Early Settler House - Canterbury House- (NMC/Grade 2) C.1837.
This house was restored around 1965 and sold on to a Mr Ofsowitz who in 1973 controversially removed the four gabled settler roof and put a Mansard Roof to incorporate a jacuzzi in the attic space. However, the house was well maintained until the current owner, Mr Kenneth J Denton bought the house around 2000.
On the 1st March 2005, there was a fire that destroyed the 1970's top floor, but the ground and first floor was saved (see photos from 2012). It is claimed that vagrants who had moved into the derelict house and started the fire. Incidentally DA Councillor Terry Herbst had earlier reported that the door had been broken down (just three weeks before the fire), confirming that vagrants had been allowed to take over, despite complaints to Denton Properties. Denton and other residents stood and watched as the house burnt. When questioned, Denton said "The place has been kept empty in order for renovations to be done to it" Denton also promised the Mandela Bay Development Agency a few days later that he would repair and properly restore the building. (Herald 2 March 2005). It is ironic that 'Special assignment' happened to be in the area broadcasting a feature on the decline of Central. 2003-2005 saw three of Denton's properties suffer fires. To date this number is more than double that.
While the fire was limited to the top (attic) floor and the yellowwood floorboards and detailing still in situ, they have been allowed to decay. Canterbury house has been vacant and open to the elements for more than 8 years (2013) and the owner has made no effort to repair the buildings. It appears, however that work is to about to commence, as it has in the immediate vicinity, but as yet no work being done in this area has been sanctioned by any Heritage authorities, hence it is illegal. There is a well documented history of non-compliance with regard the owner, who refuses to work with PHRA.
This is a Grade 2 listed structure, and while greatly compromised in terms of decayed fabric, should be reinstated inside and out, with due record taken of fabric still in situ and replacing this sparingly with materials to the specifications of the original. Unfortunately, irreparable damage to and loss of fabric has taken place on Mr Denton's other illegal projects and the fear is that layers of history will also be discarded, as has sadly taken place with regard to the Donkin Street Houses, where tons of bricks have been removed.
Canterbury House, 35 Constitution Hill
"From the records of Messrs. Smith Sons and Dewar, Surveyors. E. Province Building Society, Port Elizabeth.
A title deed reading "Surveyed by the undersigned Government Land Surveyor, Uitenhage, the 29th May, 1837.
I hereby certify that this diagram belongs to the
transfef (?) Richard Tee. January 26, 1841.
Transferred to John Flanagan 14-8-73
To Mary Flanagan 1886"
Richard Tee, aged 34 in 1820, was a settler in Damant's party, travelling on the ship "Ocean", and accompanied by his wife, Mary, three daughters, and one son. A Timothy Flanagan, 38 in 1820, came out in Bailie's party on the "Chapman". He and his wife Mary had three sons and a daughter. The Timothy of 1873 was probably a descendant.
In a map dated 1849 [Essenhigh map], now in possession of the P.E. Public Library [Africana Collection], a building is shown on the site, but the terrace of houses in Donkin Street, now proclaimed a historical monument, had not yet been built.
The house is built of stone and plastered extensions at the back, built of brick and some stonework, are probably rather later in date. The internal woodwork is of very primitive construction, with very low doorways, and exposed joists in the yellowwood floors. [very similar to those of No. 7 Castle Hill Museum]. The balcony in front appears to be of a later date and may have been added by Flanagan in 1873.
Professor R.B. Lewcock, author of "Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa" recommends that the house should be preserved and says that if the present roof were replaced with tile or slates its appearance would be substantially the same as the original. He adds, "I consider that it would be a serious loss to Port Elizabeth were this building to be altered or demolished"
Mr. Alec Kiddie bought and restored the house about five years ago, and about a year ago sold it to Mr. Donald Prosser who inherits 1820 settler blood of several streams - (Rowles, Preston, Mortimer, Calverley and Larter). He is most anxious that the house be preserved, and if so, would probably remove the balcony and slate of the roof."
(Looking Back, Vol. 10 1970 - publication by the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth)
The property immediately to the left of Canterbury House (No. 35) is 'Little Canterbury' (No. 37), these both date from the same period (c. 1837)
The long saga of our 'trashed' heritage has involved many concerned citizens following every possible avenue over the years to hold Denton accountable for his lack of maintenance dating back to the early 2000's. The Metro and its arms have been under pressure for years to pursue this issue and to force this owner to repair and restore his prominent heritage properties.
Sadly, the Eastern Cape Provincial Heritage Resources Agency (ECPHRA) has largely been ineffectual and non-functional, and support from SAHRA is not forthcoming. ECPHRA has yet to issue a single Compulsory Repair Order to any property owner in Port Elizabeth. A report commissioned in 2007 on the urban decay of central, clearly outlined courses of action the Metro could take against errant property owners. Interestingly, this survey, commissioned at taxpayers' expense, was shelved and this was only released after much public pressure. To date nothing has been done, except the customary lipservice paid by the current administration.
As time passes, it seems that the heritage authorities, the Metro and its agencies are becoming less and less effective and there is a total lack of will to preserve 'colonial buildings'. Very short sighted indeed when one considers the huge untapped tourism potential of PE. Corruption and complete collapse of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has reached saturation point and it seems that this influential property owner is untouchable. Now that decay has been allowed to set in, more damage is being inflicted in terms of illegal and highly invasive work on heritage sites that cannot be called restoration by any stretch of the imagination. Lack of enforcement continues and we are losing our treasures fast and we feel powerless to stop it.
Those with the powers to act, have failed the citizens of Port Elizabeth dismally, especially Port Elizabeth's 'tourism nest-egg', as stated by Helen Zille so succinctly after visiting Central in 2010.
A collection of Herald articles relating to built heritage issues spanning 2002 to 2009 speaks for itself (dropbox - 32MB in size):
Picture and article source: These pictures and articles are from the Heritageportal which deals with the history of old buildings in South Africa. Credit to photographer and writer of publication.