St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Park St George's Park - Prince Alfred's Birthday
Prince Alfred's Birthday

Tuesday last was a public holiday, and every one gave himself up to enjoy the day in his own peculiar fashion.

The Volunteer Artillery went out to Uitenhage to fraternise with the Cavalry there, and a great field-day they had - a sumptuous tiffen, and a splendid ball.

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St George's Park shortly after it was started in 1861.
More of this will be found under a separate head.

Here the day began by the Royal Hunt, for which the public were indebted to Mr George Reed.

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St Georges Park as it appeared in the London Illustrated News in 1868.
Before daylight men and dogs were off, and were rewarded for their early rising by two splendid "runs."

Two bucks were killed in the course of a couple of hours, and the huntsmen were back in time to be present at the inauguration of St George's Park.

In the town it was evident there was to be a general holiday.

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The original Main gates to St George's Park, now demolished.

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The fountain in St George's Park.
Flags and streamers were flying in all directions - shops were shut - people dressed in holiday attire - and expectation stood on tip-toe.

By a sort of instinct the Market Square seemed to be the centre of attraction.

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The PAG memorial in St George's Park.
Here the Naval Brigade was mustered under Captain Chapman and Lieutenant Wheatland.

The men, all dressed in blue and white, looked well.

Worshipful Town Councilors began to assemble at the Town Hall, and look grave and dignified.

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One of the many paths in St George's Park.
The Mayor is there - always at the post of duty - and foremost among the throng.

Presently the band (or rather a very small portion of it) strikes up, and the Brigade marches down Main Street, and up past the Scotch Church.

The Councilors proceed to the Hill, and by the time the Brigade reaches the spot a goodly number of visitors had assembled to witness the ceremony of planting the first tree in St George's Park.

Our fellow townsman, Mr Birt, had presented the Mayor with a young oak, and this was to be the tree.

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Another one of the paths leading up to the fountain in St George's Park.
Preparations had been made, and everything was ready.

The Mayor, in a brief but appropriate address, explained to the assembled crowd the purpose for which they had met together, and then called upon Mr Pearson, as the originator of the "idea," to address those present.

Mr Pearson said:

"Mr Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen, before I moved in this matter, it had often occurred to myself and several others, that a public play-ground and park were greatly needed in Port Elizabeth, a place where the citizens could meet together and enjoy the beautiful sunshine of Heaven, and breathe the free and fresh air which God had given them.

"Port Elizabeth was gradually growing into a large commercial city, and the Town Council thought they could bestow no greater boon upon their fellow citizens - one that would be worthy of the occasion which had that day called them together - than settling apart a public play-ground and park, where, upon every return of that and other holidays, the merchant, the shopkeeper, the tradesman, and the labourer could meet for recreation and innocent amusement, and spend a day now and then in happy intercourse with each other.

"The Mayor was about to plant the first tree in what, it had been decided to name "Prince Alfred's Grove," in honour of England's Sailor Prince.

"Under the shelter of the proud old oak England had risen to a position of distinction and eminence, and he hoped under the shade of the oak now about to be planted, the citizens of Port Elizabeth would often meet and enjoy the advantages the promoters of "St George's Park" intended they should.

"And in after years, when South Africa had achieved an eminence for herself worthy of that great country from which her sons and daughters had sprung, he trusted that the then citizens of Port Elizabeth would frequently assemble in "St George's Park," and pointing to the Prince's Grove say, for that, and for this spacious public play-ground, we are indebted to the foresight and kindness of a former Municipal body, who commemorated the first anniversary of a Royal Prince's visit in inaugurating for the comfort, health, and recreation of their fellow townsmen for all time, these shady walks and extensive grounds."

After this, champagne was produced, and amid a volley of corks and smart repartees, healths innumerable were drank, and success to Port Elizabeth and the Prince Alfred's Grove pledged over and over again.

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The fish pond as it appears in 2007.

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The fish pond as it appears in 2007.
Mr Adler made a neat speech, drinking success to the undertaking in a bumper of champagne.

Port Elizabeth, he said, was a dry and arid spot, but he hoped the day would come when visitors from the fatherland would be able to gladden their eyes by the sight of green foliage in that grove, and, under the shade of that oak, would be able to stretch their limbs, and enjoy themselves while thinking over the past.

Port Elizabeth had that day, he said, done something of which it might be proud, and he hoped that the tree, now planted, would soon grow into a wide spreading grove, and that our children and children's children would live to see the result of that day's work so well begun.

All the Councilors present, and several of the inhabitants then planted trees or seeds.

We are glad to see our Mercantile Marine represented by Captain Taylor, of the Margaret Edwards, who not only planted a tree but took a very lively interest in the proceedings.

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One of the many small ponds in St Georges Park.
Champagne was served round to the ladies, of whom we are glad to see so many present.

Then came the races, in which the Naval Brigade entered most heartily, and fun and frolic ran fast if not furious.

Thanks to Mr Jno. Holland, an impromptu shilling subscription was got up and a sufficient sum was forthcoming in a few minutes to provide prizes for four races.

Stewards were appointed, and under the management of Lieutenant Simpson, and Captain Chapman of the Brigade, everything was soon ready.

The following is a list of the races, and the names of the runners:-

1st Race - Ladies Purse

s d

R Williams 1st 10 0

McIntosh 2nd 7 6

T Clayton 3rd 5 0

2nd Race

J Walker 1st 7 6

A Smith 2nd 5 0

W Harries 3rd 2 6

3rd Race

R Alford 1st 6 0

J Campbell 2nd 4 0

T Wheeler 3rd 2 0

4th Race

D Drysdale 1st 5 0

H Geo 2nd 3 0

E Earle 3rd 2 6

These were the best and most orderly four races we have had.

There was no squabbling or disputing.

Once there was "a tie," but the two Jacks ran the race over again, and the defeated one, won another race.

We can't speak too highly of the conduct of the men forming the Naval Brigade.

It was a credit to their officers and themselves.

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Another of the many small ponds in St Georges Park.
By and Bye, the company dispersed, and extempore pic-nics were planned, and during the course of the afternoon the grassy slopes might be seen here and there dotted by happy, merry groups, who were determined to make the most of the day.

The public ball wound up the day's proceedings, and very happily too.

Everything passed off most successfully and reflected great credit on the stewards.

All admit that it was one of the best managed balls that has ever been given in Port Elizabeth.

But, as we have a separate column for the ball, we will say no more, save this - that everyone enjoyed the holiday, and will be right glad when the sixth August comes round again.

Eastern Province Herald
August 9, 1861.

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