committee were especially grateful to Mrs. Fuller, because she had given them an opportunity of paying a compliment to the gentleman whose name she bore, and but for whom the building which they saw that day would not be in the position in which they found it (applause). The rev. gentleman also thanked the band of the Kaffrarian Rifles and the children for their attendance, mentioning with the latter the name of Miss Pearce.

The proceedings concluded with the National Anthem, and three ringing cheers for Mrs. W.H. Fuller.

The K.R's. were played down to the Drill Hall by both bands.


We are informed that the collection taken totaled £17 7s 5d in coin; and the following cheques were also received: From the Union-Castle Co., £25; Mr. C. Fraser, £5; Mr. J.M. Ellis, £1 1s; and Mr. A.E. Murray, £1 1s; making a total of £49 9s 5d.

Submitted by William MARTINSON.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.