Bi Centennial Talk at Clumber
2020 The Nottingham Party Story - Part 2
and a Methodist, for preaching on board and holding prayer meetings; threatening Pike with expropriation of his land allotment. William Pike, despite this dire threat, continued with his work of ministering to the folk on board.
The journey to the Cape of Good Hope followed a route to Maderia where the Albury anchored on 27 February 1820. On 1 March they passed the Canary Islands and on 15 March they crossed the equator ; having been almost becalmed since 10 March. On 20 March , John Sykes, the only farmer in the Party, died at midnight.
Following an almost direct Southerly course they finally picked up the trade winds on 27 March. Between 8 th and 17th April they encountered gales and strong headwinds before swinging due East to Simmons Bay where they anchored at midnight on 1 May having now spent 77 days under sail from Liverpool and 95 nights since all were aboard at Liverpool.
Much to the disappointment of the Nottingham Party they were not allowed on shore. Elizabeth Sykes wife of John who had died at sea had requested her return to England, disembarked here. To add to the already cramped conditions on the Albury, a further 142 passengers from the vessel Zoroaster were transferred to the Albury; Dyason's party from London numbering 67, Wait's party from Middlesex, 40 persons, and Thornhills party numbering 35. From Jeremiah Goldswain of the Wait party we have this comment about the Albury:
"We got on board to see the difference between the two ships . I was astonished. The Zoroaster was as clean as possible for a vessel to be, but the Albury you could not walk upright between her decks and she was not the cleanest vessel I ever saw"
From Simmons Bay the Albury sailed on to Algoa Bay which was reached on 15 May 1820 and 3 other ships also anchored here on this date - Aurora carrying 344, Brilliant carrying 144 and Weymouth carrying 478. Due to heavy seas the Nottingham party could not disembark. In any case they had to wait their turn as all ships were disembarked in strict rotation according to their arrival. Finally , after 14 days anchored in the Bay, on 28 May , their turn came to disembark. There was no pier or wharf where one could step ashore in comfort. A captain Evatt was in charge of landing operations. All settlers were transferred to flat bottomed boats and pulled ashore. From the flat bottomed boat women and children were carried ashore whilst the men had to step into the shallows for the last yard or two and wade ashore. What a liberating experience that must have been ,to be on land after spending all of 3 months in cramped conditions on board.
The landing at Fort Frederick however must have given the Party some food for thought. There was no town here, only a few houses and the Fort. Accommodation for them was in tents neatly placed in rows on the sand dunes, some 2000 of them. Dubbed by the Settlers, Tent Town, it was to be their home for many weeks before the wagons would take them away to their location at Clumber. Based on the principle of first come, first served , the convoys of wagons provided by the Dutch farmers , some from as far away as Graaff Reinet, were insufficient to cater for the sudden influx of Settlers. So they had to make themselves at home here, knowing that the tents they occupied were also to be loaded on the wagons when they left and would be their new home until permanent structures could be built.
It was here, on the dunes at Tent Town, that we get a glimpse of the character of William Pike. As we know, William Pike had been providing spiritual guidance to the Nottingham Party on the voyage and he continued doing so in Tent Town. But here he had a larger audience and commenced regular preaching to all who would listen. John Ayliff , like Pike, a Methodist local preacher, describes his first encounter with William Pike on the dunes as : " a small,thin man in a long blue gown. This surprised me for I have never seen any minister in a blue gown before." My personal observation is this : despite being on the receiving end of the wrath of Calton for ministering to the Party, and almost losing the source of his future livelihood, his land, here Pike seems to be trying to be as conspicuous as possible, dressed in a blue gown against the white backdrop of the dunes. He seems to be saying to Calton - I will preach no matter what you try and do to me .
Calton died suddenly on 8 July.. Elijah Pike in his Reminices says the Party regarded Calton as a stingy man . He said that they were God fearing people and the mood in the Party was that Calton had been removed so that he would not harass them any more. A case of divine retribution as it were.
On 10 July the Party nominated Thomas Draper as the new head but this had to be ratified by the Foreign Office in England.
The British Govt in setting up the scheme had agreed to giving rations to the settlers for the first three years, or until they became self sufficient in providing their own rations, which ever came first. Rations meant 3/4 of a pound of ground wheat or corn per man per day and 2 pounds of meat per man per day. Women received half a man's ration, and children a third of a man's ration. Other vegies, fruit etc, were expected to be purchased by the settlers or grown by them.
Donkin , the acting Governor , in his wisdom, organised for 60,000 'starter' ration packs worth to be available (2000 people x 30 days) from mid April at Algoa Bay, and a further 40,000 to be available at Grahamstown.
On 15 July, 48 days after landing, 30 odd wagons ,at a hire cost of £8 each, were finally loaded and the last stage of their incredible journey could begin.Their route took them from Algoa Bay North then East , crossing the Zwartkops and Cougo Rivers near the coast. Then inland over Grass Ridge to Addo Drift across the Sunday's River about 20 miles from the mouth and then over Addo Heights where the route forked ; one inland to Grahamstown and the other a coastal route which they followed. Turning South East they passed Congo's Kraal and Jagers Drift on the Bushmans River. After the Mission Station at Theopolis they then crossed the Kowie River close to the mouth. Once fording the river they turned inland to Bathurst and after a couple of miles to their final destination which lay in a valley they called Clumber, after the seat of their patron, the Duke of Newcastle, Clumber Park. Once their possessions were offloaded the wagons immediately turned round to head back to Algoa Bay. The Nottingham Party was finally on its own. In a wilderness . Amongst the scrub, thorn and trees. It was now up to them to make a go of it. There was no possibility of a return to England; their financial situation did not allow that.
Young Rosa Pike remembered running down to investigate the small stream nearby , the Torrens River, and on her return found her mother, Mary, seated on a box and crying, frightened that the wolves and tigers would come that night to eat them up. One of the first thing this Party did on that day, 24 July, was to ascend the small hill at the bottom of which their possessions were now strewn and gave thanks to God for safe deliverance. They named the knoll Mount Mercy, and it was on this knoll that the future places of worship were built.
Tents were raised and these were home until they built temporary wattle and daub structures on their allotments. Thomas Draper, the new leader, left shortly after arriving and William Pike was then elected as the 3rd and final leader. The first priority was the clearing of the bush to plow fields for crops of wheat and vegetables. And here I think it appropriate to read a letter written by William Pike which to me reflects a hope and appreciation for a positive change in their lives. This despite not having a permanent home, nor the support of a fully functional village for shops and the like. Also, a wonderful appreciation of the countryside of their new home.
(*** Reading of William Pike letter).
Those that watched the wheat grow at the end of 1820 were filled with hope until the crop failed due to rust. Nothing daunted they tried again in 1821 with the same result. Rust. 1822 the pattern repeated itself. The situation was now dire. Rations were now at an end and the government seeing their precarious situation supplied rice to alleviate the pangs of hunger. Then in Octoberof 1823 a disastrous Great Flood wreaked havoc on the District. The first week it began to rain steadily giving way in the second week to torrential downpours and finally in the third week it became gentle showers. The lands which had been laboriously cleared were washed away and the wattle and daub houses with it. So they had to start all over again.
Visitors to the region in 1823 were appalled at the state the Settlers were in. They were still in the same clothes they had arrived in. Hats of plaited palm fronds were now the norm. Many were barefooted. Animal skins were used as jackets. But from these disasters arose a determination to adapt to their new found occupations as farmers. Others could not take the hardship and left to ply their skills in Grahamstown, and Port Elizabeth and further afield. A further realization was that bigger farms were needed rather than the small allocation which was provided .Also, a change of farming direction was needed. Soil and climate conditions were vastly different from England so plants and animals more suited to the new environment were put on trial.
From a very rocky start, things started improving. Clumber was the one region where most of the Party who initially settled here, took root , and adapted to the local circumstances. Initially, with Donkin in charge as acting Governor, Bathurst was to become the main town of the region which was contrary to what Governor Somerset wanted. On his return from leave he overturned Donkin's plans and reverted to placing emphasis on Grahamstown as the chief town of the region. With the demise of Bathurst, Clumber found itself in the Centre of numerous Parties establishing themselves in the immediate region. No wonder then that Clumber advanced to be a Centre for worship and schooling.
With William Pike as lay preacher, Church services were held at William Pikes home in inclement weather and under the trees at John Bradfields home when the weather was good. Sometimes they even held Services on Mount Mercy. The first Service conducted by an ordained minister occurred on 11 January 1821 when Rev William Shaw visited Clumber. Following this , a preaching plan in conjunction with Salem was drawn up. But, for some reason, numbers started dwindling and Pike used to attend Services further afield. On foot one day returning from a Service with Jeremiah Goldswain accompanying him, Jeremiah asked Pike to try holding Services once more at Clumber. The rest as they say, is history. In 1825 the first Church was built on Mount Mercy - only 5 years after the arrival of an impoverished Party. Quite a remarkable and astonishing achievement. Towns such as Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth started burgeoning thanks to the influx of Settlers who had vacated the land and applied their skills in new ventures. In short, success was in the air. Times were still tough but people were adapting.
It unfortunately was not to last. The optimism would soon be replaced by despair and dismay. In December 1834 some 10,000 Xhosa swept across the border of the Great Fish River on a broad front, taking everybody by surprise. Burning and pillaging along their way, many Settlers lost their lives in the Xhosa onslaught. The Nottingham Party abandoned their homes and farms and gathered in Bathurst for protection. This was deemed impossible to provide so on 24 December 1834 they were relocated to Grahamstown under guard where they took refuge in St. Patrick's Church. Returning in 1835 they discovered that their Church had been entered and damaged by the invaders so another Church was built and opened in 1837 ; the design of which was to provide protection in case of another War. The Settlers had to start again as many houses were burnt, their stock carried away and the fields were laid to waste. Maybe , because of their experience in the last 15 years it became easier to find their feet , but it must have been a heart wrenching time.
In 1837 a day school was in operation in the Church with Thomas Peel as schoolmaster, a position he held up to 1848. By November 1837, tenders were called for the erection of a schoolmaster's house next to the Church.
Very good rains fell in 1842 and in March of 1843 significant rains fell , causing the Torrens River to rise three times. In fact there was so much rain that it damaged crops.
Peace ,however, was short lived and unfortunately war broke out again in 1846. This time, rather than evacuating the area, defense stations were planned. In April, Clumber Church became the Clumber command station with Thomas Cockroft as Commandant and women and children had the relative safety of the Church should it be needed when the men were out on reconnaissance duties.
The shadow of War appeared again in October 1850 and this time the base camp was established on Edward Timm's farm, Prospect, as it was considered easier to defend than the Church. Settlers set up their wagons here and erected wattle and daub huts and they stayed at the farm Prospect till the end of hostilities in 1853.
The Cape of Good Hope in the meanwhile, was maturing. In 1854 the first Parliament met in Cape Town. This must have led to a feeling of stability and hope for the future for the British Settlers of 1820; especially after the Wars they had experienced.
In 1856/ 1857 an event unfolded which eventually broke the back of the might of the Xhosa nation. This was the great Xhosa Cattle Killing when the Xhosa people were induced by the prophetess Nonggawuse to slaughter their cattle in a mass sacrifice that was predicted to be followed by a miraculous overthrow of the British. Historians estimate that some 300000 or 400000 head of cattle were killed. Because of this , a famine ensued, with some 40 to 50000 people dying of starvation- there are records of corpses littering the streets of KingWilliamsTown.
During this time, Grahamstown was growing too, and its importance was recognized when the second Parliament met here in 1864.
The second Church here at Clumber was now in a dilapidated state after so much usage as a place of worship , of schooling and as a defense station. So a third Church was planned , this one, which was completed in 1867. After the completion of the third Church, the second was still standing and so continued being used as a School .
At this moment in time in this narrative, at the building of this Church , I think it appropriate to cease the narrative on the Nottingham Party. Sure , descendants of the Nottingham Party still populate the vale of Clumber, but as an entity, the Nottingham Party was by now fragmented, with new descendants of other Parties populating Clumber. Their legacy however lives on in this beautiful , but simple Church. So many of the original features are still with us.
Under our feet, out of sight, the sneezewood joists , in sight,the yellowwood floor, the yellowwood pews. The Windows and doors of teak and many panes of 1867 glass in the Windows. The ceiling too is original with the Oregon trusses above it ,and not a nail in sight . Look at the magnificent ceiling vent . The pulpit was bought in Grahamstown and made by an 1820 Settler. All the walls are of stone and plastered. The vestry however was added on later to commemorate the centenary of the 1820 Settlers and is constructed of brick on a stone foundation.
To end, I would like you to go back in time and contemplate the losses experienced in the Colony following the 6th Border War which erupted in 1834. In the diary of Elijah Pike he lists all that which was lost . We all talk so glibly about the effects of war. Can we really grasp the immense loss and devastation ? The numbers are terrifying
111, 930 head of cattle
161,930 sheep and goats
436 houses and 58 wagons consumed by fire
300 houses pillaged
Standing crops and gardens entirely destroyed.
These people deserve our admiration for standing firm and not abandoning that which they had painstakingly built up.
About the Nottingham Party we say this.
We will continue to honour their incredible tenacity, strength of will , their faith, in building a new future, full of promise and hope , for their descendants. We will never know the depths of the lows which they experienced , but the proof is , they rose above it , and left us, their descendants , an incredible story of which we can be immensely proud. We will remember them.
Thank you for listening