Old Mill Way

Syd Oram has written in with a query on the origin of the name Old Mill Way in Durban North. He thought it might been named after a sugar mill which may or may not have been where the the Crusaders ground is today.

I had a look at my book of old Durban street names and it says that Old Mill Way takes its name from Labistour’s Sugar Mill which stood on site at the foot of the road. No dates are given but it says the road runs from Northway to Ocean Way and I presume the mill must have been near the Ocean Way corner. Ocean way no longer exists but, from the looks of things on Google maps, the Crusaders ground would be about right.

Does anyone have more info or a picture of the mill?

In a previous email Syd shared a few memories sparked by an article on the site. He wrote:

I happened to open an old article posted by Gerald Buttigieg in August 2005. I had many a chuckle about some of the stories he related. Depending on where they were held, the Saturday night “sessions” either could be good fun, or a battleground of serious proportions. The Norwegian Hall opposite the L.A. was a regular venue and there were times that I wondered whether I had gone to a fight and a session had broken out, or whether it was the other way round! You always had to have the “Breekers” barging in, “soeking kak”. Even the Journey’s End Hall in Kensington Drive Durban North had its fair share of rumbles.

I couldn’t help but remember the shebeen in Umgeni Road. I think it was demolished when work started on the new railway station. I think it was upstairs in a fairly insalubrious building, which looked about 100 years old even then. A bottle of Mainstay or Klippies would cost about R1.50 in the early sixties, probably about R150 in today’s money. But when a lad is thirst at 11 o’clock of a Saturday evening and has forgotten to buy supplies, price doesn’t come into it!

Share this:

24 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Syd
    I have a book called Valian Harvest written by Robert F Osborn published by the SA Sugar Association in 1964. The book covers the founding of the South African Sugar Industry 1848-1926. There is a reference to LABISTOUR but very brief and not much information. I quote from the book: ” In 1902 Natal Estates (jointly owned by Marshall Campbell and David Don) purchased 30 acres of Prospect Hall, where Durban North is today, as well as the mill. Mr Labistour managed the mill for a while after purchase, then left to be replaced by William “: WAC” Campbell (eldest son of Marshall Campbell).
    Sorry no picture of the mill is given.

  2. Allan Jackson
    | Reply

    I belatedly remembered I have a copy of Valiant Harvest. It does show what a big deal sugar was for the region with estates all over the place including quite a number in Durban itself. Sugar was likewise very important for my new home, Queensland, and the historical parallels between it and Natal are sometimes quite eerie. Durban and Brisbane were first settled by Europeans within a year or two of each other, for example, and we have a Musgrave Park here, named after the same bloke Musgrave Road in Durban was named for. There’s a book in all this somewhere.

  3. Graeme
    | Reply

    As far as I know Natal Estates sugar mill was in Mount Edgecombe, which is nowhere near Crusaders.As everyone is aware, the mill closed in 1992 or 3 because of the Phoenix housing development which took place, and hence took up all the cane land.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Graeme
    You are quite right about the Mount Edgecombe Mill being nowhere near Crusaders ground. To set the record straight here again I quote from Valiant Harvest about the Prospect Hall Mill which is the mill, Old Mill Way is called after. I quote the whole section as it is quite interesting.

    “ Prospect Hall Sugar Estate 1862-1902.

    John Robinson (founder of the Mercury) writes in 1870: Immediately the Umgeni Bridge is crossed a road not long formed turns off along the foot of a hill towards the sea. …..if we keep to the road it brings us at last to Prospect Hall, a sugar estate established many years ago by a pushing colonist….now alas! Dead….Mr A. W. Greig. It is now being worked for the proprietors by Mr T.W. Lamport, formerly manager at Merebank and Reunion. No plantation lies as near to the sea as this. It sweeps up from the water’s edge , almost to the crest of the littoral ridge in continuation of the Berea range, which skirts the shore northward. From the outer anchorage this fair expanse of cane is a very prominent object. The extraordinary yield from cane grown here proves beyond a doubt that these bushy hills with their light sandy loam are well suited to sugar….This season ….37 acres crushed yielded 114 tons, an almost exceptional average of more than 3 tons per acre….. The full crop is estimated at 350 tons.”

    Prospect hall as it was, is covered and surrounded by Durban North today . Andrew Fletcher Greig started the estate in 1860, having arrived in March in 1851. By 1864 he was crushing his cane with a steam mill. Greig died in 1868 and the estate was purchased in 1869 by Messers Muirhead and Arbuckle for £3700. It comprised 680 acres of which 150 acres was under cane. It was claimed for this estate that frost was unknown there. Millar and Churchill owned Prospect Hall in 1876. In 1878, equipment included an 18hp engine, mill, 1 vacuum pan and 4 centrifugals. In 1881 Prospect Hall had the distinction of adding to its equipment the first steam engine made in Natal “if not in South Africa” says the Mercury.

    Prospect Hall Sugar Mill was purchased by the Natal Estates Ltd. in 1902, together with 20 acres of land now forming part of Durban North.”

    The book does not indicate when the mill closed down . Obviously with the development of Durban North, the cane fields gave way to housing developments.

    Interesting to note that these days cane fields are infiltrating into the Midlands and around Richmond vast tracts of land are now planted with cane.

  5. Mark Campbell
    | Reply

    Our family moved into 49 Ocean Way in 1966 and a year or two later our address changed to 15 Gleneagles Drive. Reading the post about the old mill got me thinking. The best that I can think of is that Ocean Way would have started at the bottom of Old Mill Way and linked up with Beachway, skirting what was later to become Beachwood School (founded in 1963).
    With the changes in around 1966/7/8 the start of the original Ocean Way became an extension of Broadway and the link between Broadway and Beachway, Gleneagles Drive.

    • Syd Oram

      Hello Mark. I’ve only just picked this up, and then I must say purely by chance. I think you are right on with this. My recollection is that Ocean Way ran parallel with Gleneagles Drive from the bottom of Beachway only as far as the bottom of Broadway and was sacrificed when the freeway was extended from the bottom of Broadway along to Virginia and Umhlanga.

    • Mark Campbell

      Thanks Syd. I wonder if Gerald could have a look at one of his pre-1965 Braby’s Directories and see what the addresses are below Hoylake Drive. Are they Broadway or Ocean Way?

  6. Veronica Morris
    | Reply

    I bookmarked your site moons ago and noticed it this morning. So many wonderful memories dating back to late 50’s till we came to UK in 1974. I think the first house my dad built was in Old Mill Way but need to confirm with my brother. Perhaps I can even find a photo.
    Happy happy days back then.

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi Veronica, You’d be more than welcome to send a picture to me at the address on the Contact page and I’ll post it. Allan.

  7. Gerald
    | Reply

    Hi Mark
    I do not have directories pre 1965 but in the 1965 directory both Broadway and Ocean Way are listed as being in Durban North. I am not sure if this answers your question.

  8. Mark Campbell
    | Reply

    Thanks Gerald. If you could find out the last house number in Broadway it might shed some light on the mystery.

  9. Gerald
    | Reply

    Hi Mark
    According to the 1965 Directory, the last house on the right hand side of Broadway was No 62 A Flockemann. This was adjacent to to Ranleigh Crescent and Leo Boyd Highway. On the left hand side it was No 59 W M Chrystal adjacent to Leo Boyd Highway and Holm Park Place. If it will help, I will post a picture of the road map of the area taken from a Braby’s Road Map circa 1980’s.
    DBN North Map

  10. Frank Beeton
    | Reply

    Not directly related to this topic, but in 1968 my late father-in-law Graham Cruickshank moved into 35 Holmpark Place. Soon afterwards it was announced by the City Council that Holmpark Place would be renamed Waterkant Road. So incensed was this normally very calm man at this proposal that he used every avenue open to him to lobby the Council against the change and the section between Milldene Place and Old Mill Way remained Holmpark Place! Presumably Waterkant Road was built following the construction of the Northern Freeway to provide roadside access to properties that had become isolated by the freeway, and connected to Holmpark Place, which then ceased to be a “place” (dead end). Maybe the alignment of Waterkant Road, which subsequently provided access to a service station, the Hypermarket and various residential complexes, was also originally part of “Ocean Way”?

  11. Syd Oram
    | Reply

    Hi Frank – Bully for those people who stand up for what they think is right! I think we all wish there were more around today. As far as I can recall in the 1950s there wasn’t a road extending south along the route of the present Waterkant Road.I think that Holmpark Place ran only as far as the northern boundary of the valley running down from Ellis Park. I think you are right in saying that there was a measure of expropriation and I think the local Indian population bore the brunt of this. Whatever the case, I don’t think Ocean Way ran along the present course of Waterkant, particularly since there was a rifle range near the northern end of the Ellis Brown Viaduct Which was used well into the 1960s, if not later.

  12. Mark Campbell
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald. Perhaps you could look at your 1965 Directory and see if there is any reference to Ocean Way, and also the house numbers of Gleneagles Drive.

  13. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Mark
    Ocean Way is listed running between Broadway and Sunningdale Drive.

    Gleneagles Drive Numbers . Right Hand side 2,4,10,12,14,16,18,20,22,24,26,28. Left hand side 1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17,19,21,23,25,27,29. Between 7 and 9 was an unnamed lane.

  14. Mark Campbell
    | Reply

    Thanks for your help, Gerald.
    One last question though. Please could you let me know the numbers listed for Ocean Way.


  15. Gerald
    | Reply

    Hi Mark
    Oceanway RHS 38, 44 ,72,74, 76, 78, 80, 82,
    LHS 39, 41, 43,45,47, 49,51, 53, 63, 65,67,69,71,73,75. Numbering rather erratic, Hope you can sense of what I have given.

  16. Mark Campbell
    | Reply

    Thanks Gerald. All a bit confusing though.

  17. Anne
    | Reply

    Hi… I lived at 41 Ocean Way until early 1961. I was interested to read these posts as I have tried several time to find a street view of Ocean Way. Having seen the name was changed to Gleneagles I have had another look but the properties appear to have very flat gardens whereas our back garden was at roof height. At first I thought that no3 Gleneagles was the house. I had previously come to the conclusion that it was demolished to make way for the Ruth First Highway. Any further info would be interesting. Was a pupil at Lady of Fatima.

  18. Brian Hudson
    | Reply

    My family, Hudson, was resident in 8 Holmpark Place from 1950 until 1959, there was no Japanese Gardens yet, however there was an Indian family that had a cow, they lived in a wood and iron shack approx where the Jaipur Palace restaurant is now (2020), my brother Grahame Hudson set the valley on fire one day prompting the Fire Brigade from town to come and extinguish it

  19. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Brian
    I had a look at Holmpark Place in my 1957 Durban Directory. Here are the residents: LHS 1 Crosthwaite 3 Pantall 5 Boyce 7 Chambers 9 Dark 11 van der Spuy 13 Gordon. RHS 4 Leyden 6 Eyles 8 Hudson 10 Christie 12 Paterson 14 Usher. Hope the names recall the neighbourhood.

  20. rory lynsky
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Sometime ago you quoted from the book Valiant Harvest about the Prospect Mill. I’m trying to get some historical facts about the Virginia sugar mill that was operating at the same time. Would it be possible for you to quote what RF Osborn had to say about this mill which I think was near what is the Virginia circle today.
    Many thanks
    Rory Lynsky

  21. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Rory
    See your emails. I have sent you the reference to Prospect Hall. No pictures were associated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *