Armoria corporitiva

Livingstone Hospital

Korsten, Port Elizabeth

by Mike Oettle

Livingstone Hospital

ARMS registered in the name of the Livingstone Hospital Board, in terms of a certificate issued by the Bureau of Heraldry on 14 April 1971. They are blazoned:


Azure, a pyramid Argent charged with a campanile proper.


The pyramid is clearly more sharply angled than those found at Gizeh in Egypt, since it is not modelled on those pyramids. It is the memorial erected in 1820 to Elizabeth Frances Donkin (née Markham, died August 1818 at Meerut in India), wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, on the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth.

Donkin selected the site for the pyramid in August of that year. “Settler draughtsman Thomas Willson made drawings for a pyramid similar to that of Caius Cestius in Rome, and William Reed supplied the stone. The builders were soldiers from the Fort.[1] In June 1821 [Johann] Knobel surveyed 5 morgen 535 sq roods of land around the memorial which was to remain an open space in perpetuity.”[2]

The Donkin pyramid is also to be found in the arms of Pearson and Lawson Brown High Schools.

seal of the Port Elizabeth Philatelic Society

The campanile is also a specific one, namely that erected alongside the Port Elizabeth railway station (close to the harbour entrance) to mark the centenary of the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. It is ironic that British settlers were honoured with the erection of an Italian-style bell tower. Nonetheless, the Campanile,[3] as it is called, has also found its way into use as a symbol of Port Elizabeth.

The image shown here of the Campanile is taken from the seal of the Port Elizabeth Philatelic Society. While the seal depicts not only the Campanile itself but also the pyramid (alongside the old lighthouse on the Donkin Reserve) with some accuracy, the placement of the figures in the landscape is fanciful, since the Campanile is some distance from the Reserve.

Nurses trained at Livingstone Hospital traditionally wore these arms as an enamelled brooch.


About Korsten and the hospital:

The association between Port Elizabeth and the name Korsten goes back to 1812, when a Dutch merchant, Frederick Korsten, purchased (with a company) the opstal of the farm Papenkuilsfontein.[4]

He later renamed the farm Cradockstown or Cradock Place, after Governor Sir John Cradock.

Harradine writes: “Korsten had won a contract to supply 300 barrels of salted beef to [Fort Frederick]. In partnership with C F Pohl he established the first trading post in the Eastern Cape. His concerns included beef salting, tanning, sheep breeding, whaling, milling and barrel making.

“He leased the Santa Cruz[5] and Bird islands for sealing and fishing, and owned his own ships (the Uitenhage Packet was the first ship to enter the Zwartkops River) and a number of farms on which he grazed his stock. He was known for his hospitality.

“Korsten’s only daughter, Maria, widow of John Damant and second wife of John Centlivres Chase, inherited Cradock Place, but the land was subdivided and sold, and in 1909 the house was destroyed by fire.”[6]

In the 1850s subdivisions of Cradock Place were increasingly used as country residences by well-to-do Port Elizabethans, especially in the area now known as Korsten. However, as the century advanced these were increasingly subdivided and sublet. By the early 20th century it had degenerated into a slum, where Coloured people predominated.

Towards the end of the South African War (1899-1902) several locations in Port Elizabeth were found to be ridden with bubonic plague. There were 136 cases officially reported, of which 57 were fatal. The locations were cleared, and their inhabitants moved to a new location at New Brighton.

Black people who did not want to be subjected to the strict rules of the new location chose instead to move to Korsten. Black people continued to occupy homes in Korsten until the application of the Group Areas Act in the 1950s, when they were forcibly removed to New Brighton.

Long before the Second World War the slum conditions in Korsten were a matter of concern to the Port Elizabeth city council, especially following the incorporation of the village into the city in 1924. In 1940, thanks to the efforts of councillor Adolf Schauder, 100 houses were erected on the hillside above Korsten, the beginning of Schauder Township, later known as Schauder­ville.

On 31 December 1937 Dr A J Crenstein and Sir Edward Thornton, following a visit to Port Elizabeth, reported that the city needed a new hospital to serve the Non-European[7] population. The site eventually chosen and donated for the purpose by the City Council was an area of 33 acres (13,35ha) where Stanford Road[8] crossed the Papenkuils River.[9]

The land was handed over on 7 February 1940. Construction, delayed by the Second World War, was eventually undertaken by Siemerink and Brink, and the hospital was opened in October 1955.

The hospital was named for the missionary-explorer Dr David Livingstone, who was sent out to South Africa by the London Missionary Society, which had a station at Bethelsdorp.

He first arrived in South Africa in March 1841, landing at Cape Town and travelling from there by sea to Port Elizabeth. He was accommodated in one of the historic dower houses at Bethelsdorp (still standing today) until he had managed to acquire wagons and provisions for his journey to Kuruman.

The hospital entrance is 6km from Port Elizabeth’s Market Square (from which distances have traditionally been measured), and about halfway to Bethelsdorp, following the route on the plain at the foot of the plateau on which much of Port Elizabeth (from the Donkin Reserve on Central Hill to beyond Newton Park) is built.

At the time of writing (2008) the hospital is being demolished in stages and replaced by an entirely new hospital, ready for use during the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

[1] Fort Frederick, on a bluff overlooking the lagoon of the Baakens or Kabega River, erected in 1799, the first permanent structure in the heart of what was to become Port Elizabeth.

[2] Quoted from Port Elizabeth: A social chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine.

[3] While the Italian pronunciation of the word campanile has four syllables (kam-pa-ni-le), Port Eliza­bethans generally pronounce it with only three: kam-puh-neel, kam-puh-nile (rhyming with the River Nile) or even kam-puh-naal.

[4] Information on Frederick Korsten and the village of Korsten taken from Margaret Harradine’s book.

[5] As mentioned here, this island was named Santa Cruz by Bartolomeu Dias, but is generally known as St Croix.

[6] The foundations of Cradock Place have been preserved, and from time to time there has been talk of re-erecting the buildings. So far nothing has come of it.

[7] This patronising blanket term was used at the time to cover anyone not belonging to the white (“European”) population group – Coloured, Indian and Bantu-speaking (or black), without distinction.

[8] Stanford Road, named for Sir Walter Stanford, is the main thoroughfare of the northern areas of Port Elizabeth, running north-westwards through Korsten and past Gelvandale to Bethelsdorp.

[9] The Papenkuils River rises in the vicinity of Parsons Vlei, a large marshy area which Governor Sir George Grey granted to the rector of St Mary’s Church, in the heart of Port Elizabeth, as a glebe.

One leg of the river runs northward through Van der Kemp’s Kloof to Bethelsdorp, and then westward towards Algoa Park. The other leg runs to the south of it, between Westering and Malabar, running down a deep valley past the Moregrove Quarry and Livingstone Hospital.

The two legs meet near Cradock Place, from where the last part of the river (which is canalised) runs to the sea, and is popularly known as Smelly Creek. The Creek Interchange, where the Settlers Way freeway into the city meets the N2, is at its mouth.

The hospital stands alongside the southern leg.

The river is named for the farm Papenkuilsfontein, which in turn takes its name from bulrushes that grow near the hospital. (See this page for more about this plant.)


Back to top of page

Vir Afrikaans, kliek hier

Image of arms by Barrie Burr.

Back to Armoria corporativa index

Back to Armoria index

Comments, queries: Mike Oettle