The Colonial Mutual Life Building West Street.

Natalie Nel posted three pictures on FaceBook of the Colonial Mutual Life Building when it was being constructed. They looked like purposely taken photographs. I contacted Natalie and she agreed to send me copies so that I could post them here on FAD.

The pictures Natalie says are undated and were about to be binned when she claimed them to preserve them. The photos are the building under construction, the building complete and then what appears to be a previous building with Adams and Co as tenants. The CML building itself in 1938 is listed as being at 328 West Street but in 1965 listed as 330 West St. It flanked Mark Lane on the right hand side.

Referring to my 1938 Durban Directory the building of eleven floors was already fully occupied. I searched amongst all the buildings listed and no building had more floors than the CML. I would venture to say it was Durban’s tallest building of the time and probably the first to be constructed of steel beams. The photographs probably date to the early 1930s and if one looks at the pavement there still appears to be some building material there. From my memory, the lift shaft was on the left of the building as you entered the foyer and this would tie in with the picture showing the lift shaft being constructed.

By 1938 doctors had already moved in to the building for their practices and it was no different in the 60s with many doctors and dentists based in the building. I recall my own doctor at the time Dr Colin Black having his rooms in the building on the 8th floor. Which brings me to the lift. In the 60s it was I think, still the original lift installation. The lift had two expanding trellis gates one on the exterior and the other on the interior. An African lift operator was at hand to do the necessary. I do recall though that it was a “terrible” lift as when it took off it gave a downward lurch before going up. Everyone in the lift who had no experience of it would take a gasp but relaxed once it trundled upwards. Likewise I recall the lift did a “bounce” once it reached the appropriate floor.

Looking through the list of tenants in 1938, there was a wide mix of doctors, dentists, dressmakers, and some interesting ones such as The Rapid Results College which endured in the 1960s. Other tenants were the Thervac and Paplint Syndicates which conjure up strange ideas as to what they were about. Doctor , later Professor Hugh Grant-Whyte had rooms on the 9th floor. On the 11th floor the “Engineer Caretaker” , Mr W. E. Dutton had a room.

When the subject of the building came up on FaceBook, Mr Dave Upfold, posted that he was manager of the building in the 1980s and has the original plan drawings. I have asked him to try and find out from them who the architect was and which construction company was tasked with the building.

As can be seen in the photo of the completed building, it is lovely in its white exterior. It appears that it was not quite complete though as a workman is at work on a scaffold at the front and there appears to be rubble or material on the pavement.

What is of interest in the photo as well are the buildings which flank the CML Building 328 West St. On the right hand, Mark Lane side is Embassy House (326) and Arthur’s Chambers (322) with next to it Lennon’s Chambers (320 ) not in the picture. On the left are two smaller buildings which are unnamed in the directory. The building closest seems to have a name, undecipherable, on the gable whilst the one next to it is indicated as G Dalton and Son. It is difficult to interpret the stand numbers because the 1938 directory indicates G Dalton as being 334 West Street which is 3 stands away from the CML Building. The Moore Shoe Company must have moved away from the premises shown in the photo as they are not listed. Regardless of this the Moore Shoe Company remained in existence and I have it situated in Salisbury Arcade in 1968. The building next door has interesting tenants. On the parapet there is a sign: Tiny Thomas Dancing. By 1938 Tiny Thomas had moved out and relocated to the Alexandra Hall 518 West St near the Cemetery. There were about 20 Dancing Academies in Durban at that time, no doubt people took dancing seriously.

Below is a picture of the Alexandra Building upper West Street which was an “art” centre in the early 1930s. Dance, Ballet, Speech Teachers were based in this building which was on the corner of Cathedral Rd and West Street. It remains today but in a very dilapidated state.

G Dalton and Sons were Sports Outfitters. If I am not mistaken the name Dalton crops up in sport circles. There was a Sports Shop in the 1960s that went under the name Dalsports and one wonders if there was a connection to Daltons. The banner advertising a dance has the name Natal Hatters, another firm that lasted well in to the 60s with an outlet at 77 Field Street. By 1957, it would seem that the two buildings were demolished and replaced by Protea House 332 West Street. On the ground floor of Protea House was the South Seas Coffee House and Milk Bar. Note the TO LET signs in the upstairs bay windows.

Moving to the buildings across Mark Lane on the right of CML Bldg, the first one is Embassy House, 326 West Street. An ornate old building unfortunately the picture is not well focused but on the roof gable it looks like 190X as the year it dates to. Again not a very wide building. The white poster I cannot make out but below it seems to be a name with School of Dancing. Then below that another signboard which looks like Billiards Room. Billiards also seem to be a popular pastime at that time with quite a few tables around town. Embassy house had three floors. Interesting tenants again.
First Floor Rooms 1/2 M Vane-Wallace listed as drugless healer! 3/4 Marter’s Hairdressing Saloon
Second Floor Room 1/2 Le Portrait a photo studio with a long connection to Durban.
Room 5 J.S. McClansburgh Dental Mechanic Rooms 7/9 African Consolidated Theatres.
Third Floor Rooms 1/2 Dr H Archibald 3/8 Martens and Ross Manufacturers Representatives.
Arthur’s Building next door, 322 West Street, accommodated Arthurs Ltd. Drapers Outfitters and Boot Store. I do not recall the name Arthurs and by 1957 this building was renamed Shelton House. This name rings no bells with me, the only reference is that Foschini were on the ground floor in 1968. To put this into modern perspective, in 1968 it was Mark Lane, 326 Embassy House, 322-324 Shelton House (the Waldorf Café on the ground floor) , 320 Shelley House (with The Shelley Shop on the ground floor), 318 Castle Arcade. All these were demolished with the erection of 320 West Street.

The third photo shows a building with Colonial Mutual Buildings well indicated. In 1938, Adams and Co were already based at 341 West Street, the location they remained at until the closure of the West Street store we all knew. So this picture, the way I see it predates the 341 West Street Adams location and in my reckoning is the original CML buildings in West Street prior to its demolition to make way for Durban’s new skyscraper. Note the particular pattern of plaster work round the windows of the building to the left of Adams as well as the elaborate gable. So my guess is that Adams were at 328 West Street and then crossed over to the other side of West Street when notice was given that this building was to make way for a new Colonial Mutual Life building.

The three photographs in my estimation tell a story … namely before, changing, after.

If you grew up in Durban, old photographs of Durban are always interesting. It is surprising that one tends to forget which buildings were where although you must have passed them quite regularly. I am talking a long time ago now but once one reflects on the Durban we knew, memories come back and are revived.

If anyone can add to this narrative please do so. You may have to save the photos to your computer to enable you to enlarge the pictures.

EDIT: I just came across a quandary concerning the third picture. I was looking amongst my picture library and came across this picture.

It is the identical building to the picture above but the building is now called UNION BUILDING.I cannot make out the name above. Adams are still the tenants. So which is the older name? I looked Union Buildings up in the 1938 Directory and there was one at 215 Pine Street. Looking in the background one sees a building named Lennon’s and Lennon’s was at 320 West Street. Bearing in mind if this picture is taken from Pine Street and looking towards West Street then Lennon’s Building would be in the background. If the building was in Pine Street then my theory above goes west!

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42 Responses

  1. Keith Titmuss
    | Reply

    Gerald, I remember the Colonial Mutual Life building VERY well!! As a child I had to be dragged there by my mom to the (I think) 6th floor to the dentist. Dr Chanock. The lift was… mentioned a bit scary as it took off. One thing not mentioned was the gents hairdressers on the ground floor. Now, the entry as far as I remember was from Mark Lane. I may be wrong Gerald, and the Hairdressers may have been in the building behind CML There were 6 chairs all operating so you did not wait too long for a haircut. For the life of me I can’t imagine why they would ask certain “dudes” if they wanted a singe? They would light a bamboo taper and lightly run it over the head and singe the tips of the hair!!!!!!

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Keith
    Quite right Keith I remember that hairdresser was in Mark Lane. You walked in and the waiting chairs were lined up facing the barbers. I was working at the Beach Telephone Complex at the time and although there were plenty of ladies hairdressers round about the Beach area I could not find a gents hairdresser and someone said he used the one in Mark Lane. So I ended using them going to an Afrikaans speaking barber. I am talking mid 1970s. It was a bus trip and back. A lady took your money at the front desk. I checked the Dbn Directory….Mutual Mens’ Hairdressers. I seem to recall there was a watchworks run by Mr Abel Garavarian and later his son Paul took over further down the Lane. There was also an electrical goods shop where one could buy the unusual electrical items such as the toaster elements for the old swivel two door type toaster, replacement kettle elements, and globes that imitated candles flickering. Mark Lane also later had the entrance to the 320 Building offices and the CNA had a large shop on the corner Mark Lane and West St. Telkom in later years erected three telephone call offices in Mark Lane. My memory tells me Mark Lane was wide at the West Street end but halfway down it narrowed towards Pine Street.

    • Keith Titmuss

      Hello Gerald, thanks for your comments. Now, this was before decimal coinage….so, a long time back but I remember seeing billboards, Garavarian watchmakers. 11/6….eleven shillings and sixpence for any watch repairs.Of course when most watches were “wind up”.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Keith
      The Garavarian watch repair business as I know it was run by Abel Garavarian and his son Paul who joined the business after leaving school in the early 60s. Paul went to Northlands Boys High and lived in Claribel Road. When his father died Paul took over the business until he too passed away at a relatively young age. I have an idea but stand open to correction but I think the Garavarians operated the business under the name Swiss Watch Works.

  3. Peter May
    | Reply

    Interesting reading for sure! I grew up in Durban in the 50’s / 60’s and remember the Colonial Mutual Building and its loft well. As a child, I was taken to see Dr Gordon Price the dentist whose practice was in the building. He had joined the practice of his father Dr Norman Price who had been my mother’s dentist in her earlier years. She always referred to him as “Old man Price” and I remember that if my siblings or I expressed fears about an impending visit to the dentist, she’d always try to calm us by saying “You’re lucky you don’t have to see Old man Price!” The first hurdle on a visit to the dentist was always the lift! My mother was terrified by it but tried not to show it. My two sisters would always pick up on this and scream in unison as we “took off” as well as when we “landed”, much to the amusement of my older brother and me!! I can’t remember which floor the dental practice was going on but it was high up in the building. The big treat on “dentist days” was that we always stopped off on the way back down again at the offices of our great uncle and aunt, Chappie and Cissie Knowles who ran a business in the building. I can’t remember the name of their business but I think they were brokers or importers/exporters of sorts. Aunty Cissie was my paternal grandmother’s sister.
    I also clearly remember the Moore Shoe Company which was where the four of us were always taken to buy new school shoes in January, ready for the start of the new school year. My sisters and I were easily satisfied by Mom’s choices for us but my brother, who apparently needed a “very narrow fitting” would usually insist on trying on almost every shoe in his size in the shop before he’d settle on a pair! He had also attended dance classes on Saturday mornings at The Dudley Andrews School of Dancing during the late 1950’s / early 60’s. I remember it being in that area so it may we’ll be the indecipherable name on the one dance school sign boards.

    • Peter May

      I am commenting on my own report. The dental practice that I referred to was originally set up by Dr Gordon Price (the father) and was later partnered by Dr Noel Price (his son) In the third line of my article I mistakenly spelt the intended word lift as loft – my apologies for both errors.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Peter,
    Looked up the names in the Colonial Mutual Building in the 1965 Durban Directory. Dr Gordon Price on the 11th floor Rooms 1101 / 1102. Dr Noel Price also 11th Floor Rooms 1109 /1110. Then Dr Leonard Price on the 6th Floor Room 604. Lastly Dr Norman Price also a dental surgeon but had rooms on the 4th Floor of the Paynes Building. The Moore Shoe Company 21 Salisbury Arcade. J D Knowles Manufacturers’ Rep. 409 Colonial Mutual Life Building.


      What a wonderful read i have just had from all the lovely contributions – this is my second ‘reply’ this evening (please see other one about my arrival in SA and Durban and my meeting John Henwood in 1954 on board the Athlone Castle mail ship)
      Colonial Mutual Building housed my Dr and eye specialist also. The Foschini shop was one of my favourite places for special clothing. Stuttafords on the corner of West and Field was a very special shop – i still have a set of lovely brown earthenware farmhouse cooking casserole pots i bought there prior to my marriage in 1971. I worked in several places in Durban during my years there. My first with an estate agents almost on the corner of Smith st and Field St, sadly i cannot remember their name. It was opposite the back of where the Salisbury House was then being built. There was a passage between that construction and the next building where there was a small food shop which sold halved avocado pears filled with finely chopped salad, my first introduction to avo’s ! Then i worked for James Brown and Hamer the ship building company down by the docks. I also worked for Rapid Results College when they had premises in Smith street. My other places of employment were King and Sons, Dunn and Co. in Aliwal st And i also worked in the office of the Ijuba brewery in Umbilo. Does anyone remember the Bombay bazaar shop at the top end of West st? It was like walking into an Alladins cave in there, so many beautiful fabrics! I came back to live in the UK in 1997 after 43 glorious years in SA most of them in Durban. My heart is still there.
      . What a wonderful place it was to live in in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Greetings to all who remember. Shirley.

  5. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Shirley
    I have found two estates agents which were operating on the corner of Smith and Field Streets. The one was circa 1957 named Henry Rose and the next circa 1968 York Estate. Do these ring a bell? re rapid Results College I knew a Mr Basil Haynes there who I think was a director. King and Sons Dunn and Co were near the Piccadilly Cinema. Did you work with Barry Pedersen there? Most of the firms you mention no longer exist.

    | Reply

    Hello Gerald, Thank you for looking up the names of those estate agents – i worked in 1955/6 and i have since thought it could have been L.A. Fletcher or have i dredged that up from my huge mountain of memories. The name is now stuck in my head!
    The Henry Rose does not ring any bells… with York Estate there is a tinkle but by 1968 i was with Rapid Results College or maybe i had already moved to King and Sons by then.
    I may have known of a Basil Haynes at RRC but as i was in a very junior position i doubt i ever met him. There was a very rickety lift in that building ….. wire cage kind …… it stuck one lunchtime in the shaft with 4 RRC staff inside ….. by the time we got out lunch time was over!
    The building next door housed a building society i remember. i started a savings account with them …….for our ( my fiancee & i) ‘dream’ to buy a farm ….which we did, a derelict one near Highflats, early in 1972 & spending every weekend and Rand for 5 years to make it habitable and then finally moving in there in 1976.
    At King & sons Dunn and Co i was the main switchboard operator – i remember that in the senior management team there were two brothers, John and other name eludes me. I think their surname may have been King – John oversaw the staff who were positioned in an open plan area with the managers offices all along one wall which extended the length of the premises.
    These offices were on two slightly different levels as the street outside was on a slope at that point in Aliwal St. In the top section were the staff who dealt with the ‘shipping’ aspect of the company and the slightly lower, by one step, section dealt with ‘travel’. Alongside that section were also offices and i remember that there was a gentleman who dealt with staff matters,pay, leave etc etc but i cannot remember his name. A very understanding and patient gentleman.
    John King was quite strict when it came to starting and finishing times of the working hours for staff! One of the tiny shipping companies that it managed, possibly owned, was i think called Durban Lines or something like that. Anyway they were small cargo vessels that travelled from Durban up the west coast to what was then Lourenco Marques (LM) and they always brought back tins of cashew nuts which they sold to us the staff.. Square tins with a circular lid in the top full of really delicious big cashew nuts! Must have held 5lbs in weight!
    Thank you Gerald for your great interest in the ‘real’ Durban as we knew it.
    Greetings from a very wet and soggy damp flooded Wales and England – we are having a terrible winter! Storm after storm coming in from the Atlantic – we have already this year had 140% of this years annual rainfall! Warmest regards. Shirley Ditchburn.

  7. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Shirley
    I commiserate with you and the “damp” problems you are experiencing. Saw it on TV and must be quite frightening as there is nothing you can do to hold water back.

    Rapid Results College was in a building called Tuition House at 328 Smith St. . It was a 5 storey building and RRC occupied space on all 4 of the upper floors. At ground level was the Prudential Building Society. On the fourth floor was George Ruggier and Co an estate agent dealing with central properties. Also on the fourth was Ray Dyer, a manufacturing jeweller who made my wife’s engagement ring in 1968.

    L A Fletcher were Insurance Brokers who had offices in Commerce House in lower Field St.

    Did you know the Harpers from Highflats?

  8. Anne Erikson
    | Reply

    Perhaps I am off on another track, but talking about dentists and doctors, I was born in Durban in 1944 and the first dentist I remember being taken to at about age 5 was a “Mr” Whitlock.
    I don’t know why he was not “Dr” Whitlock, but my mother said he was a better-qualified dentist. I cannot remember which building this was in but I do remember we had to sit and wait. A rather ancient receptionist sat at a roll-top “Cutler” desk and I wondered how Mr Whitlock had stolen our desk and managed to get it there so fast as we had a similar desk at home!
    During the visit Mr Whitlock pointed with his mirror and said “When I tell you, spit into there”. He used his mirror and was actually indicating a little round white basin with a pipe squirting water round the edge. I thought he meant the mirror and when he said “OK spit”, I aimed my spit at the mirror and hit the target!
    He called my mother in and said “Your child just spat on my mirror”.
    I could not understand what the fuss was about. He showed me the mirror and I thought I had made a good effort at achieving what he had asked me to do!! And after all, he had stolen our desk!
    Please Gerald, put me out of my misery.
    Which building did “Mr” Whitlock have his rooms in?

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Anne
      The only reference I have to Mr Whitlock is in the 1938 directory. He is listed as E Whitlock Dental Surgeon and again is not listed as “Dr”. In 1938 his rooms were in 26 London Chambers 358 West Street. My next directory is 1957 and he is not listed amongst the dentists so perhaps by then he may have stopped practising or even passed on. Now London Chambers rang a bell and I recall someone sent in two small photos of a fire in West Durban asking which building had been on fire. I was able to identify the building by its façade. It was London Chambers. Now this would not be the building you would have gone to but would have been the building where Mr Whitlock had his rooms indicated in the 1938 directory. After the fire it would seem that the building was razed and in its place London House and London House Arcade were erected. In the 1957 and 1968 directory there is only one Whitlock listed and that is J M.

      Remains of London Chambers after the fire in the 1950s.

      Picture of London Chambers as it was in the 1900s. Note London Chambers on the roof.

      Note the fancy gables which identify the building.

  9. Anne Erikson
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald

    Thank you so much for your quick reply. I am almost certain that it would have been round 1949 that I spat on Mr Whitlock’s dental mirror! And it seems that must have been in his rooms in 26 London Chambers, where I saw what I thought was our ‘stolen’ desk.

    I remember the fire when London Chambers burnt down. It was during the 1950s and my parents took us for a drive down West Street to see the fire. I can only guess at the date – perhaps 1955?

    My mother stood there looking up and she kept saying “All those valuable stamps burnt up”. There was apparently a well-known philatelist who had offices in the building. I cannot recall his name but I was old enough to understand the loss as I, like many kids at that time, had my own stamp collection. Was this person the local representative for Stanley Gibbons? I don’t know. Perhaps your directory will reveal more, Gerald.

    Many thanks


  10. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Anne
    Looks like things are coming together somewhat. Just for interest these are the notes regarding who occupied offices in London Chambers in 1938.
    1 Sample Rooms
    4 Hill and Everett
    11 Lutman Bros
    12 DFA McDonald
    10a/7 Sample Rooms
    21 B Strachan
    22 W Morgan
    26 E Whitlock dentist
    27 Sample Rooms
    28 SAR & H (SA Railways and Harbours)
    I looked up the individual entries and the majority are Manufacturer’s Representatives which explains the rooms indicated as Sample Rooms. No one is listed as Stamp Dealer in the building. However looking up at Stamp Dealers in 1938, 3 are listed and one is E J Creak who had an office at 352 West St which would have been close to next door to London Chambers 358 West St. Looking at the small photo it seems that the adjoining building also suffered in the fire so perhaps your mother seeing that building also fire damaged made the remark. One of the other two stamp dealers was J A Lewin at 332 West St. As a stamp collector myself I remember J A Lewin the stamp dealer but then his offices were in Eagle Star House above Salisbury Arcade. This was round about 1959. The other dealer mentioned in 1938 was Williams and Co in Mark Lane but I have no knowledge of them.

  11. Anne Erikson
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald

    As you say, things are getting interesting. It was probably Mr Creak’s stamps that burnt up.

    Strangely enough, perhaps it was the same Mr Creak who had a newsagency next door to the old Smith Street Boys’ School (near Broad Street?). It later became a Police Station. I think the building is still there but I don’t know what it is used for now. My father, Albert Kirkwood (later his surname was changed to Brinkworth) attended Smith Street Boys’ School round about 1912 to 1917.

    Later, he used to buy us our children’s magazines from Mr Creak. I always thought it was such a funny name. The cash register in the shop used to groan and I thought that was why he was called Mr Creak.


  12. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Good Memory Anne! E J Creak was a Newsagent, Bookseller, Tobacconist, stamp dealer, latest Fashion Books and Novels. His store was in Celine Chambers 352 West St. This from the 1938 entry. So more than likely the same Mr Creak who had a news agency as you describe. I know of the Smith St Boys School apparently one of the first schools established. It was still there about two or three years ago all boarded up but apparently being preserved. It was a Police Station as you said as in 1959 as a 16 year old I had to register for Active Citizen Force training which was then being legislated. I registered there.
    I looked up A Kirkwood. Only one entry 152 Botanic Gardens Road. AG Brinkworth 14 Wadley Road Umbilo. Which one?

  13. Anne Erikson
    | Reply

    OK Gerald

    Many thanks for all your research on my behalf.

    So it was the same Mr Creak, with the initials E.J. Perhaps he moved to Smith Street after the 352 West Street shop burnt down along with London Chambers. I wonder when exactly that fire was.

    My father was the 14 Wadley Road one. There was a guy by the name of Mike Kirkwood at University of Natal when I was a student there and I always wondered if he was related to me in some way. But the topic was one of those unmentionable family secrets and my father never spoke about his childhood.


  14. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Anne
    I have asked someone I know about when the fire that burnt down London Chambers took place. Perhaps an answer will come from his network. I only realised later that London House was the appropriate name for the replacement building. By the way the Palace Cinema was located in the building next door and could have been the source of the fire. A colleague of mine at work was Rod Kirkwood, about the only Kirkwood I knew. Talk of unmentionable family secrets. You are quite correct. There were quite a few subjects that were never spoken openly of when I was a youngster. One was cancer in the family, unwanted pregnancies, suicides and mixed religion marriages.

  15. Anne Erikson
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald
    Thanks for the interest you have shown in finding out more about the fire that destroyed London Chambers.
    And yes, fires often started in cinemas because the celluloid film overheated and caught fire. Do you remember there was an asbestos curtain that came down in front of the screen at each show?
    About unmentionable subjects, I think even divorce was a “no-no” topic.
    I’ll be interested in what your contact discovers.
    I’ll guess the fire happened between 1950 and 1953.

    • Rosalie Walker

      Good afternoon – it is so fascinating for me to read about London Chambers .If anyone living in Durban has parents or grand parents that could shed more information on the life and times of London Chambers I would be so grateful. My great great Grandfather Donald Mc Donald came our from St Helena with his wife Eliza (nee Doveton) to Durban . He originated from County Ross in Scotland where he learned his trade- drapery. He had moved to St Helena where he had a successful business – drapery (I think) until upon the opening of the Suez Canal when he then decided to pursue business interests in Durban being concerned with the possible dwindling sea trade. He apparently commissioned London Chambers and on opening offered a lovely watering can to the shops first visitors. I know very little else and living in Joburg don’t unfortunately have easy access to Durbans archieves – but I am slowly building some of the Mc Donald family history with bits of information . Often the nicest parts are people’s personal histories or experiences of places . So now I know about the fire – and also see a Mc Donsld had rooms in the building . Very exciting. I would welcome any stories or information you may have about the building. Thanks so much . Kind regards Rosalie Walker ( nee Mc Donald)

  16. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Anne
    I have recently received three replies to the question as to when the fire occurred which destroyed London Chambers. The last one I think refers to another fire in the newer London House and not to the fire in London Chambers.

    Here are the replies:
    I remember the fire from the 1952 and remember a fireman who had his foot trapped whilst working on an appliance mounted extension ladder and his mate climbing up and cutting his boot away so that they could extract his foot and then carry him down the ladder over his shoulders. THOSE WERE THE DAYS WHEN MEN WERE MEN! London Arcade was made of the colonial type wood and iron and the Palace Tea Room Cinema was known as a “bug house”. The floors of the arcade were wooden and it was great fun as a child to stamp your feet as you walked and listen to the echo through the wood and iron structure. Ward and Salmons moved higher up West Street near Payne Bros and during the late 50’s moved down to the corner of West and Field Street. I remember that they had a wire system from their counters to cashiers on a mezzanine floor.
    As a HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT TRAVELLING FROM THE Berea to the beachfront daily we would pass Ward and Salmons on our way home daily.
    Then one day Ward and Salmons had a “RED HOT SALE”!
    Then THEY had a fire!
    Ward and Salmons disappeared from the Durban scene and when the sight was rebuilt it became ABC Shoes.
    During my 3 month Army Basic training we had a Salmon with us who was one of the family and often spoke of the store and fire.
    Gerald’s article answers most of the questions asked.
    Best regards
    Roy Bowman

    My wife, Milly, seems to remember that the Palace Cinema was called the Pop, she thinks because it may have been a ‘tearoom cinema’? She thinks that the fire could have been in the early 1950s possibly 1951 or 1952.

    I hope this helps.

    All the best


    I don’t have the exact date but remember the fire quite well I think it would have been around 1959 – hopefully someone else has a better memory.
    The building that burnt down was London House – they built the replacement on the same site which is still there.


  17. Anne Erikson
    | Reply

    Dear Gerald
    Thank you for your help. It seems that two of the respondents have confirmed the date as being 1952. I thought it was between 1950 and 1953 so I was not far out.
    Let’s say that 1952 wins the vote!

  18. Tim Gallwey
    | Reply

    Re King and Sons: I remember them as being almost next door to Adams, nowhere near to Aliwal Street. They were a great shop for trout fishing gear and guns and ammo.
    Thank you for all your contributions.
    Tim Gallwey

    • Anne Erikson

      Hi Tim

      That’s where I remember Kings being as well. I don’t know who thought they were in Aliwal Street. It was quite a walk from there. There was a block of flats called “Kings Hall” in Aliwal Street in about 1960. Perhaps that is what is confusing this person. So far as I know it was nothing at all to do with King and Sons.

      Anyway, we were talking about a fire that burnt down London Chambers in about 1952 or so.


    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Tim
      There was a King and Sons in Aliwal Street. Full name King and Sons , Dunn and Co. who were travel agents and shipping line representatives. Their offices were close to the Piccadilly Cinema close to the Esplanade. King and Sons were next door to Adams in West St. Well known sports shop and had a photographic section at one time as well as a hobbies section. .

  19. Keith Titmuss
    | Reply

    Hello Gerald….long time since I commented. As has been memtioned Kings “Sports” was in West street. Kings Hall in Aliwal Street was …at that time a lovely building. I remember an Itallian takeaway on the ground floor in the 60’s that sold the most amazing Pizza. Not like the modern ones you get today….filled with tomato, herbs, cheese and anchovies. My friend Vinlea lived in one of the flats upstairs and it was a lovely place to live. Am I right that KINRADE AND POTTER dance studio was located there……or was their studio in the building that was demolished to make way for Kings Hall?. . Kings “Sports” was a lovely shop … could find anything you needed for the outdorrs. Such attentivr staff and any advice you needed.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Keith
      Kinrade Potter was in Kings Hall, 1st Floor. Went there to learn basic dancing round about 1959 so the studio was there for many years. On this site I posted the death notice for Mrs Potter. Do a SEARCH. There was a coffee bar downstairs called Kings. Was very popular after movies came out.

  20. Keith Titmuss
    | Reply

    King and Sons Dunn…..when I worked at Leo Computers in The 70’s in Albany Grove we used to process their accounts . Many years before companies had their own computers. If I say we used punch cards you can imagine how things have progressed.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Keith
      Now there is a name I have not heard in years, Leo Computers. In 1971 possibly 1972 the Natal Technical College offered a Computer Course after hours. I enrolled for it and the course was being presented by a person who worked for Leo. He was a young Jewish gentleman but cannot remember his name. The course was based on COBOL language and the class had to write up a small programme. The programme sheets were filled in in pencil and handed in . They came back as punch cards (I still have one as a memento) and we had to buy time from Dunlops where we did our prac. on their computer. I still recall everyone had to pay R75 for about 2 hours computer time. It was all strictly scheduled and we had to be at Dunlops in Sydney Rd at 7 pm to start promptly. Do you recall any of this and who the gentleman was? I still recall all the card sorting and the ticker tape machine and loading it onto the computer discs. As you said things progressed from there.

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    Hello Gerald Buttigieg, Tim Gallway and Anne Erikson,
    I am Shirley – urname Hill until 1971 then, and now, my surname is Ditchburn.
    In 1969 i was working for RRCollege in Smith St but was offered the position of telephonist at the shipping company called King & Sons, Dunn & Co. I worked there until 1974. Their offices WERE in Aliwal St, on the left hand side, near the bottom close to the Esplanade. Yes the cinema was near there plus the entrance to the under ground car park. Between that and the first door of King & Sons was a tiny jewellers shop which i used to pass every day from the parking to get into K & Sons.
    Yes, it was a fair walk from there to the shops in West St where Adams and the other Kings (the fishing tackle shop) were.
    Most lunch times i walked up (using crutches) to Stuttafords on the corner of Fieldand West Streets. i believe that Stuttafords lovely store is no longer there – moved up to Westville i hear.
    That was my favourite store always..
    Thank you all for your contributions. shirley in uk.

    • Keith Titmuss

      Hello Gerald,
      I joined Leo Computer Bureau in 1968 after six and a half years with SAR&H in the machine accounts department on the 6th floor in Oswald Pirrow building in Smith Street. I was operating on ICL card tabulators. When I joined Leo the head of programming was a youngish chap called Tim Forder….not really a Jewish name?. He eventually left to live in Australia. The programmers were situated on the floor above the ops department where I was and we rarely saw them. We used to be handed little packs of punch cars in boxes to process, print the results of the test and send them upstairs.The only person who had….what I imagine was a Jewish name was the MD…Leo Fantl who had his headquarters in Johannesburg. I doubt he would have been presenting a programming course.In Durban our manager was Mr Jack Pearce and the ops manager was Mr Temple Palmer.Gerald, it was a wonderful company to work for. We operated a Burroughs B500 system with all the frills….high speed printer…Mag tape drives…paper tape readers…summary punch machine..high speed card sorters……all very noisy but I loved my time there. I left in 1972 to join I & J as DP manager for Natal when they installed their Burroughs system at Maydon Wharf……I left in 2000 to come to the UK.

  22. Shirley Ditchburn
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    Hello Keith Titmuss,
    I see that you are also an ex Durbanite now here in the UK.
    I came back to UK in 1997 after spending 43 years in SA mainly in Natal.
    I miss SO much from SA – The socialising in particular, the
    sunshine on practicaly every day! Plus many other things.
    I still have family there living in Natal, CT & Botswana.
    What a great privilege it was to spend most of my life in Durban,
    Natal and the final 8yrs in Jhb.
    So you and I were working in offices in Aliwal St during the years
    1969-1972 ….. i wonder how many times we may have passed each other
    in that street, going to or leaving our respective offices!😊
    Stay well, stay safe.
    shirley ditchburn in Wales.

  23. Keith Titmuss
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    Hello Shirley,
    WOW….. Good to hear from you….I actually worked in Albany Grove At Leo Computer Bureau from ’68 till ’72. BUT…..was often in Aliwal street. I feel the same as you….we were priviliged to live in Durban then. The best of times when you could park the car at the top end of West Street on a Sunday and go window shopping to the beach front , take the kids for a ride and buy an ice cream and find your car was still there. I lived in Fynnland…Bluff. Downstairs from our offices there was a a BURGER RANCH and we used to get lovely burgers and chips from them . From our windows in our computer room at night we used to see crowds of people surging to the doors of the Play House. what days they were…..We live in Coventry…So nice to hear from you

  24. Shirley Ditchburn
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    Keith Titmuss, thank you. I often walked through Albany Grove on my way back to work after a lunch treat at Stuttafords restaurant. Was it there i wonder that i found a lovely antiques shop and bought a copper kettle!?
    yes, window shopping, a Saturday or Sunday evening treat also.
    The really good old days!
    I have been looking on Google Earth today at that part of Durban –
    what a lot of new buildings in that area – there must have been
    huge amounts of new property investment going on there since i left Durban
    to move to Jhb in 1989.
    Take care, stay well to all who read this, during our respective continuing lockdowns.
    regards from Shirley Ditchburn.

  25. Keith Titmuss
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    You take care Ma’m…..all the best to you and yours ….an ex DURBAN OU !!!!… my name on facts about Durban ….I am there!

  26. David Woodward
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    The Durban CML Building was designed by Australian architects, and closely resembles CML buildings of similar date in a couple of Australian state capitals (including my home town of Hobart ).
    It was erected in 1933 by Lewis Constructions, an offshoot of the Australian firm Concrete Constructions Ltd (see the report at ). As noted in the Aveng history , Lewis was established by Australian entrepreneur Harold “Blue” Schwarer in 1931 .
    (My wife’s uncle held a senior position in Lewis for many years, and also after it merged into LTA.)

  27. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi David,
    Thanks for that interesting information. I did not post the original pictures and had no idea that it was designed by Australians. The building is well known in Durban and a landmark one at that.

  28. graeme
    | Reply

    Ish me to Gerald, it will always be a landmark……….Thanks David Woodward… Ask Aussie oakies to help us keep it standing. Just a thought !!!!

  29. Kerryn reid thomson
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    Dear gerald
    Thanks for lovely articles that are taking us down memory lane
    Could you please look in your phone directory for doctor gordon we think it was dr g gordon who was in colonial mutual.building we think 9th floor
    He was there sixties seventies eighties nineties
    We trying to establish what his rooms and floor number was in colonial building
    Thanks for the memory of the wonky lift lol my sister and I have been scratching our head for a week trying to remember the building name and the lane and then it all.came back to us today after reading your article
    Thanks gerald
    Kind regards

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Kerryn Dr G Gordon’s rooms were on the 6th Floor of Colonial Mutual Building West St. Room numbers 616-619. He lived in Northway Durban North.

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