Port Natal – D’Urban – Durban

Was it Farewell or Fynn? Gardiner or Cloete? Or was it the tinkers and tailors, the bakers and artisans escaping from the depression and tribulations of Industrialising England in the 1850’s, brave, adaptable and resourceful who prepared the pattern on which Durban has developed to it’s present status?

Chroniclers have awarded the accolade of founder to Lieutenant Francis Farewell, a fortune seeking adventurer who, for all his faults was the first to extol the virtues of the Bay of Natal as a site of a flourishing port and it is with Farewell that the drama of the story of Durban opens.

The story of those very early days is neither pretty no elegant; the characters do not emerge as dedicated empire builders but as uninhibited fortune hunters who saw in the untamed coastlands and the unknown interior of Natal an opportunity to make money.

For 25 years the settlement, remote and unwanted, stagnated, little more than a collection of wattle and daub huts scattered in the scrub with elephants roaming the forests of the Berea behind them, and hippos splashing in the reedy foreshore of the Bay.

Worries in Cape Town and Whitehall over the infiltration of the trekkers from the Cape, and raids by African tribesmen, led to the establishment of a permanent military garrison.

With this established and the short lived Boer Republic dismantled, the arrival of settlers from England, where the prim respectability of the young Queen Victoria had replaced the extravagant permissiveness of her uncles, the tenor of life in Durban began to change.

Buildings replaced huts. Although the licence of a frontier town persisted, it was these honest … and sometimes not so honest … burghers and burgesses who took over.

By trial and error and a great deal of determination in the face of changing fortunes,  these men and women, laid the foundations of a city and a port that ranks among the finest and busiest in the world.

Extracted from: The Mercury’s Durban 150th Anniversary Supplement – 24 May 1974

Earliest inhabitants of the Bluff

May 1824 – ” While hut building was in progress Fynn searched the bay for inhabitants. There were none to be seen but on the following day he found a few “miserable- looking” people grubbing on the Bluff beach for shellfish. There were about sixty of these people, remnants of the Luthuli tribe wiped out by Shaka in his systematic destruction of tribes living in the area”

Extracted from: The Mercury’s Durban 150th Anniversary Supplement – 24 May 1974

Among other groups, which had fled from the Zulu King Dingaan, were the Mathuli people. Although the majority continued beyond Durban to settle amongst the Pondo, a small portion took refuge in the rather heavily wooded area they encountered on the headland across the Bay of Natal. Here, amongst the dense bush in small family units, they forged a living by fishing and growing vegetables on small patches of cleared land.

The Zanzibari People

The Zanzibari first landed in South Africa in 1873 after a British ship, SS Britannica, intercepted a vessel carrying 143 slaves who had been kidnapped from the Island by Arab slave traders who were heading to the west. The British freed the slaves by diverting the ship to Port Natal – Durban, where they were accepted as indentured labour. By 1888 there were about 450 in the British Colony of Port Natal. According to short notes on the history of the mission by Fernando Alberto Sarajee and Mrs E Ferrer, a number of the Zanzibari’s became Catholic, while the remainder remained Muslim. As time went by Hajee Mohammed bought some land in Kings Rest from a Ruby Benningfield for those of the Muslim Religion and gave it to them free. The Zanzibari people were forcibly moved off their land at Kings Rest in 1969 due to the introduction of the Group Area’s act.

On Saturday 18th September 2004 the Zanzibari community returned to Kings Rest after a successful land claim.


Message from Cardinal Napier   |    Message from Fr Stuart Bate OMI   |    Forward: Professor Joy Brain   |   Introduction   |   A history of the St Francis Mission   |    Establishment of the Church at Fynnland   |    The Church at Wentworth    |     Centralisation of St Francis Xavier and Building of the New Church    |    The Building of the Parish Hall   |    The Building of the New Presbytery    |    The Building of the Wall of Remembrance    |     The Architectural meaning of the New Church   |    Your Church in Rhyme by Fr Andy Slowey    |    The Human Contribution to the Growth of the Parish    |    Groups and Organisations that have contributed to the Parish    |     Current Groups within the Parish    |     Local Vocations    |     Awards and Recognition    |     An Armchair tour of the Parish    |    The Shrine to Our Lady of Natal    |    Landholdings of the Catholic Church on the Bluff    |     A Portrait of the Life and Times of St Francis Xavier    |     Picture Gallery    |     Timeline of incidents of the Bluff Parish