Old Durban depicted in a new book

New book depicts Old Durban between the 1920s and 1930s

A photographic journal with then and now pictures of the beautiful city of Durban has been released.

old durbz

For all our culture lovers, history enthusiasts, researchers, teachers, and anyone curious about what Durban looked like back in the day, there is a book by Nigel Hughes to appease your curiosity. A photographic book with then and now pictures of the beautiful city of Durban between the 1920s and 1930s has been released.

The UK born but Durban raised author of the book is a passionate collector of photographs, postcards, glass slides, ephemera, and paintings of early Durban and Natal. 

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“It was a small town, ruled by the Old Durban Families, and it had the remnants of having been a colony,” he said to a local publication, referring to the 1920s and 1930s.

If you are wondering what the Juma Mosque in Grey Street looked like back in the 1920s, Hughes depicts the 'then' picture with an ox-wagon and rickshaws passing, and you can see it before the current work-in-progress minaret. It was a little smaller than it is now and that kind of history depicted is important for Muslim families to share with their children and indicate the growth in the religion in a visually depicted manner.

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You'll also see scenes that were important during that specific time depicted like an accident scene between a bus and a bicycle at the corner of West and Gillespie Street around the 1930s. Especially in this picture, one is able to see the racial 'lines' which put each race in a particular space - blacks and Indians specifically restricted to certain parts.

In the book, Hughes also shares an aerial view of the city centre with the companies' names painted on their roofs in the early 1930s. 

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Biscuit maker Bakers Ltd is one of those companies, originally established in Durban as Baumann and Co in 1851 by the German immigrant, Johann Freidriech Baumann.

“In 1915, the firm changed its name to Bakers Ltd after anti-German riots led to the burning down of the bakery and the office,” Hughes writes.

There is plenty more interesting information in the text and one of them is where the names of towns like 'KwaMashu' and 'Clairwood'  originated. KwaMashu was named after sugarcane farmer Marshall Campbell, who introduced rickshaws to Durban. With Clairwood, it was previously Clairmont but changed to avoid confusion with the other 'Claremont' in Cape Town. 

He notes interesting facts about who built the beachfront Amphitheatre between 1933 and 1934. 

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Two similar books Hughes has produced are; The Paintings of The Bay of Natal: A Selection of Works Dating From 1845 to 1982, published in 2001, and Views in Colonial Natal: A Select Catalogue Raisonne of Southern African Paintings of Cathcart William Methven (1849 -1925).

We appreciate history books of this nature, specifically because children are able to follow.

NB: Photographs in this article are not from the book Durban in the 1930s and 1920s.


Main Image Courtesy: @old_durban 

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