West Street

posted in: Pictures 22

Reader Richard Holmes sent this fine view of West Street. He thinks that it must have been taken sometime prior to 1931. Can anyone narrow the timing down at all?

Picture courtesy Richard Holmes.
Picture courtesy Richard Holmes.
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22 Responses

  1. Frank Beeton
    | Reply

    I think I can (just) see trolleybus overhead wire supports. That would make it 1935 or later. The two double-decker buses in the far distance look like motorbuses, if so, it would be 1938 or later. Among the cars are some Citroens that first appeared in the late 1930’s. Old car buff comments required please!

  2. Shawn
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    I’ve been reading a history book of Durban and numerous names come up of founder fathers, Moore, West et al and I am reminded of all the street names as they were.
    I strongly feel that this was history and should not have been tampered with.
    I think a fair way would have been to leave the old names up and add the new ones as a form of compromise and reconciliation. i.e. have both names up at? However the existing ‘powers that be are not exactly known for their sensitivity or forethought I guess.
    Is there a site or does this site intend to at least try to preserve these old street names? Maybe a digital map of the ‘old Durban’ before all this politicising?

  3. Trevor Friend
    | Reply

    Some of the overhead wire supports appear to have street lighting hanging from them on both sides of the street.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg
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    It is very difficult to date unmarked postcards and photos and I presume this photo has no stamp on the back which is always a good clue. The only thing I can add is that I have a brochure marking the Centenary of Payne Brothers trading in Durban 1869-1969. In the brochure it states: ” On July 14th 1938, the new store was opened. It was quite an eye opener for Durban of those days and its particular pride was its escalator – the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.” From the photo, the Paynes building looks complete but I am guessing, unoccupied. So I would say the photo is 1936-39 ish. By clicking on the photo it enlarged twice over and I can see no sign of the trolley bus wires which if one recalls were not in the centre of the street as were the tram wires but placed closer to the pavements. In the 2nd Edition of Facts about Durban it states: ” The first Trolley Bus ran on the Marine Parade Number 1 Route on 24th February 1935″ which again gives a date as to when the overhead network was started to be put in place. In the photo it looks like West Street was still in the future plan. The book also states that in 1934 single decker buses were delivered to Durban and then in 1938 the first diesel Daimler Double Decker. The last tram ran on 2nd August 1949. So as to a definite date not sure but my bet would be around 1938-1939.

    • Tim Gallwey

      To me it looks like 1946. The car in front of Stuttafords looks to me like a 1946 FORD that my Dad had.

    • Frank Beeton

      Hi Tim, your Dad’s 1946 Ford may well have looked just like a pre-war model, as the American car factories were heavily engaged in building aircraft, tanks and munitions during WWII, so would not have had time to regularly introduce new model styling during that period.
      The more I look at the picture, the less I am convinced that there is trolleybus catenary present. Trolleybuses ran nearer to the kerb than trams, and this would have caused serious conflict with the tram overhead at Field Street, where the tram junction is clearly visible. Even though I still favour the 1938 or later option, it seems likely that trolleybuses had not yet arrived in West Street when this picture was taken. What a fascinating debate!

  5. Graham Read
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald
    Is the flag at Stuttafords corner flying at half-mast or is it an optical illusion? If the flag is half-mast, it would be a clue to the date.
    Graham Read

  6. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Graham,
    Interesting point and it does look like it. However it is the only building with a flag flying so if it was at half mast it could not have been a day of national mourning. Just recently I read a small booklet on the history of Pinelands in Cape Town. Pinelands is termed a Garden City and the concept was that of Richard Stuttaford. He was a descendant of the originator and donated 10 000 pounds towards its establishment in early 1930s. He was the MD of Stuttafords and died in 1945. So could the flag be at half mast in his honour? For me there are too many cars about for 1945. That year WW2 had just ended and importing cars would not have been a priority. I think the majority of the returning soldiers only came home in 1946. I would stick to my 1938/1939.

    What can you tell us about the “rugby team” photo?

  7. Mike
    | Reply

    Don’t know if this helps……….but here goes…..

    McFie Bldg
    Durban, Kwazulu Natal
    Date: 1935………….and.:

    McFie’s Arcade
    Durban, Kwazulu Natal
    Date: c1937
    Type: Arcade

  8. Tim Gallwey
    | Reply

    Gerald you are right that immediately post-WWII US cars were the same as prewar but I do not think that was the case with the FORD. Anyway, check out the pale car parked in front of Stuttafords; is it not a VW Beetle which would not have appeared until some time after the end of the war?

  9. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Tim,
    I very much doubt that is a VW Beetle. I am not an expert on old cars but if I recall there was a Chevrolet with a raked back like that called a Fleetline. VWs appeared in South Africa I think in the mid 1950s when they established the assembly plant here.

    • Rodney Coyne

      My first thought was that it was a Jowett Javelin, but it could also be a Chev Fleetline – larger, but similar outline. A clue that might be worth following up
      is the clearly visible sign ‘Wrens the Chemists’ on Alcock House. I do not recall a pharmacy by that name in West Street, but there was a Regent Pharmacy and a branch of Reed & Champion in that vicinity – perhaps Wren was the former owner of one of these. If you can check when Wrens ceased to be in Brabys that may help in dating the photo.

  10. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Rodney
    I have a picture card of a Jowett Javelin and I think I remember seeing one in Durban many years ago. Quite avant garde in design and smaller than the big American cars although it did have the sloped back. I looked up Wrens in the 1938 Directory and its there. Have not got the directories that followed so unable to ascertain when it closed down. I cannot recall the name Wrens from my time in Durban, mid 50s onward. The others you mention I do remember.

    • Tim Gallwey

      Yes it could well be a Jowett Javelin. I remember it well as someone near us in Kloof had one. The point is that it was a car of the early postwar years which suggests that the picture was taken in the late 1940s, or early 50s at the latest.

    • Mark Billingham

      Hi Tim,
      Looking at the photo fully-blown up and up at the Berea where the Uni is, you can see that Howard College is there but the Memorial Tower is not. The Memorial Tower was built in 1948, which means that the photo must pre-date 1948 or have been taken at the latest at the beginning of 1948. If someone could positively identify the newest model of car in the photo then that would narrow the date down considerably.

  11. joan friedman
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    who was the tobacconist in the Reed and Champion building any one remember the name?

  12. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Joan
    Not sure which year/s you are alluding to. The Reed and Champion building if I recall was close to London House in West Street. The Natal Hearing Aid Clinic was in this building run by the late Philip Kairuz. Is this the building ? I cannot recall a tobacconist being there but on the opposite side of the road where the Central Hotel was, was Havana House, a well known tobacconist. I have a vague recollection that it was run by a well known Natal cricketer of the 60s. Colin Wesley?
    Does this help?

  13. Richard Holmes
    | Reply

    Tich Wesley owned the one in Poynton House in Gardiner Street . The name escapes me for the moment but it was very well known. I can’t recall him or his Dad owning Havana House but they may well have done

  14. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Richard
    Yes I think you are right thinking back. And the name Tich came back as well. I took out the 1965 Durban Directory and these are the tobacconists in Durban at that time:
    Arcade Tobacconists Salisbury Arcade
    Army and Navy Cigar Store 591 Point Road
    Brilliant House 122 Grey St
    Burma House 125 Grey St
    Tennision Burrows 87 Gardiner St
    Cecil Tobacconist 11 West St
    Gabriela 5 SA Mutual Building
    Havana House 331 West St
    Manhattan Chatterbox 6 Durban Club Place
    VG Patel 104b Victoria St
    Smokers Corner 6 West St
    Smokers Supply Store 117 Victoria St
    Young’s Tobacconists and News Agency 223 Smith Street.
    Unfortunately no names of owners included.
    Poynton House was the building opposite the Post Office in Gardiner Street. So perhaps Tennison Burrows was owned by Tich Wesley? Tennison Burrows were the news agents as well distributing British magazines ,Women’s Weekly and Women and children’s comics such as Rover, Beano, Girl, Schoolfriend are the ones that come to mind. If I recall these publications would be brought over from the UK by the mailships of the Union Castle line that called in at Durban Harbour just about weekly.

  15. Richard Holmes
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald

    Tennison Burrows is indeed the one. Can’t believe the name slipped my memory … Ah well

  16. Donald Davies
    | Reply

    the white building in the background, probably in Broad Street, is gone
    from the gap on the Ridge above Glenwood (to the South of Howard College)
    draw a line to the junction of Dr Pixley Kaseme and Joe Slovo streets.

    Alcock House was built in 1934 and the paint looks a few years old
    also McFies Chambers also in the streamline moderne would be late 1930’s

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