Go to the Labyrinth of East London Lore


An East London suburb

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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It is with great sadness that we have to announce that the creator of The Labyrinth of East London Lore, Dr T., has passed away. Helping people through his website gave him no end of pleasure. If you had contact with him and would like to leave a message, please send us an e-mail here.

The arrival of the British German Legion in 1857 led to the decision to create the village of Panmure on the eastern bank of the Buffalo River, opposite the original town of East London. Each soldier was given a building lot there, as well as an acre lot further from the village.

These one acre lots slowly evolved titles because of their geographic positions. The lots "to the north end of the town" became known simply as North End, while those that were "near the southern wood" became Southernwood.

Neither area was included in the original boundaries of the East London municipality in 1873 but were incorporated in 1876 when the Government cleared up "certain vexing issues" about the town's commonage.

In 1881, both neighbourhoods were included in the new Ward 3. In 1896, North End became a Ward in its own right, while Southernwood and the Quigney together made up Ward 4.

Because of the Town Council's failure to draw up regulations preventing the subdivision of property, the acre lots at both North End and Southernwood quickly became sub-divided and sold off, causing a rapid devaluation.

Indeed, the District Surgeon's report for 1882 pointed out that the two suburbs should have formed the finest building sites in the town but the plots had already been sub-divided to such an extent that there were ten or twelve to the acre, with narrow paths down the centre.

The streets, he said, had become no more than tracks which were only ten or twelve feet wide and many ended in a cul-de-sac. The lots would therefore in times to come form the "vilest rookeries" where the "most disgraceful scenes" might be expected in the "dark corners of the town that is to be".

The tightening up of building regulations in 1896 would not help the eastern section of Southernwood, although it did save the neighbourhood closest to Oxford Street where some of East London's grandest houses were built immediately after the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

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