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The East Bank locations

Newsam's Town
1878 to 1890

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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Although the East LondonTown Council had created the Seaside Location in 1877, it took only two years for it to regret this action.

Initially, the problem concerned the mixing of Mfengu and amaXhosa. The former had had a long history of collaboration with the British army which saw them singled out for special treatment. As a result, a new "Fingo village" called the "Wesleyan Location" was created for them.

Nevertheless, the Town Council's appetite for moving the Black population had now been whetted and the next to go was the entire Seaside Location. Indeed, its site revealed the myopic vision of the segregation-minded Town Council because it stood on the route to the Eastern Beach, a popular bathing area for White women.

The close proximity of the Seaside Location to the beach was considered a threat to their safety and so the Town Council decided in December 1879 that the location would have to go.

The site chosen for a township was to the west of the Wesleyan Location and near the First Creek River, on a hill facing the lower end of St John's Road. The land was surveyed and laid out, and a plot measuring 45 square feet was allowed for each hut, with a street 50 feet in width between each block of ten huts.

The village was to be known simply as the "New Location", although it was usually referred to as "Newsam's Town" after Town Clerk George Newsam. Occasionally it was termed the "Church of England Location".

Newsam's Town narrowly survived the upheaval of 1883 when the Mfengu people were moved once again. Indeed, the Location Inspector argued that the existence of two distinct locations on the East Bank was "objectionable" and that Newsam's Town should also be destroyed in favour of a single large township.

The Town Council refused to consider the idea and decided on an alternative suggestion that all dilapidated huts be destroyed and Newsam's Town be extended in a westerly direction. Nevertheless, Newsam's Town proved to be the more problematic of the East Bank locations.

Many of its residents were migrant labourers from the country districts who sought work on the railways or at the harbour. These people, the Location Inspector reported, were in the habit of taking alcohol into the location and so caused disturbances.

By about 1886, however, the Black community on the East Bank seemed well settled. The Wesleyan Location was flourishing, and was reported to be well looked-after. The Xhosa community was putting down roots in Newsam's Town, and an elite village had just been given 14 year rights to the land on which they were settled.

Yet, by 1888, the Town Council was drawing up new plans to scrap all three villages in favour of a unified location further from the town. By 1890, the East Bank Location was a reality and the Black people were all forced to move once more.

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