Go to the Labyrinth of East London Lore


An East London suburb

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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Cambridge was started at the end of March 1857, when a company of German legionnaires under Captain La Croix put up tents there and prepared to make a new home for themselves.

They were part of Sir George Grey's scheme to bring thousands of military settlers to British Kaffraria. The Governor had wanted British military pensioners but the Colonial Office sent him soldiers of the British German Legion who had nowhere to go at the end of the Crimean War.

There were supposed to have been three such legionnaire villages at the Buffalo River mouth. The first was to have been at East London itself, the port on the western bank of the river. The second was a village to be called Panmure. Further inland was Cambridge.

Cambridge was small indeed -- it originally had only 100 soldiers, some with their wives and children. It was named after Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces during the Crimean War.

The legionnaires received two plots of land each. The first was a small building lot but they were also given five acres of agricultural land from which they were meant to sustain themselves.

The original survey of Cambridge was conducted by Lieutenant Pomeroy Colley -- who later became a General, was killed at Majuba and after whom Colley Avenue was named. His design was a simple one, using the grid pattern and wide streets -- and a market square at the centre of the village.

Much later, as Cambridge evolved into a regular town, further surveying would be conducted by Alfred E. Murray, to whom Murray Avenue owes its name.

By 1858 the ambiance of Cambridge changed with the arrival of many German peasant families, organised by Sir George Grey as a way to make the legionnaires more settled -- and to provide them with wives from the hundreds of settler daughters.

These families were each given a building lot in the village of Cambridge plus an acre of land further out -- and ten acres of agricultural land along the Nahoon River ridge. These plots have today become the suburbs of Vincent, Nahoon and Stirling.

The very nature of Cambridge made it a poor sister to the much larger port of East London. The latter was the business centre, whereas Cambridge was merely an agricultural village -- eventually to grow into a residential suburb.

When East London became a municipality in 1873, it incorporated Panmure but not Cambridge. A decade later, Cambridge formed its own Village Management Board -- with Amelius Vincent as the first Chairman. It became a municipality in 1902.

A serious attempt was made in 1914 to combine East London and Cambridge. A joint committee of the two Town Councils even recommended unification but a public meeting of the Cambridge ratepayers vetoed the idea.

Cambridge would have to wait until 1942 to become part of East London.

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