History of the Bluff

The Bluff is rich in history with the first ship being built on the harbour side of the Bluff in 1685 by stranded Portuguese and British sailors.

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They lived in a wooden shack on the shores of the Bluff. Of course there was no actual harbour then but it was a natural, unspoilt harbour.

Bluff History by Gerald Pigg

By 1900 there were nine families resident on or near the Bluff, the most prominent being the Armstrong’s and Wellingtons, both living at Fynnland.

The Bower family occupied a comfortable residence overlooking a beach which today is known as Treasure Beach, so named because of the belief that the Grosvenor was wrecked at that very spot.

Mr Grey was also an early settler in the district and established a farm on the seaward side of the Bluff which he called Brighton Beach, for sentimental reasons.

The Clarkson family were farmers who had a large farm called Wentworth on the landward ridge which adjoined the land settled by the Jacobs family.

The Clark and Garson families, living close to the Catholic Mission, were the other residents.

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The old OK bazaars which became the HUB and now the medical centre.
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The old Bluff Drive Inn which is now Pick n Pay.

 

Bluff History by Peter Whitaker

When my father first came to the Bluff in the 1940’s Bluff Rd was a sand track and lined with trees. Mr. Grey who owned Greys Inn, a hotel, roughly opposite Splash pools (and not the Harcourt hotel which came much later) used to take a team of oxen down what is now a footpath from Airley Rd to Brighton Beach to help pull the old 1920/30 cars up, so that people could have lunch at his Inn before the long drive back to Durban. Mr. Grey owned a large part of the Brighton Beach area, which is why Greys Inn Rd was named after his Inn, and he also left a large area of the valley in trust to the people of the Bluff, as a recreational area. I understand that this is mainly the section being used by Natures Haven and Harlequins.

The Bluff had many separate areas as it developed, each with its own problems and characteristics. The North had the Whaling Station smell, the South the Oil refinery smell (not pollution, just a smell), the centre had a swamp with mosquitoes and sometimes you got the benefit of all three in varying proportion. We were a mixed community then, we had Indian fisher folk in houses on stilts built out over the waters of the bay at Fynnlands (as well as some other areas), the Zanzibari’s at Kings Rest, and over at St Francis Xavier in Sormany Rd and down to where Moss Rd is today, a large Zulu community. A number of Bluff roads owe their names to the first farmers who subdivided to make the stands that we live on today. Some of the original farm houses still remain, you just have to know where to look. Then for many years we had Clover dairy (complete with cows) opposite the reservoir in Dunville road it eventually became a depot and then was sold off .

The Bluff had many uniquely named areas, such as Kings Rest, reputedly where Dick King rested after crossing the bay, and Kings View which later became more commonly known as Crossways after the Crossways Hotel. How the area ever was renamed Ocean View, I can never understand there was no discussion with the residents, and Ocean Views are found in just about every seaside town, but Kings View was unique. There were many more areas with similar names.

Do you remember how we got about in the 1950/60s? The bus service was in two parts, a Green line and a Red Line service. The Routes were Marine Garage to Town, or Crossways to Town with the buses turning around in Beach road, ever wondered why there is that extra wide piece of Beach Rd going up toward Netford Rd for about a bus length? It was so that a bus could pull in and turn around to go back to town. On the other side of the Bluff buses would go to Fynnland beach, which in those days was a beautiful beach inside the harbour, before the oil sites were built. In fact before 1948 the Government of the day was going to build an “oil harbour” down at the cuttings at Merebank, so the current idea is far from new. After enough homes had been built it was decided that the buses should travel up to a terminus at the military base and cross over as they do now. This journey through transport would not be complete however if I did not mention the tour bus of the day that was run by the Council – it was called the “Toast Rack” and was open with a sort of fence all round which looked for all the world like a toast rack.

My brother and sister started school at Brighton Beach Primary School, as it was known in those days, 5 class rooms on the first floor and the first headmistress (Mrs. Wife) had an office under the north stairs which I think is now used as a cleaner’s store. By the time I got there in 1957 the pillars on the ground floor had been bricked in to form another 5 classrooms, with the middle 2 having a sliding partition to make a “hall’. 1964 saw the building of the Hall, and later still the pool. Much later still came the splitting of schools into Junior and Senior Primary levels.

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The Bluff bay mangrove swamps in the 50’s

 

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Swimming in the bay with mangroves in the back ground in the 50’s

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The 1966 world surfing championships were held at Anstey’s beach, Bluff.

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With a huge swell running Rob Mac Wade from Durban went on to win and become world champion.

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The photos and articles below show what stunning beaches the Bluff had on the harbour side. There were two beaches, one at Salisbury Island and one at Fynnlands

Keith Titmuss explains what it was like:

There was a level crossing at the old Fynnland railway station (where my dad worked – we lived in AIken Place when I was a kid). You went across the railway line heading for the causeway and after about 500 metres you turned right onto a sandy path that lead to the beach. There was nice white sand, shady trees, a jetty into quite deep water, changing huts, a playground with swings etc and even a park-keeper on duty.

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Salisbury Island beach in the 50’s
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Indian fishing village near Fynnlands beach in the 50’s

This is an interesting one. It must have been taken in the 50’s – the Indian Fishing Village which was situated next to the Causeway leading to Salisbury Island. indianfishingvillage1The seine netting community were based there as well as the shrimp fishermen who did a roaring trade with the fish market as well as providing bait for all the local anglers.