The Natal Society

I do not know how many of you are aware of The Natal Society which is based in Pietermaritzburg. Here are the introductory notes taken from their website:

“Founded in Pietermaritzburg in 1851, the Natal Society has served the scientific and literary interests of the community of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, for more than 160 years.It founded a museum (now a leading national institution) and the largest privately-owned library system in the country (now run by the city’s Msunduzi Municipality).

The Society’s leading members also played an instrumental role in the establishment of a university, the country’s largest agricultural society show, a philharmonic society and a dramatic arts society.

Today the Natal Society Foundation continues the original aims of the Society “the general encouragement of habits of study, investigation and research” by publishing Natalia, maintaining a specialist library, and providing funding to support scholarship, research and publications.”

Some of you may have come across past copies of their journal called “Natalia” . They make interesting reading. I recently bought a 2010 copy and found some very interesting articles relating to Durban. I then looked at their website and found that all copies of “Natalia” since its inception in 1971 are now accessible and can be downloaded. The articles are well researched and some contain a considerable amount of detail.

I then contacted the Editor of “Natalia” to ascertain whether I could reproduce some of the articles on Facts about Durban and he had no objection to this with the proviso that the source and the writer must be acknowledged.

In due course I will post some of the “Natalia” articles but if you have a particular area of interest, it may well be to look into the older copies and see if the topic has not been covered.

The website is

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13 Responses

  1. William Paterson
    | Reply

    Yes. The Natal Society and its journal are brilliant sources of archival material.

    Do any FAD readers know anything about the ‘soapbox preachers’ who used to harangue passers by from the steps of Farewell Square, facing the Durban Post Office?

    Likewise the wood and iron hall near the Butterworth Hotel with a flashing ‘Jesus Red’ neon sign on its roof? And its celebrants?

    • Rodney Coyne

      I do remember those preachers (in the 50s and 60s) – as far as I can recall, they were only there on Saturday mornings.

      I do not recall any wood and iron church near the Butterworth, but I do remember that not too far away was the Full Gospel Tabernacle facing Cartwright Square and I think that it had some such message in red neon lighting. I know that the head pastor (50s and 60s) was a well known coin collector, and I think that his surname was Rowlands.

    • Tim Gallwey

      It is an old post but even so I would like to point out that the founder of The Natal Society was David Dale Buchanan, that great champion of free speech and founder of The Natal Witness.

  2. William Paterson
    | Reply

    You’re right! The Full Gospel Tabernacle church was facing Cartwright Square. My location was wrong. I think Boswell’s Circus used the square for its circuses too. Not having been exposed to much Afrikaans in my childhood it took me quite a long time to realise that “Red” is “Saves”!

    Who were the bible-punchers on Farewell Square?

    And does anyone remember the small, bushy-grey-moustached Indian who seemed to be praying to the Post Office, holding a carnation flowerhead in his cupped hands?

  3. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    In response to Rodney, I can say that the preachers were also on duty on Saturday evenings. They were there in time for the 6 pm movie show preaching in front of the Queen Victoria statue opposite the Post Office steps. Normally it was a single male with Bible in hand, with the movie goers passing him en route to the cinemas cutting through the Town Gardens. I have no idea what religious organisation they belonged to.
    Pastor J.F. Rowlands was the Full Gospel minister and he was very involved with the Bethesda Temple which if I recall was initially in Carlisle Street. I have an idea that the Bethesda Temple is now in Brickfield Road. Another well known Durban Full Gospel pastor was Pastor G. Dillman who I think was the prime mover of the Living Waters Church behind the Hypermarket by the Sea.
    In my time, late 50s/ 60s, The “Jesus Saves” sign I seem to remember was on the corner of Alice Street and Soldiers Way. My memory of it was that it was mounted on a metal framework and was located on the bank which lined the railway line leading from the station to Berea Road Station. The sign was constant meaning non flashing and was plain lettering but large.

    William, quite right Cartwright Flats (as I knew it not Square) was used by visiting circuses. I recall going there to see Boswell’s. It was totally undeveloped in the mid fifties but then changed into a car park for a while in the late 70s. I can only surmise it was Council owned land.

    I have no recollection of a Full Gospel Church opposite Cartwright Flats and no recall of the Indian you mention.

    • Rodney Coyne

      Quite correct : Cartwright Flats, not Square. I do not know how the Cartwrights were connected with the area, but I was told as a child that the family concerned were the same family that started Cartwrights Curry Powder. I don’t know if it is still on the market.

      Unless I am going senile (a possibility, no doubt) the Full Gospel Tabernacle faced Cartwright Flats, near or on the Alice Street corner and it was a substantial single storey bricks and mortar building. When the church relocated to the lower Berea their old premises were occupied by an Indian teachers organistion. There was a wood and iron church behind the Alhambra Theatre, facing the Municipal Market. It was painted green and was known as the Tin Temple. My mother knew the Hardaker family from her childhood and told me that Percy Hardaker (The first head of Northlhands Boy’s High) used to worship there.

    • Ian Jackson

      Hi Gerald
      I know its an old post but I went to the Full Gospel Church in Cartwright Flats before they moved to the Berea.The teachers union building (I think that what it is ) in in the same spot now. It did have the sign Jesus saves. I also remember Pastor Jack Rowlands and the church in in Carlisle street.There was also a little Full Gospel Church on the corner of Brickfield rd and Berriedale Rd. My Dad back in the 50s were one of the folks that preached on the town hall steps next to the bus stops right opposite the Post Office many a Saturday night I would go with him I must have been around five or so.

  4. William Paterson
    | Reply

    I see that Boswell Brothers Circus and Menagerie staged its first circus after WW1 in Durban [1919] and I guess it was on Cartwright Flats.

    Another enquiry (!) How many platforms were there in the old Durban Station facing Soldiers’ Way and from which platform did the train to Zululand depart in 1919? I know that’s whopper but that famous architect, Hans Hallen might know – – -?

  5. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi William,
    Someone who worked on the railways would be your best but here’s my memory of it. There were three platforms serving 6 lines. I am talking of that section of the station that ran parallel to Soldier’s Way and was part of the original structure. As far as I know those six platforms served suburban lines only in the 1960s onwards. That part of the station remember was eventually moved to make way for the extension of Pine Street and then converted into a gym. As to where you boarded the Zululand train in 1919, there you have me beat. Some years ago someone asked for photos of the old Durban Station interior. If I recall there was no response.

  6. Bobby Hex
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    Hi Gerald.
    During the early 60s I was fortunate enough to travel by train every holidays to my Lions River and my Uncles guest farm Hebron Haven. The great thrill was the main line train used to pull in at about 10pm and only leave at 4.20 am giving lots of time to explore the station and its environment at 15 years old this was an eye opener. The first stop was to get a pie from the pie cart just outside the main entrance [ about where Durban Tourisim’s Entrance is ] The passing parade was something to see. I recall that the top thing on the menu was a” Cowboy” which was a pie with baked beans and a egg on top. I may be wrong but I think that the main line train left from platform 8 [or 6] The first 5 [or4]were next to soldiers way in the original roof section these platforms ended with buffers at the concourse and were used for suburban services. The remaining platforms were much longer and the tracks carried on past the station to the workshops and staging area. The actual train was shunted in from the marshalling yards at Stamford hill usually by a shunting steam engine . The station was patrolled all night by the old SAR Police and provided a great safe area to explore. The 5E electric motive power came in at about 4 am. These trips were a great highlight of my youth.

  7. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Bobby,
    If you recall the concourse in the old Durban Station was the open area as you entered from the ramp off Soldier’s Way. On the left ahead was the large board normally decorated with flowering plants at its base which indicated which platforms the trais were leaving from and the time. On your left as well were the suburban platforms which I recall as there being six. On your right the concourse extended to the Pine Street entrance which was part of the old NGR building and still existing today. In this area were the train ticket booking offices and also on the left (facing Pine Street) was the station tearoom / cafe. It was also in this area where the model SAR steam engine stand stood with the model loco in a glass case; you put in a penny and it ran for a couple of minutes.

    In the concourse was a bookseller as well as a fruit shop. Then straight ahead a large opening had been cut into the wall which lead to the other station platforms which were all on a tight curve. On the right of this hole was the Left Luggage Store where you could leave your suitcase until you were ready to leave. The mainline train to Joburg left from one of these outer platforms and I think you are right it was Platform 8. To get to these outer platforms you had to climb the stairs to the overhead bridge which had stairs leading off to each platform. I did the Durban – Joburg trip quite often so it all comes back.
    The shunting yard was actually called the Greyville shunting yard albeit it was in the Stamford Hill area.
    Talking of Hebron Haven, on holiday visits there I recall, after supper, groups of people from the hotel would walk down to the railway crossing a short distance away to see the mainline Joburg train heading to Ladysmith having stopped at PMBurg, come streaming by all lit up and travellers waving to us from their compartments.
    I loved train trips; they were really an experience to remember.

  8. Bobby Hex
    | Reply

    Thanks for filling in the gaps on the station. My Uncle Ivan Mc Donald owned Hebron Haven from 1961 to 1967 and my holiday job was to mow the very expansive lawns in return for accommodation and lots of fun. You may recall that the Lions River Polo club had its grounds just outside the gate and after polo the pub was full till late at night. The small holding on the right of the entrance was where Harold Tiger Wright the jockey retired he was a regular in the pub with many stories to tell.

  9. Rodney Coyne
    | Reply

    The Editor of Natalia is Mr T.B.(Jack) Frost. He is a Northlands Old Boy and was also my history master at this school. One other member of the Editorial Board of Natalia is Prof Bill Guest, another Northlands Old Boy . Incidentally, Jack Frost is the father of Sally Frost whose history of the Royal Natal Yacht Club was previously featured on FAD.

    I attempted (unsuccessfuly) to copy a photo of the Natalia Board. The photo can be seen at :

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