We bet you didn’t know this about Durban

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We bet you didn’t know this about Durban

Have you ever wondered how places, buildings, monuments got their names?

Our member Durban West Tourism provided us with some golden insights into a few stories that will blow you away about Durban West’s adventurous past.

Fort Funk

Fort Funk (1850) (S29° 48.974′ E30° 51.768′). Pinetown.
This fort was created by erecting earth embankments around the “Wayside Inn” by Mr Archibald Murray, who was known as the founding father of Pinetown. The Fort with its well could safely house the people of Pinetown and New Germany. Fort Funk caused much laughter when no attack came. Weathering destroyed the earthworks, but it is commemorated by a gun barrel and plaque. (Public Park)

Colendbrander Park

Colenbrander Park. Two Dutch planters Theodorus Colenbrander and Mr van Preen arrived in Natal from Java in 1854 with Javanese workers, to start an Indigo dye factory in the Umbilo River valley, Pinetown. His son, Johan, became an adventurer and served in the Stanger Rifles during the Anglo Zulu War. And Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts in the Anglo Boer War, eventually reaching the rank of Colonel. He was tragically killed while filming an early South African epic “Symbol of Sacrifice”. Colenbrander Park is named after him.

First Cricket Ground in KwaZulu-Natal

First cricket ground in KZN Natal (One of the Oldest Clubs in KwaZulu-Natal). The stumps and bails on the commonage between the Pinetown Civic Centre and the Library alongside Old Main Road commemorate the founding of the Pinetown Cricket Club in 1878, when the first match was played here. It was subsequently renamed the Pinetown Cricket and Football Club in July 1882. Matches were played on the Old Main Road until the advent of motor cars, when they were moved to Anderson Sports fields in 1920’s

Spy Hill

Spy Hill

Spy Hill formally known as Beacon Hill because of the survey beacon at its summit, the name was changed after World War 2. During the war blackouts were enforced. So when lights were seen from a house on the summit of Spy Hill, it was assumed that a spy was sending vital allied troop ship movements to a German submarine.  A German Homoeopath occupied the house and he was arrested and interned. Today Spy Hill is a park adn one can view the ruins of a house on the summit of Spy Hill. Spectacular views of Durban and the coast-line may be seen from this vantage point and during spring, veld flowers abound on the hillside.

Shanghai Lil

Shanghai Lil’s Born of German decent, Miss Gale changed her name to that of her English stepfather. She was an importer of Burmese furniture and Eastern goods for her shop in West Street, Durban. In 1933 Ms Gale bought land on Fields Hill for her home designed like the San Souci Palace. During World War 2 Miss Gale’s German origins and eastern connections led to rumours of her being a spy. Nicknamed “Shanghai Lil” this shy, reserved lady in her opulent home of marble floors, fountains, Burmese teak wood panelling, an underground water tank and magnificent gardens, became a celebrity. After her death the house was used as a residence, a restaurant and a business, it is currently unoccupied. (Can be seen when heading towards Durban from Kloof on Fields Hill)

Indigo Vats

Indigo Vats

Indigo Vats. Two Dutch indigo planters from Java, Mr Theodorus Colenbrander and Mr von Preen went into partnership with Mr Murray of Pinetown in 1854. Locally grown indigo plants were gathered in bundles by Indonesian workers. Plants were packed into brick vats, secured by metal rods and covered with water to encourage fermentation. After being beaten with bamboo poles, water was released and the remaining dye was processed into cakes for export. The venture failed due to climate, river water and poor soil. Rediscovered in 1969 the first example of Pinetown industry caused much excitement. They were declared a National Heritage Monument in October 1984. Situated in high security area, phone first.         

Roosfontein Nature Reserve

Image: Google Inc, Street view

 Roosfontein Nature Reserve. Named after Roosfontein farm owned by the Voortrekker pioneer Francois Roos, this reserve borders both Queensburgh and Westville entities. Established in 1985 it was enlarged in 1992 with land that had belonged to Westville Prison. At the time it was hoped to join Roosfontein Nature Reserve to Paradise Valley Nature Reserve, Pinetown.  It is 150 ha, with bush clump grassland and riverine bush. It is home to many grassland birds, wild flowers, smaller mammals and antelope species with interesting viewing sites.  Pressure has been exerted on the Durban Council to provide much needed housing for neighbouring Cato Manor. Plans are in place to incorporate Lafarge Quarry and release land for housing without compromising Roosfontein’s biodiversity. Admission is free. Opening times – All hours.

Lori Voss


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