historic West Bank
The West Bank was the original East London. Founded in late March 1847 as a port for British Kaffraria,
the town grew slowly, obstructed by many political challenges. Indeed, between 1848 and 1859, the port
was annexed to the Cape Colony, causing major economic dislocation.
In 1857, with the establishment of the German village of Panmure on the East Bank, the seeds were sown
for the West Bank's demise. When diamonds were discovered in Griqualand West -- resulting in the
Cape Colony becoming awash with money -- a railway line was constructed from East London to
Because the terminus was located at Panmure, it meant that business had no option but to relocate
across the river. From then on, the West Bank steadily became a by-water as major growth all happened
on the East Bank.
The early houses were mostly constructed of wood plundered from the many shipwrecks at the port. The
most remembered wreck was the Lady Kennaway in November 1857 and it is possible that the
wooden inner walls of houses today were plundered from this ship.
The oldest remaining school in East London is also on the West Bank -- today known as West Bank High
School -- which still maintains its good reputation.
14 October 2009
Contact: The Project Coordinator