The Old Fort in Durban

The first Europeans settled in the Bay of Natal (today’s Durban) in 1824 to create a trading post. In 1834 the Great Trek began and by 1837 the Voortrekkers were starting to cross the Drakensberg, soon establishing the Republic of Natalia, with Pietermaritzburg as the capital.

The British Governor at the Cape, with the support of the British Government, responded by sending a force of 240 men under Captain Thomas Smith to reoccupy Natal. The soldiers landed in May 1842 and made their camp on the site which is now known as The Old Fort. (More details of the early history of the Fort here.)

Drawing of the original Fort (https://grahamlesliemccallum.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/fort-victoria-point-durban/)
Drawing of the original Fort (https://grahamlesliemccallum.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/fort-victoria-point-durban/)

Clashes with the Voortrekkers led to the British annexing Natal with a permanent military contingent stationed in Durban. By 1858 the temporary campsite had been replaced with the buildings which remain today. This is quiet and beautiful parkland in busy Durban, with fascinating stories to tell about Durban’s history.

The Old Fort, 1956 (http://salbu.co.za/aWood/AnnalsOfNatal_Wood7.html)
The Old Fort, 1956 (http://salbu.co.za/aWood/AnnalsOfNatal_Wood7.html)

The Barracks, built to accommodate the garrison, continue as private apartments for retired soldiers and their wives.

The barracks, the Old Fort, Durban
The barracks of 1858, The Old Fort, Durban
The Barracks of 1858, The Old Fort, Durban
The Barracks of 1858, The Old Fort, Durban
The remains of the farrier's workshop in the grounds of The Old Fort
The remains of the farrier’s workshop in the grounds of The Old Fort

Actions of extreme bravery are remembered with modest memorials in the grounds: Dick King and John Ross.

The Grosvenor sank in 1782 off the Wild Coast and although 123 of the 150 crew and passengers survived the shipwreck, only 14 eventually survived to reach Cape Town, 400 miles from the site of the shipwreck. The ship was apparently the richest East Indiaman ever lost, with a cargo of gold and precious stones. The treasure, valued at c.£75,000 at the time, has never been recovered.

Durban Old Fort

A cannon retrieved from a Battery at False Bay, Cape Town, established by the East India Company
A cannon retrieved from a Battery at False Bay, Cape Town, established by the East India Company

And closer to current times this memorial in the grounds remembers the sinking of HMS Natal in the Cromarty Firth in 1915. (Marvellous website here.)

Durban Old Fort Memorial

HMS Natal, launch, 1905 (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-34388839)
HMS Natal, launch, 1905 (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-34388839)

The Chapel, the Church of St Peter in Chains, was locked when we visited but is still used for services and popular as a wedding venue in Durban.

The Church of St Peter, in the Old Fort
The Church of St Peter, in the Old Fort

The churchyard and military cemetery is further away in Wyatt Road. 

Mass grave of the 27th Inniskilling Fusiliers, Wyatt Road Cemetery
Mass grave of the 27th Inniskilling Fusiliers, Wyatt Road Cemetery
Mass grave of the 27th Inniskilling Regiment, Durban Old Fort
Mass grave of the 27th Inniskilling Regiment, Durban Old Fort

You may be interested in
The significance of the Old Fort in Natal’s history
The Old Fort
The early history of Natal & its settlement
The wreck of the Grosvenor
HMS Natal (deaths), (postcard above), (links to South Africa)
The Wyatt Road Cemetery
The Renovation of War Graves in South Africa
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (here & here)
The history of Durban

 

 

 

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