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Henry Willetts

Auctioneer, Insurance Agent & Town Councillor

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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DEATH NOTICE: see the Master's Office, Cape Town, No 30903.
OBITUARY: see the Daily Dispatch, 20.7.1931.

Henry Noah Willetts was born in Birmingham on 23 March 1848 and was educated there and at Dudley before coming to South Africa in 1881.

He settled at East London where he became an auctioneer, with his own business, known as The Central Auction Mart. He was also an insurance agent for Liverpool and London & Globe Insurance Company and served on the committee of the Public Library and on the Hospital Board.

He was elected to the Town Council for Ward 3 -- North End -- in February 1884 but resigned in June 1886, although he was almost immediately re-elected. He lost the elections of February 1888 but was returned to Council in April 1889 and was re-elected in 1890. He resigned in May 1892.

Willetts won a reputation for extreme racism. He lived in North End, the suburb that was closest to the East Bank Location and one in which most of the "exempted natives" in terms of the Colony's constitution chose to rent buildings.

He fought a constant crusade to have all Africans driven out of the town. In 1892, when it seemed that there was a possibility that he could be elected Mayor, the editor of the East London Standard campaigned vociferously against the idea.

It would, the editor wrote, cause a strike amongst all the municipal employees. Willetts lost the election.

Willetts died on 18 July 1931 at the age of 83 and was buried at East London.

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