The Donkin Pyramid Overlooking the City of Port Elizabeth

The DonkinDevastated by his wife’s death, Sir Rufane Donkin took Elizabeth’s embalmed heart with him to London and it was buried with him in the family tomb at old St Pancras Churchyard. Rufane’s knighthood was conferred upon him after his wife’s death, so she cannot rightly be called, “Lady “ Donkin.

In August 1820, Donkin selected a prominent site on top of the hill overlooking the harbour for a memorial to his beloved wife, Elizabeth Donkin. He had soldiers from Fort Frederick build a stone pyramid. Thomas Wilson, made drawings for a pyramid similar to that of Caius Cestius in Rome, and William Reed supplied the stone. The builders were soldiers from the Fort. Pyramids were not uncommon in England and in India in the 18th Century. In June1821 Knobel surveyed 5 morgen 535 sq roods of land around the memorial, which was to remain an open space in perpetuity.

It is interesting to note that the first population census of 1823 records 73 men, 30 women, 44 boys, 33 girls, 25 erven possessed, 75 Hottentots employed, 64 slaves owned and 9 prize Negroes in service under Captain Evatt.

The lighthouse adjacent to the pyramid on the Donkin was brought into use in 1861. The first lighthouse keeper was Charles Hammond for whose family the adjoining cottage was built in 1865. In 1929 the height of the lighthouse was increased by 30-40 feet because of the interference of the electric lights behind. In 1973 it was taken out of use and replaced by the Deal light.

Today the lighthouse has become the offices of the Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Bureau and it is open to tourists to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. They can find a wealth of information regarding beachfront accommodation, from 3 to five star hotels to B&B’s top self catering apartments.

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Text credits:  M Harradine & R Hift                                                                                                                     Photograph:  Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

Did You Know?

The Port Elizabeth Club was founded in May 1866.

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Last updated:
3 October 2012 7:51