Donkin Reserve

Today we are back home after our “trip” covering all the towns surrounding Port Elizabeth. So just to start off on the home front again, I am featuring one of Port Elizabeth’s iconic landmarks. The Donkin Reserve. On the Donkin Reserve visitors will find the Donkin Lighthouse as well as the Donkin Memorial Pyramid.
The story of the pyramid goes as follow: Sir Rufane Donkin married Elizabeth Frances Markham in 1815 and barely 2 months later was posted to India. Lady Elizabeth gave birth to their son in 1817, but weakened by the birth she developed a fever in the subsequent summer months and died 8 months after the birth. Devastated by grief, Sir Rufane deiced to return to England, but on the way home was asked to came to the Cape Colony in 1819 as the acting Governor. One of the duties he performed while at the Cape was to come to Algoa Bay to welcome the British Settlers in 1820. He found a little town with no identity and named the town after his wife. Not long afterwards he proclaimed the Donkin Reserve as an open space and had local builders built a monument to his wife. This monument was built in the form of a pyramid and named the Donkin Memorial. One of the plaques on the pyramid still bears witness to the sorrow of a husband who’s heart was still wrung by undiminished grief. It says: “In the memory of one the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the town below.” Although Sir Rufane married again, he took his own life on the 26th anniversary of his first marriage.
The Donkin Lighthouse was built in 1861. At this time Port Elizabeth was starting to develop as a residential town and more and more ships were coming into the Bay. In 1932 it’s height was increased as the lights of the town behind was starting to interfere with the light. In the early 1970’s the lighthouse was decommissioned and replaced with the North End Light. The key for the door can be obtained from the tourism information office in the lighthouse building. The climb up to the top is quite steep and a bit difficult with the steps being more of a ladder than stairs, but the view from the top is truly worth the climb. Also, what goes up, must come down.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Eleanor

    I am enjoying this tour around the Eastern Cape. My brother (now in Cape Town) and I were born in Nahoon, East London and moved to the Cape when we were young. My parents made an annual pilgrimage to the Eastern Cape with us in two right through our childhood. But I haven't been to your neck of the woods for ages!

  2. Hilda

    Such a sad story! But fantastic photo! Thank you for sharing this poignant information about how Port Elizabeth was founded.

  3. Steffe

    A sad story, but an interesting read and a good photo.

  4. Jeanne

    This is such a sweet an sad story and it makes me proud that I live in a town named for love. So many people wrongly assume that PE is named after an English queen…