1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/East London

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EAST LONDON, a town of the Cape province, South Africa, at the mouth of the Buffalo river, in 33° 1′ S. 27° 55′ E., 543 m. E.N.E. of Cape Town by sea and 666 m. S. of Johannesburg by rail. Pop. (1904) 25,220, of whom 14,674 were whites. The town is picturesquely situated on both sides of the river, which is spanned by a combined road and railway bridge. The railway terminus and business quarter are on the east side on the top of the cliffs, which rise 150 ft. above the river. In Oxford Street, the chief thoroughfare, is the town hall, a handsome building erected in 1898. Higher up a number of churches and a school are grouped round Vincent Square, a large open space. In consequence of the excellent sea bathing, and the beauty of the river banks above the town, East London is the chief seaside holiday resort of the Cape province. The town is the entrepot of a rich agricultural district, including the Transkei, Basutoland and the south of Orange Free State, and the port of the Cape nearest Johannesburg. It ranks third among the ports of the province. The roadstead is exposed and insecure, but the inner harbour, constructed at a cost of over £2,000,000, is protected from all winds. A shifting sand bar lies at the mouth of the river, but the building of training walls and dredging have increased the minimum depth of water to 22 ft. From the east bank of the Buffalo a pier and from the west bank a breakwater project into the Indian Ocean, the entrance being 450 ft. wide, reduced between the training walls to 250 ft. There is extensive wharf accommodation on both sides of the river, and steamers of over 8000 tons can moor alongside. There is a patent slip capable of taking vessels of 1000 tons dead weight. An aerial steel ropeway from the river bank to the town greatly facilitates the delivery of cargo. The imports are chiefly textiles, hardware and provisions, the exports mainly wool and mohair. The rateable value of the town in 1908 was £4,108,000, and the municipal rate 15/8 d.

East London owes its foundation to the necessities of the Kaffir war of 1846–1847. The British, requiring a port nearer the scene of war than those then existing, selected a site at the mouth of the Buffalo river, and in 1847 the first cargo of military stores was landed. A fort, named Glamorgan, was built, and the place permanently occupied. Around this military post grew up the town, known at first as Port Rex. Numbers of its inhabitants are descendants of German immigrants who settled in the district in 1857. The prosperity of the town dates from the era of railway and port development in the last decade of the 19th century. In 1875 the value of the exports was £131,803 and that of the imports £552,033. In 1904 the value of the exports was £1,165,938 and that of the imports £4,688,415. In 1907 the exports, notwithstanding a period of severe trade depression, were valued at £1,475,355, but the imports had fallen to £3,354,633.