Symbols of Durban

By Allan Jackson - 2003

Durban started out with a Borough Seal which was replaced by a Coat of Arms and then with a series of logos. There is plenty of detail missing at present making this more of a work in progress than most of the other pages on this site. Amongst other things, I have no idea of the dates when the various logos were adopted but I do have every hope that investigations currently under way in the Mayor's Office will eventually establish the sequence of events.

The Borough Seal, above, was adopted in 1855 apparently after a Durban resident went to court and sucessfully challenged the Town Clerk's right to collect rates on the grounds that he had no seal authorising him to do so. A design submitted by Christopher Cato was hastily adopted and the collection of rates continued.

The Borough Seal was replaced on 19th September 1892 with a Coat of Arms, above, which had been designed by John Sanderson. The design incorporates elements from the Arms of Sir Benjamin D'Urban, after whom Durban was named, and Sir Bejamin Pine, who was governor of Natal from 1850-1855. An interesting thing about the Coat of Arms is that is apparently not heraldically correct and was refused recognition by the College of Heralds in 1906. The image of it comes from a scan of the sticker which was used to adorn Durban Corporation busses.

Largest Coat of Arms

We don't know for sure what the biggest version of the Coat of Arms was but it's unlikely that there was ever one bigger than seven-foot tall example made in plaster by Dave Wilson in 1952. A clipping of the Idler's column from the Natal Mercury of 4 June sent to me by Dave's daughter Sandra Herwood reports that Dave was a bricklayer employed by the municipality to do renovations and maintenance to the City Hall.

Not a brilliant picture but it does give some idea of the size of the Coat of Arms made by Dave Wilson.

Dave was apparently a dab hand at plastering as well and was asked by the authorities if he could make the huge coat of arms to be fixed to the proscenium over the newly remodeled City Hall stage. He first said he didn't think he could do it but after experimenting with plasticine modeling he decided he could. In less than three weeks he modeled each part of the coat of arms, made plaster master moulds and then made the pieces which were fastened together. The whole thing was bolted into place above the stage in the City Hall but it must have been removed at some point because it isn't there now and I haven't managed to find out when it was taken down or what happened to it.

The logos below were used at various times and I can't really say much moore about them. All I know is that the use of a stylised Durban City Hall dome probably dates from the late 1980s or early 1990s. A clipping from the Daily News of 4 February, 1992, says that the city council had decided, by 15 votes to 13, to allow the dome logo to continue in use with the Coat of Arms being reserved for more formal purposes. The reporter notes that the logo had been around for some years unofficially and was already being used on some municipal staionery. Councillors variously described the dome logo as 'zappy and with it" and as an 'igloo' or 'clown's hat'.

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