Port Natal is renamed Durban in honour of Sir Benjamin D’Urban, governor of the Cape Colony from 1834 - 37

Sir Benjamin D'Urban Image source

Tuesday, 23 June 1835

On 23 June 1835 Port Natal was renamed Durban in honour of Sir  Benjamin D'Urban, governor of the Cape Colony from 1834 - 37.

It is thought that the first known inhabitants of the Durban area arrived from the north around 100,000 BC. Little is known of the history of the first residents, as there is no written history of the area before it was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who came to the KwaZulu-Natal coast while searching for a route from Europe to India. He landed on the KwaZulu-Natal coast on Christmas in 1497, and thus named the area Terra do Natal, or Christmas Country in Portuguese.

It was not until 1824, that a settlement was established on the northern side of the bay of Natal, the settlement was initially named Port Natal. It was founded by merchants from the Cape Colony under the leadership of British Lieutenant F.G. Farewell. Accompanying Farewell was an adventurer named Henry Fynn. It was Fynn who was able to secure a cession of the land after he 'saved' the Zulu King Shaka's life by washing with camomile tea a stab wound inflicted by an Ndwandwe at­tacker. The grateful king presented Fynn with a huge portion of what later became Durban, for a few shillings' worth of glass beads.

The diaries of Fynn (rewritten from memory 20 years after he had lost his original copy) and another settler Isaacs constitute the main source on the Zulu people during the rule of Shaka and Dingane.

Today, Durban (Zulu: eThekwini) is the third largest city in South Africa and the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal. It is famous as the busiest port in Africa, The harbour is ranked in the top 10 in the world in terms of size and volume.

Settled by the British, a large Indian community (now the largest outside of India) was imported to work on the sugar cane fields. Durban was also once a home to Mahatma Gandhi, who lived at the Phoenix Settlement from 1893 to 1914.

References:
• Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau
•  Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa, Cape Town: Reader's Digest Association South Africa, pg 87.

Last updated : 29-Jun-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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