1497 - 1699

24 December, A flotilla of three Portuguese ships under the command of Capt Vasco da Gama sailed up the eastern seaboard of southern Africa, and moored overnight in the lee of a headland, which may have been the Bluff. Probably because of the date, Da Gama named the land “Terra do Natal”. It is not known whether sailors landed here to take on fresh water, but this seems improbable as they made landfall three days later, at the mouth of the Limpopo.
24 June, The Portuguese slave galleon Sao Joao ran aground at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River, near present-day Port Edward.
27 April, The Portuguese slaver Sao Bento was grounded near the Mzikaba River, off the northern Transkei.
March, The Portuguese ship Sao Thome was shipwrecked near the coast of Natal. The survivors landed at Sordwana Bay.
24 March, The Portuguese ship Santo Alberto ran aground near the Mtata River.
The Portuguese Galleon Sao Esperitowas wrecked off the coast of Natal.
The Portuguese ship Sao Joao Baptista was shipwrecked off the coast of the southern Transkei.
July, The Portuguese ship Nossa Senhora de Belem ran ashore near the mouth of the Mzimkulu River.
The Portuguese ship Sacramento was shipwrecked near present-day Port Edward.
On Easter day the Portuguese ship Nossa Serihora da Atalaya was shipwrecked near Keiskamma Point.
The English ship Frances visited Natal on an ivory trading mission, but did not enter the bay.
17 May, The English ketch Good Hope was caught in a squall off the Bay of Natal and was driven ashore at the Point, where she remained immovably stuck. The 24 survivors, under the leadership of Capt John Adams, managed to reach the shore safely, and settled on the Bluff. Being skilled ship’s carpenters, they set about building a decked boat from the remains of the wreck, which the Master and nine men then sailed for Madagascar, leaving nine of their comrades behind, five of the remaining men having, in the interim, died of dysentery. Soon after, another English ketch put into the Bay to barter for supplies of beef, and left with another four survivors, while the last five men opted to remain behind, presumably in the company of newfound families.
16 February, The Dutch East India Company ship Stavemisse was grounded some 112km south of the Bay of Natal. Forty-seven of the survivors decided to make their way overland to Cape Town, and by the time they were discovered by a rescue party at the mouth of the Kei, only 22 had come through their journey. Soon thereafter the 13 survivors who had, wisely, opted to remain behind at the wreck were joined by two English sailors from the Good Hope who invited them to join the small settlement at Bay of Natal. Although two then died on their way, eleven others completed this journey.
25 December, The English ketch Bona Ventura was wrecked at St Lucia Bay and its nine survivors made their way south to the Bay of Natal, swelling the size of the new settlement to 25. By combining their skills and labours these men were able to build a small sloop, that they named the Centaurus. Twenty of them then sailed it to Cape Town where it was purchased by the Dutch administration.
4 January, The Noord, sent by the Dutch administration at the Cape to search for additional shipwreck survivors from the Stavenisse, reached the bay. The following day it managed to sail over the sand bar at its entrance, thereby becoming the first ship to moor in the Bay of Natal.
Timeline: Durban 1700 - 1899
A hunting party headed by Hermanus Hubner journeyed to the Bay where it met three English sailors and three English women, thought to have been the survivors of an unnamed shipwreck at the mouth of the Lwavibusa River, some years previously.
September, The British Admiralty commissioned Capt William Owen RN to conduct a survey of the south-eastern seaboard of Africa, south of Delagoa Bay. This took place in January 1823.
23 June, An exploratory party under Lieutenants Francis Farewell and James King set sail on the brig Salisbury from Cape Town hoping to establish a trading station at St Lucia. Having failed to make a landing there, they turned back and, ran into a severe storm off the Bay of Natal. Seeking shelter from the elements, they managed to sail over the sandbar and into the bay, where they found a safe mooring off Salisbury Island, a small land outcrop in the bay.
10 May, A small advance party under Henry Fynn arrived at Port Natal on the Julia,landing in the bay near the site of present-day Maydon Wharf. In expectation of being joined subsequently by a second party, Fynn established a camp on a sandy flat subsequently used as a market, and now known as Farewell Square.
July, A second party under Francis Farewell arrived aboard the Antelope. It numbered about 26 persons and included in its number a Dutchman, Josias Hoffman, whose son would eventually become the first President of the OFS. Fynn had previously made contact with Shaka, the Zulu king, whose suzerainty included the bay area, and he introduced Farewell to the royal Zulu court. As a result the settlement at Port Natal began to flourish, with trade being conducted in ivory, hippo tusks, buffalo hides, cattle and grain.
7 August, At a meeting with Fynn and Farewell, Shaka granted the English settlers an area about Port Natal of about 6500 km² in extent. Upon his return, on 24 August, Farewell hoisted the Union Jack and formally took possession of the land in the name of the British Crown.
7 September, Nine members of the Dutch party boarded the Julia and headed back to Cape Town.
30 September, The brig Mary, under the command of Lt Richard King, reached Port Natal where, on the following day, in a futile attempt to cross the sand bar under gale force winds, she was lost without loss of life.
9 December, The Julia returned to the bay later in 1824, and when she left on 9 December the last eleven members of the Dutch party departed aboard her. On its way back the vessel is believed to have caught alight and was lost at sea with all lives on board.
Early in the year the settlers began to run low of medical supplies and a 15 year old boy, Charles Rawden Maclean, better known to his companions as John Ross, was sent to Delagoa Bay to secure fresh stores. Travelling under a Zulu escort Ross made the 970km journey on foot and returned to Port Natal in July.
Shaka sent a delegation to the British Government, accompanied by Lt King. They only travelled as far as Algoa Bay, where they were met with the hostility and rudeness of local officials.
7 September, Death of Lt King as the result of dysentery.
24 September, Shaka was murdered at his military camp at Dukuza, by his half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana, together with his bodyguard Mbopha.
October, Lt Farewell was attacked and killed on the banks of the Uzimbuvu River, south of Port Natal.
Dingane sent a delegation to the Cape to declare his friendly intentions and to encourage trade with the colony.
Dr Andrew Smith, an officer in the British Army Medical Corps, visited the Zulu court.
A group of 190 merchants from Cape Town petitioned the British Government to annex “Port Natal and the depopulated country in its vicinity”. In the same year a party of Dutch farmers from the Uitenhage district visited Natal to evaluate its potential for farming.
29 December, Capt Allen Gardiner, a British naval officer turned missionary, arrived in Port Natal.
23 June, At a meeting of 15 settlers, held at the home of Mr Berkin, the growing village was named D’Urban, after Sir Benjamin D’Urban, then Governor of the Cape, while the area about was named Victoria County. Under the direction of Capt Allen Gardiner, a plan for the new settlement was drawn up and rudimentary defences were erected in expectation of an attack from the Zulu.
Dr Newton Adams, together with Revs Grout and Champion, of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, established a mission house and school south of Durban. The settlement was destroyed by Zulu forces in 1838, but was rebuilt by Adams the following year. In 1847 it was moved south of the Umlazi Location, near present-day Amanzimtoti. 
Durban’s first military regiment, the Port Natal Volunteers, was established.
19 October, An advance party of sixteen Dutch men under Piet Retief arrived in Durban, where they received a warm welcome from its trader community.
The village of Congella was established by Dutch families on the south-western side of the bay.
6 February, Piet Retief, together with a party of 69 men, were slaughtered at the Zulu capital of Mgungundlovu, on the orders of Dingane. Thereafter, on 17 February, Zulu forces fell upon Dutch families who had already scattered over the Bloukrans and Bushman’s River valleys, killing 40 men, 56 women and 185 children, as well as over 200 of their retainers.
March, Towards the end of March a force of some 2500 Port Natal levies under the command of Ogle, Stubbs and Cane crossed the Mgeni River and attacked a number of Zulu homesteads in the Untunjambili (Kranskop) area. Meeting little resistance they fired the villages and returned home with 4000 cattle and 500 women and children whom they planned to integrate into their settlements.
10 April, A second expeditionary force consisting of 18 Natal traders, 30 Khoi retainers and some 600 levies, 400 of whom were armed with muskets, crossed the Thukela near its mouth. Seven Zulu regiments, numbering some 10,000 men, under the command of Dingane’s brother, Mpande, immediately confronted them, and after a sustained attack, the trader-led group was virtually annihilated.
24 April, A large force of Zulu attacked Durban and over a period of nine days systematically destroyed the village. Settlers were forced to retreat to the brig Comet, moored in the Bluff channel. The Zulu withdrew on 3 May, leaving the survivors to pick their way through the ashes.
May, Taking advantage of the confusion in the aftermath of the Zulu attack, dissident Dutch farmers from the Cape annexed Durban and declared the Republic of Natalia, with its capital at Pietermaritzburg.
December, A detachment of 100 men of the 72nd Regiment of Foot of the Seaforth Highlanders, under the command of Major S Charters, arrived at Durban. Charter’s orders included the proper fortification of the town, and the pacification of the region. Fort Victoria was built on the Point, close to present-day Alexandra Square.
The Volksraad of Natalia granted a farm, subsequently named Salt River Poort, to Andries Martinus Laas. In 1851 it was surveyed as the village of Pinetown.
30 January, In 1839 Mpande broke with his brother, Dingane, and moved south of the Tukela with his followers. Having now entered into an alliance with the Dutch, on 30 January a combined force of 10,000 Zulu warriors and 300 Dutch commandos defeated Dingane’s army at the Mkuzi River. Mpande was then proclaimed King of the Zulu.
The Republican Volksraad at Pietermaritzburg appointed George Cato to set out a new plan for Durban, and the first public sale of land took place in June.
French naturalist M Adulphe Delagorgue arrived in Durban and set up camp near present-day Albert Park. He witnessed the subsequent confrontation near Congella between English and Dutch forces.
May, After marching overland from the Eastern Cape, a contingent of 263 men of the 27th Regiment of Foot of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, under the command of Capt Thomas Charlton Smith, arrived in Durban to reclaim, on behalf of the British Crown, the ownership of Natal. Smith built a fortified laager on the site now known as the Old Fort. Meanwhile Dutch forces under Commandant Andries Pretorius had begun to muster at a camp, known as Congella, 5km south of Durban. After issuing an ultimatum, they seized the British cattle herd.
23 May, Smith counter-attacked with a force of 138 men supported by a howitzer sent across the bay by boat. The British attack on Congella was easily repulsed by the Dutch, and they were forced to retreat after suffering the loss of 51 men. The Dutch then laid siege to the British garrison in Durban.
24 May, During the night a small party of English settlers evaded Dutch picket lines by rowing two small boats to the Bluff, towing two horses behind them. Two of their number, Richard King and a Zulu retainer named Ndongeni set off on an epic 970km ride to Grahamstown to request the assistance of its British garrison. The ride took 10 days and was made possible by the string of mission stations previously established in the Transkei.
10 June, The Mazeppa, under the command of Joseph Cato and manned by the wives and families of the besieged garrison at Durban, slipped her mooring and under heavy fire from Dutch muskets, managed to sail over the bar with no casualties on board. 15 June, The Mazeppa reached Delagoa Bay where, after laying in additional stores, it headed south for the Cape.
26 June, The British frigate Southampton sailed into Durban and opened fire on the Dutch, who had, in the interim, taken Fort Victoria. Troops were landed in the Bay, and by 16.00 that afternoon the siege had been lifted. The Dutch then abandoned their camp at Congella, and retreated to Pietermaritzburg.
15 July, The Republic of Natalia formally submitted to British rule, and although its Volksraad remained in existence until 1845, from 1843 the territory was under the effective control of the British Representative, Henry Cloete.
Durban’s first Methodist Church, a thatched wattle-and-daub structure erected by Rev J Archbell, was opened for worship. In 1850 this was replaced by a more substantial building, designed by his successor, Rev WC Holden.
4 May, The District of Natal was adopted as a British Colony. This was ratified by a Proclamation on 12 May, with Henry Cloete, Advocate of the Supreme Court in Cape Town, as Commissioner. The 45th Regiment of Foot, also known as the Sherwood Foresters, were garrisoned in Durban, where its Engineer’s Corps was responsible for building the Great West Road, crossing over the Berea Ridge at the 45th Cutting, thus opening up the interior for settlement.
31 May, District of Natal was annexed to the Cape Colony.
Roman-Dutch law was established in the District.
30 April, Natal was constituted as a distinct and separate government to be administered by a Lieutenant-Governor.
21 August, Boundaries of Natal were defined by Proclamation. Subsequent revisions took place on 5 June 1858, 7 September 1865 and 26 January 1903. Separate Proclamations regarding Zululand were made in 1887, 1895 and 1897 respectively.
September, Natal was incorporated as a separate district of the Cape Colony.
22 November, Sir Peregrine Maitland, Governor of the Cape, appointed Martin West, formerly Resident Magistrate in Grahamstown, as Natal’s first Lieutenant-Governor. He landed at Port Natal on 4 December, and was sworn in at Pietermaritzburg on 12 December, when he also took over the administration of the Colony. He died in office in 1850.
The first direct mail link between England and Natal was established when the Sarah Bell sailed into the bay.
West appointed a Commission to give African land holding legal status. Included were the Surveyor-General, Lt CJ Gibb, and Theophilus Shepstone, Diplomatic Agent to the Native Tribes in 1845-53, and subsequently Secretary for Native Affairs, 1853-75.
Shepstone began to establish “Native Locations” for exclusive Black settlement. On 8 March Umlazi, south of Durban, and Inanda, to its north-west, were proclaimed
Start of the so-called Great Emigration from Britain, as the result of crop failures, the collapse of the railway financial boom, and general commercial distress. From 1847-51 over a million persons left the country for various destinations in the Empire, of which some 5,000 men, women and children travelled to Natal under a variety of land schemes.
2 March, Powers of the Cape Legislature to make laws for the District were revoked and its administration and legislative powers were placed in the hands of an appointed Council.
November, 187 German settlers arrived at Port Natal. They were given land in an area 15km west of Durban, near Pinetown, which then became known as New Germany.
Construction of Durban’s first windmill. Located on the Berea Ridge, it was also served as a useful landmark for ships entering the harbour. The site was located near present day Windmill Road.
First sugar cane cultivars were imported from Mauritius.
13 April, Umgeni River breaks its banks and comes down in flood along the eastern floodplain.
22 November, The first plots were sold in Durban.
The first settlers to be brought out to Natal under the Byrne immigration scheme arrived in Durban aboard the Wanterer. Not unexpectedly Byrne went bankrupt in 1850.
1 August, Death in office of Martin T West, first Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
5 February, First post office was opened in Durban.
21 December, Meeting of Durban residents resolved to petition the Colonial Government for the establishment of municipal government in the town.
Benjamin CC Pine was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony. It seems probable that Pine Terrace was named in his honour at about the same time.  He was knighted in 1857 when he took up a new posting in West Africa.
Finding itself short of funds, the Colonial Government attempted to annex land on the Berea and, having laid out 18 stands, it proposed to sell them. Following vociferous opposition by Durban’s residents the Government was forced to abandon its project. At the same time 46 acres were surveyed near the Umbilo River to accommodate the establishment of smallholdings for Black farmers.
The village of Pinetown was surveyed on the farm Salt River Poort, formerly owned by Andries Martinus Laas.
October, A public meeting was held in Durban to propose the introduction of Indian labour.
13 August, The first steamship to sail into Durban harbour, the Sir Robert Peel, was met at the bay by most of the town’s residents.
The Natal Mercury was published in Durban for the first time.
Jean-Baptiste Sabon and Bishop Allard established the Roman Catholic Church in the Colony.
The Jane Morice sailed into Durban with a cargo of 15,000 cane tops from Mauritius.
Adams College was founded by the American Board of Missions.
The first lots of land were sold at Umbilo, subsequently known as Prospect Township.
30 January, Dr John William Colenso arrived on the steamship Calcutta, and after a visit of inspection to various parts of the Colony, he returned to England on 10 April.
17 March, Foundation stone laid for the construction of St Paul’s Anglican Church, giving onto Market Square. This was completed the following year.
21 September, A public meeting held in Kinghurst’s Store, and chaired by Mr AW Evans, constituted itself as the Durban Mechanics’ Institution, its objective being “the moral and intellectual improvement of its members and others”. Its first premises were located in a small thatched wooden building, originally intended as a shop, which it leased from Mr Pulleyn for £18pa. The services of Mrs Hall were engaged as Attendant at the Library for £12pa. The premises were officially opened to the public on 14 November 1853. By that time it could boast of 112 members, and had accumulated 409 volumes and 272 pamphlets. By 1857 the thatched roof had begun to leak, and the library and reading room were moved next door to a double-storey house belonging to Dr Johnston. In about 1861 it was renamed the Durban Public Library.
The Durban Police force was established.
Byelaws promulgated requiring Black visitors to the village to be clothed from the shoulder to the knee.
The Durban Voluntary Guards, subsequently known as the Durban Light Infantry, was formed.
21 April, Ordinance No 1 of 1854 “For establishing Municipal Corporations within the District of Natal” was promulgated. This was published in Durban on 3 May.
May, Lieutenant-Governor Benjamin Pine proclaimed the township of Durban a Borough. At the time its White population numbered 1,204.
10 June, Sir George Grey was appointed Colonial Secretary.
2 August, The first Town Council, consisting of 8 members representing four wards, was elected to office, with George Christopher Cato being elected the first Mayor of Durban.
November, Durban’s first bank, the Natal Bank, opened its premises in Aliwal Street.
February, Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert of Lea, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
15 May, Lord John Russell, afterwards Earl Russell, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
20 May, Dr John Colenso, Bishop of Durban, together with his family, returned to Port Natal on the Jane Morice. His party included Mrs Colenso, their four children, Archdeacon CF McKenzie, the Rev WO Newnham, and a body of clergy, female teachers and other support staff. He preached for the first time on 27 May.
11 July, The foundation stone of the Congregational Chapel in Smith Street was laid with the usual honours.
21 July, Sir William Molesworth was appointed Colonial Secretary.
17 November, Henry Labouchere, afterwards Lord Taunton, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
Rev Posselt established a Lutheran mission station at Christianenburg, subsequently known as Clermont.
Francois Adams opened Durban’s first bookstore.
Durban’s first jail was completed. Five years later a police station was built on the present site of Medwood Gardens.
12 April, Following four days of torrential rains during which time Durban suffered a deluge of 689mm, the Umgeni River burst its banks and flooded the low-lying plain north of the town, leaving most of Durban under water.
15 July, By Royal Charter Natal was proclaimed a separate British colony. On the same date John Scott, afterwards Sir, was appointed its Lieutenant-Governor. Provisions in the same Charter gave the franchise to every man above the age of 21 years who possessed any immovable property to the value of £50. These provisions excluded aliens and other persons convicted of any “treason, felony, or infamous offence, who have not received a free pardon”.
30 October, John Scott, the new Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony arrived at Durban aboard HMS Geyser.
A partly-elected legislature was established.
Butchers were obliged to remove to officially designated slaughter houses at the west end of town.
The town’s first timber saw mill began operations from a site at the beach-end of Field Street.
16 March, The foundation stone for a new Wesleyan Church, located just off the corner of West and Gardiner Streets, was laid by the Rev Thomas Jenkins, formerly a missionary to the Mpondo. It was destroyed in 1877, and replaced soon after by a larger and more imposing structure, which served its community until 1977, when it was demolished. The churches’ former chapel in Aliwal Street was given over to a mission for Black residents.
23 March, The first Legislative Council under the new charter met in Pietermaritzburg. Donald Moodie, representing the Borough of Durban was elected its first Speaker.
1 June, Natal issued its first stamps.
14 July, The first meeting called for the town’s Total Abstinence Society.
30 January, The first output of the Congella Salt Works, owned by Charles McDonald, was put up for sale in Market Square. Unfortunately this enterprise did not last long, owing to low levels of salinity in the bay as well as the rapid corrosion of the imported iron boiler-plate evaporating pans.
28 February, Lord Stanley, afterwards Earl of Derby, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
31 May, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Bart, afterwards Lord Lytton, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
5 September, The 45th Regiment was relieved by the 85th Regiment,
Following protracted negotiations between the Natal Government and the Colonial Secretary, the Natal Parliament passed the Coolie Law No 14 of 1859. This made it possible for the Colony to implement a programme whereby Indian labourers could be brought out to South Africa under a five-year contract of indenture. At the end of the five years, workers had the option of signing new contracts for a further five-year period, which would make them eligible to settle permanently in the colony, or of being given a free passage back to India Upon completion of a second contract of indenture, Indian labourers were also entitled to a gift of Crown land and full citizenship rights. This proviso was later withdrawn when Act No. 25 of 1891 was promulgated in order to discourage the settlement of Indians in the Colony.
18 June, Duke of Newcastle was appointed Colonial Secretary.
26 June, South Africa’s first railway line, linking the Point to Durban’s town centre, was opened by Acting Lt-Governor of Natal, Major Williamson. Most residents turned out to witness the event as the first steam locomotive, named The Natal, travelled a distance of some 3.2km from the railway station near Farewell Square to the Point.
July, The Hermanus Isaac brought 90 Dutch settlers from Amsterdam to Durban.
24 September, The foundation stone for a Sailor’s Church, at the Point was performed by Rev WHC Lloyd, the Colonial Chaplain.
17 November, The first contingent of 341 indentured labourers from India to find employment as workers on Natal’s cane fields, entered the bay aboard the SS Truro. Immigration was suspended in 1866 due to depressed economic conditions in the Colony, and following allegations made in 1870 of embezzlement and ill-treatment of Indian workers on the part of White farmers, was only resumed in 1874.
Under the guidance of Captain Vetch RE, construction began on a crescent-shaped pier, north of Milne’s breakwater at the entrance to the bay. Its purpose was to create a second harbour off the “back” beach on the seaward side of the Point.
Construction was completed on the Natal Government Hospital, Durban’s first such facility, located near the current site of the Supreme Court, on the Esplanade. It was replaced in 1879 by Addington Hospital, on Erskine Terrace, where many of the casualties from the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 were admitted.
First building bye-law passed prohibiting the use of thatch as a roofing material within the boundaries of the Borough.
Bauboo Naidoo, an interpreter, opened a shop in Field Street, Durban, for the sale of condiments and other delicacies not included in the rations issued by law to indentured workers, thereby becoming the first Hindu Indian shop keeper in the Colony.
26 November, A second contingment of 310 indentured Indian labourers arrived in Durban from Calcutta on board the Belvedere.
Proclamation promulgated requiring all Black males to wear trousers within the municipal boundaries of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Durban’s population now numbered approximately 3,390 White, 1,380 Black and 230 Indian residents.
The Queen’s Bridge, the first to be built across the Umgeni River, was opened to traffic. It was sited near Morewood’s Drift, also known at Morewood’s Ford.
Letters Patent were issued vesting the Natal Native’s Trust with the authority to hold location lands in trust for the Black population.
J Maclean was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
November, Work began on Durban’s first lighthouse, located on the Bluff. The structure was designed by colonial engineer Peter Paterson, was completed in January 1867. Initially it used a ship’s lantern, until 1869 when a proper signal light was installed. For military reasons, it was demolished at the start of WWII and the present lighthouse was rebuilt near the site after 1946.
The first eight street lamps were lit in Durban. This innovation did not survive for long, as by 1867, the Council could no longer afford to buy the oil and the lamps were put out.
4 April, Edward Cardwell, afterwards Viscount Cardwell, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
The Legislative Council passed a law that specifically excluded indigenous male residents of Natal from the franchise in general, but still permitted individuals who had been exempted from African Law for seven years, and had resided in the Colony for twelve, to apply for the vote. Such applications had to be supported by three duly qualified white electors, but the granting of the vote remained at the discretion of the Governor
Work was begun on laying down a hard surface on Berea Road. To pay for the project tollgates were erected at points where it crossed Ridge and Umgeni Roads.
County Alfred, between the Mtamvuna and Mzimkulu Rivers, was incorporated in Natal.
1 June, Durban High School opened its doors from a building in Smith Street, opposite the old police station, near Broad Street. In 1880 its premises were moved to the building previously used as the Natal Government Hospital, on the Esplanade, and in 1894 it was moved again to its present location, in St Thomas’ Road, on the Berea. Thereafter, from 1895 to 1907, the old hospital building was taken over by the Durban Boys Model School.
6 July, Earl of Carnarvon was appointed Colonial Secretary.
Robert W Keate was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
8 March, Duke of Buckingham and Chandos was appointed Colonial Secretary.
4 April, The Durban to Umgeni railway line was opened.
10 December, Earl Granville was appointed Colonial Secretary.
The first “passenger Indians” arrived in Durban. The appellation referred to Indian immigrant traders, artisans, teachers and shop assistants who paid their own passage to the Colony.
The Durban Fire Department was established, following the gift of a fire engine to the Borough Council by William Palmer, the local agent for the Royal Insurance Company.
6 July, Earl of Kimberley was appointed Colonial Secretary.
Photographic record made of the surviving British settlers who had arrived in Durban before 1851.
Anthony Musgrave was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
Aboobaker Haji Ahmed Jhaveri arrived in Natal.
Hilton College was founded.
The Coolie Consolidation Amendment Act No 12 of 1872 made provision for a Protector of Indian Immigrants. It abolished flogging for breaches of the Masters and Servants Act, and legislated the improvement of medical treatment for Indian labourers.
25 November, Colonel Price-Lloyd was appointed the first Protector of Indian Immigrants. In order to give effect to the law he immediately set about building up a suitable administrative system.
Langalibalele, chief of the Hlubi, refused to register his firearms and, in an attempt to evade the colonial authorities, began to move his clan to Griqualand East. In a skirmish that followed a number of people were killed, including seven policemen. Langalibalele was arrested, and after his trial, he was banished for life to Robben Island. Following an appeal by Dr John Colenso, Anglican Bishop of Natal, he was released and allowed to return to his lands where he died in 1887. The incident led to the recall of the Governor, Benjamin Pine.
April, Musgrove retired frim his position as Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
July, Sir Benjamin Pine returned for a second term as Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
22 December, The Protector of Indian Immigrants was appointed to the Natal Legislature’s Executive Council. He held this seat until 21 December 1876 when his seat was taken by the Colonial Engineer.
2 January, The Immigration Trust Board was established in under Natal Law No 208 of 1874.
21 February, Earl of Carnarvon was appointed Colonial Secretary.
Sir Henry Ernest Bulwer was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony.
June, Aboobaker Amod, a Memon trader from Porbander, opened a store in West Street, thus establishing himself as the first “Arab” trader in Natal. In the 1870s White colonial perceptions differentiated between Hindu and Muslim Indian immigrants, the latter being commonly referred to as “Arabs”.
The first Harbour Board was constituted.
1 January, The Point to Umgeni railway line was opened. On this same day, under Act No 4 of 1875, the Natal Government acquired the Natal Railway Co Ltd and all its holdings.
2 August, The Durban Young Ladies’ Evangelical Collegiate Institute, now known as Durban Girls’ High School was founded.
Following a protracted drought in the town, Councillor HW Currie proposed to sink an artesian well at the foot of the Botanic Gardens, where a spring had previously provided local elephants with drinking water. This became known as Currie’s Fountain, and was capable of yielding 227,000 litres a day, enough to supply Durban’s needs for drinking water until the Umbilo Water Works were completed in 1887. Other waterworks completed subsequently included Umlaas in 1891, Camperdown in 1901, and Shongweni in 1827.
Natal Law 20 of 1878 was passed governing Indian Education.
The new Addington Hospital was opened
4 February, Sir Michael E Hicks-Beach, Bart, was appointed Colonial Secretary.
May, The Durban to Pinetown railway line was opened.
25 May, The Umgeni to Avoca railway line was opened.
General Sir Garnet J Wolseley was appointed Governor of the Colony.
Establishment of the Indian Immigration School Board.
The Resident Magistrate of Umzinto, JA Knight, was the first to use two crossed lines to denote a registered letter, an innovation which was eventually adopted by postal services throughout the world.
11 January, British forces invaded Zululand.
22 January, At a battle, which took place on the slopes of Isandlwana, more than 2,500 British troops and colonial levies lost their lives fighting against a Zulu army. Later that day, in an epic defence of the Rorke’s Drift Mission Station, 104 men of the 24th Regiment held off an attack by 4,500 Zulus under the command of Dabulamanzi. Eleven of the 89 survivors were awarded the Victoria Cross.
March, The Pinetown to Botha’s Hill railway line was opened.
15 March, The Avoca to Mount Edgecombe railway line was opened.
4 July, Zulu forces were finally defeated at the battle of Ulundi.
21 September, The Mount Edgecombe to Verulam railway line was opened.
Major-General Sir George Pomeroy-Colley was appointed Governor of the Colony.
1 February, The Rossburgh to Isipingo railway line was opened.
28 April, Earl of Kimberley was appointed Colonial Secretary.
October, The Botha’s Hill to Camperdown railway line was opened.
December, The Camperdown to Pietermaritzburg railway line was opened.
The Harbour Board was reconstituted for a second time.
Sir Henry Bulwer was appointed Governor of the Colony.
Zulu workers arriving in Durban and registering with the police were issued with white calico trousers.
The Theatre Royal opened its doors to patrons from premises in West Street.
The franchise was extended to White male persons of 3 years’ residence in the Colony.
Sir Arthur E Havelock was appointed Governor of the Colony.
The South African Republic (ZAR) passed Law No 3 of 1885, the first legislation in South Africa directed specifically against Indian immigration, whereby “any of the native races of Asia, including so-called Coolies, Arabs, Malays, and Mohammedan subjects of the Turkish Empire” were grouped together. The act did not permit any of these groups to obtain rights of citizenship, to be “owners of fixed property in the Republic except only in such streets, wards and locations as the Government for purposes of sanitation shall assign to them”,  and for all traders to be registered.
Sir Henry Bulwer appointed a commission to investigate the position of Indian residents in Natal and the impact of potential new immigrants upon the Colony.
Jacaranda trees were planted fir the first time in Durban.
25 October, Building was completed of Durban’s first Town Hall. In 1910 it was given over to the Post Office once a second Town Hall had been completed nearby.
Opening of Umbilo’s Municipal Water Works.
Annexation of Zululand by the British Crown.
Durban’s municipal museum, reputedly the largest such establishment in South Africa, was opened in a section of the old Town Hall. It was subsequently re-housed in the City Hall.
The Registration of Servants Act No. 2 of 1888 was passed by the Natal legislature. This classified Indians as members of an “uncivilized race” and made them liable to registration. Free Indians were forced to carry passes or face arbitrary arrest. The ZAR rejected a British-Indian petition and placed Asiatics in the same category as its indigenous African population, whom it regarded only as labourers.
Sir Charles HH Mitchell was appointed Governor of the Colony.
19 Law, known as the “Code of Native Law” was adopted.
The firm of Hewlett & Sons Ltd was established. At first it dealt only in the production of tea, but it soon expanded into sugar cane farming, and in 1903 it opened its first sugar mill at Tinley Manor.
In a general election Natal voted in favour of self-government. The following year a ministry under Natal’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Robinson, took office, with an elected lower house of 37 members.
Rickshas introduced to Durban. Later their use was to spread to Pietermaritzburg and the Natal midlands, as well as Johannesburg, Lourenco Marques, Bulawayo and Mombasa.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi arrived in Durban. The London-trained lawyer was brought to South Africa by a group of Indian citizens concerned with obtaining rights of equal citizenship in their new country. Having bought a first-class train ticket for Johannesburg at the Durban station, he was forcibly ejected from the train at Pietermaritzburg following complaints from fellow White passengers.
Sir Walter Francis Hely-Hutchinson was appointed Governor of the Colony.
26 June, Law providing for the establishment of Responsible Government in the Colony was given Royal Assent, and became law in the Colony on 20 July 1894.
10 October, First Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Sir John Robinson, took office.
The Franchise Bill, which aimed to disenfranchise Natal Indians, was introduced in the Natal Colonial Parliament. This issue was to begin Mahatma Gandhi's political career and eventually led to the founding of the first South African Indian political organisation, the Natal Indian Congress.
A critical shortage of agricultural labour in the Cape led to the appointment by its Colonial Government of a Labour Commission. One of its findings came out strongly against the importation of indentured labour from India and China.
22 August, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) was founded with Dada Abdullah Haji Adam as its first Chair and Mahatma Gandhi as its secretary. As a result of NIC-led protests against the Franchise Act, the British Government did not immediately sanction its passing, but allowed the legislation to be reintroduced in 1896.
The promulgation of the Indian Immigration Law Amendment Act, Law No 17 of 1895, allowed the Colony of Natal to impose a £3 penalty tax upon all previously indentured Indians who either failed to re-indenture or to return to India after the expiration of their labour contracts. In 1903, the Act is extended to include girls aged 13 and older, and boys aged 16 and older.
Durban’s main post office ran out of ha’penny stamps.
Michaelhouse was founded.
Gandhi returns to Durban by ship but is prevented from disembarking for nearly a month by quarantine regulations. Even then he was attacked by an angry crowd near the Ship Hotel in West Street, and was only saved from serious harm by the intervention of Mrs Sarah Jane Alexander, the Police Superintendent’s wife.
The franchise was extended to exclude all persons who were either “Natives”, or descendants in the male line of “Natives” of countries which had not hitherto possessed elective representative institutions founded on the parliamentary franchise. This was obviously aimed at Black residents originating from the southern African interior.
1 July, Durban’s first sewage disposal system was inaugurated, discharging the town’s wastes into the sea from the Point. This was retained until 1938, probably to the great delight of the city’s off-shoe lobster population.
Fernando Pessoa, 1888-1935, arrived in Durban from Portugal. After being educated at the Durban High School, from 1899-1904, he left Durban in 1905, and went on to become a poet of world repute. It seems doubtful that he ever wrote any of his work in Durban, but today his youthful and somewhat brief sojourn in the town is marked by a statue in his honour in Pessoa Square, opposite the old station building.
Reclamation work begins on Durban’s bay area, as well as the creation of an esplanade along part of the foreshore and the making of an embankment along the town length of the bay. After this was completed in 1902 it was named the Victoria Embankment, in honour of the British monarch’s diamond jubilee.
In 1896, there were 9,309 registered White voters in Natal, and although only three Africans and 251 Indians had also been allowed to acquire voting rights in the colony, this small number was disenfranchised by the Franchise Act No 8 of 1896.
17 April, The Tongaat Sugar Company successfully applied to the Natal Immigration Trust Board for permission to recruit indentured artisans from India.
18 September, The European Protection Association was established in Pietermaritzburg, calling for limits to be placed upon Indian immigration and the compulsory repatriation of indentured labourers upon expiration of their contracts.
26 November, As a result of anti-Indian sentiment, White residents of Durban held a meeting where they condemned Mahatma Gandhi and set up the Colonial Patriotic Union.
The Natal Immigration Restriction Act, and its subsequent amendments in 1900, 1903 and 1906, imposes an educational, health, age and mean tests on Indians, other than indentured workers, seeking admission into the country.
Zululand was incorporated into Natal Colony.
The Natal Dealers Licenses Act No 18 of 1897 empowered licensing officers to arbitrarily refuse to issue licenses to Indian traders.
15 February, Second Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Harry Escombe QC, took office.
7 May, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) collects £1,539 from South African Indians for famine relief in India.
5 October, Third Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Sir Henry Binns, took office.
The Portuguese community donated a civic clock to mark the 400th anniversary of the naming of Natal by Vasco da Gama.
The last outstanding areas of the Kingdom of Zululand were incorporated into Natal Colony.
9 June, Fourth Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Lt-Col Albert Henry Hime, took office.
30 September, The Durban Light Infantry entrains from Durban Station in expectation of war with the Dutch Republics of the Orange Free State and the ZAR. This marks the first time that this regiment was deployed for action
11 October, Republican forces invaded the Cape and Natal, occupying Ladysmith.
23 December, Winston Churchill arrived in Durban aboard the SS Nduna,following his escape from a Republican jail in Pretoria.
Timeline: Durban 1900 - 1990
Colonel Sir Henry Edward McCullum was appointed Governor of the Colony.
Urban myth has it that a Durban housewife prepared the first known “kitchen suit” for her young gardener by adapting one of her son’s old school uniforms. This idea was adopted by the clothing company Harvey, Greenacre & Co, who then produced a number of variations for male wear based upon the original design, including uniforms for house servants, gardeners, police and ricksha pullers. From the beginning Black employees found such apparel offensive.
The former ZAR districts of Utrecht and Vryheid were ceded to Natal.
1 May, The first electric trams ran in Durban.
Founding of newspaper Indian Opinion. This was subsequently published from the Phoenix Settlement.
January, The districts of Vryheid and Utrecht were annexed to the Colony.
15 May, The steamship Umona ran onto a reef south of one of the Maldive islands. The passengers, which included a group of 475 Indian labourers headed for the coffee and sugar plantations of Natal, were all landed safely on the island, together with adequate provisions.
18 August, Fifth Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Sir George Morris Sutton, took office.
25 September, The last horse-drawn tram ran its route from the Town Hall to Prospect Road, in Umbilo.
Settlement established at Phoenix by Gandhi.
26 June, The Armadale Castle enters the harbour following extensive dredging operations in the harbour mouth.
29 June, Durban’s new floating dock was brought on-line when, for the first time, it lifted the 7000 ton SS Kentout of the water for repairs.
6 May, Sixth Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Charles John Smythe, took office.
Martial law was repealed.
Lillie Langtry visits Durban. Her personal ricksha puller, a man named Jim, is said to have worn her racing colours of fawn and turquoise.
1 January, A poll tax of £3 was introduced in Natal.on every Indian resident over 18 years of age
February, The Bhambatha Rebellion erupted in Natal in protest against a so-called “hut tax” levied by the Natal Government. Martial Law proclaimed in the Colony.
24 April, The Natal Indian Congress, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, established an ambulance corps to render assistance to the wounded in the field during the Bhambatha uprising.
28 November, Seventh Natal parliament, under Prime Minister Frederick Robert Moore, took office.
Lt-Col Sir Mathew Nathan was appointed Governor of the Colony.
Council introduces two special “funeral” trams for the use of mourners. This was suspended for White use after only two trips, following a loud protest from the town’s undertakers, but remained in use until 1931 for Black customers.
A private referendum run by The Natal Witness showed that only 438 of those polled favoured unification with the other colonies, while 1396 would welcome a federal solution. Isolation was preferred choice of 790 people.
October, Twelve delegates from the Cape of Good Hope, five from Natal, eight from the Transvaal, five from the Orange River Colony, and three from Rhodesia, appointed by their respective parliaments, met in Durban to consider the viability of a South African union. These 33 representatives constituted the South African National Convention which deliberated at Durban for over three weeks and then adjourned to meet at Cape Town on 23 November 1908.
The Electric Theatre, Durban’s first permanent cinema, opened its doors.
The Native Administration Act of 1908 was adopted, providing for the appointment of a permanent Secretary for Native Affairs, and dividing the Colony into four districts, each under the control of a District Native Commissioner. They were then required to carry out the orders and directions of “the Supreme Chief”, which were given through the Secretary of Native Affairs. It also established a Council for Native Affairs which met in August of each year and whose members excluded persons of colour.
10 June, Referendum was held on the adoption of the Act of Union. From a total of 14, 822 ballots cast, a majority of 7,430 men voted in its favour.
The first commercial wireless radio station in sub-Saharan Africa began broacasting from Jacobs.
General Lord Methuen was appointed Governor of the Colony.
12 April, The new City Hall was inaugurated, at which stage the old City Hall was given over for use by the Post Office.
30 April, The first airplane flight took place in Durban.
31 May, Natal joined the Cape, Transvaal and Orange Free State, to form the Union of South Africa.
A wireless-radio installation was built on The Bluff with a range of about 650 kms.
The last ship to bring indentured Indian labour to Natal, the Umlazi, arrives in Durban. At this stage the indentured labour scheme was finally abolished.
Isaiah Shembe founded the Nazareth Baptist Church at Ekuphakameni, near the Phoenix Settlement.
12 July, The Durban Technical Institute (DTI) opens its doors.
Outbreak of WWI. Many residents of Durban lost their lives in the conflict and the Cenotaph in Gardiner Street was dedicated to their memory.
13 May, Following the sinking of the Lusitaniaby a German submarine, anti-German riots broke out in Durban as well as other major towns in South Africa. One of the premises targeted by the mob was a biscuit factory in Palmer Street belonging to JML Bauman, a town councillor whose two sons were serving in the South African army fighting Germans in East Africa. Subsequent to this incident the name of his business was changed to Bakers’ Ltd.
The Durban and District Native Football Association was established.
The Indian Printers Union and the Indian Workers Union were founded. Their secretaries, MK Moodley and Rev BLE Sigamoney, were both Natal-born Indians.
The Umngeni River came down in flood.
Outbreak of Spanish influenza.
July, Indian entrepreneur Mr Siddhoo introduces the first truck to be converted to use as a passenger transport.
Mrs Edith Benson became the town’s first woman Councillor.
5 March, The Durban Land Alienation Ordinance, No 14 of 1922, was passed by the Durban Town Council, enabling it to exclude Indians from the ownership or occupation of property in designated White areas. This legislation preceded the imposition by the Nationalist Party of apartheid legislation by 27 years
6 March, The Natal Indian Congress was re-established in Durban for the second time. Ismail Gora was elected president.
The first Comrades Marathon was run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
The DTI was split into the University of Natal, now known as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Natal Technicon, now known as the Durban University of Technology.
31 May, The Mayor of Durban, Walter Gilbert, officially opened the third national conference of Indian organisations in the Durban Town Hall, which formally established the SA Indian Congress. Omar Hajee Amod Jhaveri was elected its first president.
10 December, The town’s first public wireless programme was broadcast from the City Hall.
15 June, Durban Transport introduced the first three Thornycroft single-decker petrol engine busses. The first Dennis single-decker diesel engine bus was run on 2 November 1834, while first Daimler double-decker diesel-powered bus came into service on 20 August 1938.
Athlone Bridge, spanning over the Umngeni River, was opened to traffic.
11 November, The Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHS) holds its first parade when 3,000 ex-servicemen marched through town to the cenotaph. The birth of the movement was inspired by Natal Mercury cartoonist, Charles Evenden.
The Maharajah of Mysore presents the citizens of Durban with an elephant. Nellie, as she was soon named, became a firm favourite with local children.
The Governor-General of South Africa, the Earl of Athlone, opened Sastri College, a high school for Indian boys in Durban.
12 May, Durban’s first traffic lights were installed at the intersection of Pine and Field Streets. In 1931 an additional 14 units were ordered at a cost of £1040. In 1933 the first traffic signal with buried sensors was erected on an experimental basis at the intersection of St Thomas’ and Musgrave Roads. Regrettably, despite the time passed since then, Durban’s drivers have still to master the Rules of the Road regarding inoperative traffic lights.
The first group of Indian girls was matriculated in South Africa.
The Borough of Durban was granted city status.
24 February, The first electric trolley bus came into service on the Marine Parade route to phase out the old electric trams.
The Fitzsimons Snake Park was opened. Although it was initially established to produce snake anti-venom, it went on to become one of the city’s most popular attractions.
3 March, The fifth cricket test between England and South Africa began at Kingsmead, and although it had previously been resolved by its organisers that it would be played to a conclusion, no matter how long that took, the test was eventually declared a draw on March 14, when the English side, requiring only 42 runs for victory, was forced to leave to catch their ship home. This has since become known in sporting history as the Timeless Test.
3 September, Upon the outbreak of WWII, a number of defensive measures were set up around Durban, on the Bluff and at Battery Beach. Blockhouses were built at the harbour entrance and anti-submarine nets were thrown across the channel at the base of North and South piers. A number of prominent city features which, it was believed, could have assisted enemy navigation, were also dynamited, including the lighthouse and an unusual rock formation on the beach known as Hole in the Wall.
April, Perla Siedle Gibson began to sing to every ship connected with the war effort, arriving or leaving from Durban harbour. Wearing a trademark white dress and floppy red hat, she serenaded over 13,000 ships and achieved worldwide recognition as “The Lady in White”.
Durban celebrated the marriage of Sir Delvers Broughton and Diana Caldwell prior to their departure for Kenya. Early the following year Durban social climbers were horrified to learn of the arrest of Sir Delvers for the murder of Lord Erroll who, it was alleged, had begun a romantic dalliance  with Lady Diana. This incident subsequently formed the basis in 1988 for a film White Mischief.
The first, and probably only, vehicle accident in the world involving an overturned trolley bus took place at the corner of West and Farewell Streets. Thirtyseven passengers were injured in the process.
20 September, Italian submarine Ammiraglio Cagni entered Durban Harbour under escort and surrendered to the Allies.
Durban celebrated the centenary of the arrival of its 1849 Settlers.
13 January, Following an incident between a black youth and an Indian shopkeeper in Victoria Street, riots broke out in Victoria Street, Grey Street, Victoria Avenue, Tollgate, Mayville, Musgrave Road and Cato Manor. According to official figures 200 people were killed and 1029 injured with over 25,000 people being displaced from their homes.
2 August, The last electric tram to serve Durban pulled into the municipal sheds.
Durban-born Penny Coelen wins the Miss World title.
The so-called Beer-Hall Riots broke out in Cato Manor, in protest against the Durban Municipality’s monopoly on the brewing of sorghum beer.
December, Municipal by-law prohibiting the wearing of bikinis on the city’s beaches was repealed.
31 May, South Africa unilaterally proclaimed itself a Republic and left the Commonwealth.
29 February, The city’s new water reservoir was opened at Durban Heights.
The Natal Indian Congress was re-established for a third time.
The Marine Hotel, on the corner of Gardiner Street and the Victoria Embankment, was demolished. Amongst its many prominent guests it numbered the Prince of Wales in 1923, Prince George in 1934 and Prince Bernhardt of The Netherlands in 1954.
The Union Whaling Station, located on The Bluff, which had been in operation since 1908, closed down. At its peak in 1965 it processed 3640 whales killed by its fleet. In 1973 five members of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) were caught by the Harbour Police in an attempt to vandalise one of their ships, but were let off with a warning after pleading a severe case of youthful indiscretion. The hacksaw they used has never been preserved for posterity.
Durban celebrated the 150th anniversary of its naming.
Morris Fynn, descendant of early pioneer Henry Francis Fynn, initiated a campaign of vandalising apartheid signs on Durban’s beachfront. The hacksaw he used has been preserved for posterity in the Old Courthouse Museum, in Aliwal Street.
The Separate Amenities Act was repealed, thus opening up Durban’s facilities to all races.

Collections in the Archives