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Charles Dowell

Soldier, Hotelier & Town Councillor

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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Very little is known of Charles John Dowell except that he was the Captain Commanding the Kaffrarian Artillery Volunteer Corps . He was also the owner of the Marine Hotel on the West Bank which he bought in 1876.

This was a period of brief growth for East London. In 1868 diamonds had been discovered in Griqualand West and it was found that the closest port was East London.

The sudden increase in wealth by way of taxes enabled the Cape Colony to undertake the construction of both a harbour at the port as well as a railway line to Queenstown. The latter undertaking, however, led to the transfer of East London commercial activity from the West Bank to the East Bank because the railway terminus was placed at Panmure.

The municipality soon took the decision to transfer its offices to the East Bank, causing great consternation amongst West Bankers who were now forced to cross the Buffalo River by pontoon to reach the new and rapidly growing commercial centre.

The first reaction to this was a walkout by the three West Bank town councillors to protest the inconvenience of this decision, ignoring the fact that the East Bank councillors had had to face that reality for the previous three years.

It was about then that Charles Dowell decided to participate in municipal politics. He attempted to gain a seat on the Town Council in April 1876 but was defeated by Gustav Wetzlar. He was successful the following year when he was elected as a member for the West Bank at the start of the second Triennial Council.

He participated in the walk-out of June that year but was immediately re-elected, His seat, however, fell vacant in May 1878, at which stage Dowell appears to have vanished from the East London tapestry.

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