Entrepreneur, Town Councillor & Mayor
Updated: 14 October 2009
(Contact the Project Coordinator)
George Brooke Attwell was born in Grahamstown in 1841. After a poor education, he began work at the age of 14 as a clerk and then joined the staff of the Graham's Town Journal as a reporter.
From there on, his fortune appeared to be made. In 1865 he was appointed manager of the King William's Town Gazette and in 1871 became proprietor of the Diamond News and Griqualand Government Gazette in Kimberley.
Attwell arrived at East London in 1875 where he established himself in business as Fergusson and Attwell, landing and shipping agents, with shares in the East London Landing and Shipping Company, of which he later became a director.
He was also a partner in the firm Attwell, Webb and Company and served for a time on the committee of the Kaffrarian Steam Landing and Shipping Company.
In 1876 he become 2nd Lieutenant -- later Lieutenant Commanding -- No. 1 Company, Buffalo Volunteers, and went into action in the Gcaleka War.
With the war over, he was elected chairman of the East London Landing and Shipping Company, became director of the East London Fire and Marine Insurance and Trust Company, as well as a director of the Great Stormberg Coal Company. In 1883 he was chairman of the East London Chamber of Commerce.
In 1877 Attwell decided to enter municipal politics. In February that year he was nominated for both Ward 1 and Ward 2 in the election for the second Triennial Council but won neither seat. He was successful only in January 1883 when he was elected for Ward 3. He was then re-elected in February 1885 but left the Council in June the following year.
He served one term as Mayor in 1884.
During the "Great Depression" of the 1880s, Attwell lost a great deal of money due to the liquidation of the Great Stormberg Coal Company. His businesses thereupon collapsed and he was forced to sell his property at a loss to overcome his difficulties.
He left for Cape Town in 1887, just as the depression was about to turn. There he took up work as a share broker. He also joined the Town Council of Mowbray, serving as Mayor for one term.
Attwell died at Mowbray on 17 September 1923, at the age of 82.
The sole exception is for educational institutions wishing to reproduce the document as a handout for their students.