Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape


The SavoyThe Founder Of Jeffreys Bay was Joseph Avent Jeffery who captained a trading ship along the East Coast of South Africa between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in the mid 1800’s. Legend has it that on one of these trips, there was an outbreak of scurvy on board ship and Captain Jeffreys was forced to land in order to find fresh water and vegetables. He landed on what is today the main beach of Jeffreys Bay and subsequently moved there with his family. The village named in his honour - Jeffreys Bay.

In 1849 Joseph Avent Jeffery erected a wood and iron warehouse near the Kabeljouws River - this is recorded as being the first place of business to open on the shores near what is today Jeffreys Bay. For many years he operated an export business with his partner John Glendinning.

It is believed that incorrect charts and maps compiled by Manuel Perestrello caused many ships to be wrecked along the Tsitsikamma coast. Twenty-eight ships have been wrecked between the Storms River in the west and the Gamtoos River in the east. In 1850 "L' Aigle" (10 people lost their lives) and "Queen of the West” (thirty bodies were washed up on the shore) were wrecked. Other more famous wrecks were the S S Lyngenfjord in 1938 and the SS President Reitz in 1947.

The Fishery

The area around The Fishery was occupied by coloured fishermen and their families who lived off the sea. Joseph Jeffery and his friend John Glendinning realised that a formal town was being planned dismantled their warehouse and moved closer to where the fishermen were living. They truly believed that a harbour would be built one day near where “The Fishery” was situated.

In 1852 history was made when M G Human and Co. made an historic decision. Forty erven situated on the coast on the farm “Klein Zeekoe Rivier” (now Jeffreys Bay) were surveyed by Robert Pinchin and put up for sale. These erven were auctioned by W M G Metelerkamp.

Thus investment in land in the St. Francis Bay area became a reality. - Joseph Avent Jeffery bought the first four erven, numbers 1, 2, 9 & 10, for £79. He built "The White House" on plot no. 10 from which he traded as a general dealer for many years. The general dealer business was conducted from the ground floor. He and his family lived on the first floor.

Jeffery had some whaling boats built and hunted in St. Francis Bay, shipping the catch off to Port Elizabeth. He and his partner John Glendinning also got involved in timber export and purchased forest land at “Blaauwe Lelie Bosch” in the Tsitsikamma area.

The first white child to be born in Jeffreys Bay was Eliza Jane Jeffery, born on 14th November 1852.

The Fishermen Of Jeffreys Bay

In 1849, there were already many Coloured fishermen who lived in shacks in an area known as “The Fishery” on a farm Klein Zeekoe Rivier belonging to Petrus Lafras Swart. These Coloured fishermen were totally dependent on their fishing activities, and lived entirely off the sea. They owned no land, and in those early days they risked their lives by going out into deep seas in rowing boats, which at that time were owned by the Jeffery Company.

The Coloured families really struggled, because their earnings consisted of only a few “eat” fish. They could not even afford to eat all the fish as some were used to pay for rent in lieu of cash. Some fish were traded with the farmers and exchanged for sweet potatoes - this was their basic food.

The Coloured fishermen, in striving to put that slice of bread or the small fish on the table to feed their families, often put their lives at risk as they went out to sea in all types of weather and in extremely bad conditions. This resulted in many of them losing their lives at sea.

Further Developments

Bankruptcy occurred again when the insolvent estate of Joseph Avent Jeffery was wound up by putting everything he owned on auction in 1856. Everything was sold, including the “White House.” James Niven bought everything for seven hundred and ten pounds.

Meanwhile Jeffreys Bay had developed steadily. During 1865 George Pell, a trader, innkeeper and artisan, bought plot no 31 together with the balance of the land on the farm “Klein Zeekoe Rivier”. He made a name for himself in the building trade and was awarded a tender for £1 500 to repair the roof and complete other extensions to the government buildings in Humansdorp, 15km away.

During the year 1870 a son named William was born to George and Mary Jane Pell, who also had a daughter called Amy Eliza. William was destined to play a significant and vital role in the future development of Jeffreys Bay. He married Johanna Ferreira on 15th May 1906.

Their child Jeffrey was born in 1917. When William and his wife Johanna died they were both laid to rest in a cemetery in Pellsrus.

Communication with the outside world was essential for any developing village and when the first postal service came into effect in 1901 between Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp the residents were expecting a boom.

J.W.Regnart made history by being appointed the first official Post Master in the village of Jeffreys Bay.

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TEXT CREDITS: An extract by Hift of material Researched by Bert & Gail Behrens Telephone: 042 296 2393


Did You Know?

Port Elizabeth’s weather is rated as the fourth best climate of any coastal city in the world.

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Last updated:
3 October 2012 7:51