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Lighthouse, Donkin Reserve - Hill and Donkin Memorial Pyramid
Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape



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33°57'44.59" S 25°37'13.76" E

'The Lighthouse standing over the town is one of the first objects which strike a visitor on arriving. Its light, which is of the kind known as fixed white dioptric, has been shining now for over thirty years, and is visible in clear weather for twenty miles out at sea. It stands at an elevation of 225 feet (68.58m) above sea level. The pyramid adjoining is in memory of the lady from whom the town derives its name. She was the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, who visited the district to help in establishing the original British settlers of 1820.'

Ref: Photographs of South Africa comprising Representative Views etc.; The South African Photo-Publishing Company, Cape Town, 1894: Pg 69.

[Submitted by William MARTINSON, January 2011]

The site for the new lighthouse was part of a reserve set aside by Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony. Here he had built, in memory of his wife, the Pyramid, a stone edifice Port Elizabethans had come to cherish. The harbour master, rather thoughtlessly, suggested that as the Donkin Monument was crumbling, it should be pulled down and the stones used to build the lighthouse tower.

This suggestion was greeted by the towns-people with fury and the almost instantaneous reaction was a petition to restore the Pyramid and build the tower alongside it.

The tower, a seven-metre high octagonal structure of brick supported a lantern fitted with flat glazing. Early descriptions of the tower indicated that it was stone-coloured. The eight panels were painted alternate bands of red and white in September 1903. In early 1907 the tower was painted all white and circa 1921, a red band was painted mid-way up the tower.

The lighthouse became partially obscured when the 1820 Settler's Monument, the Campanile, was built. The tower had to be increased in height by nine metres. Work commenced towards the end of 1929 and was completed in April 1930.

However, the city of Port Elizabeth was expanding, multi-storey buildings were being erected around the Donkin Monument and the general level of illumination was increasing. Complaints were received from mariners that The Hill light was difficult to distinguish amid the maze of background lights.

A new lighthouse was built in 1929, Deal Light, comprising a twenty-three metre lattice, aluminium tower, which is, however, not as elegant as The Hill structure on which is mounted a modern lantern house.

(Extracted from Williams, 1993:44-46)

2014: There is currently an Environmental upgrade of the Donkin Reserve in progress.

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.

Writings about this entry

Hatfield, Denis. 1967. Some South African monuments. Cape Town: Purnell. pg 46-48