Then & Now: Gardiner Street

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

Share this article:

THE old picture this week takes in a section of Gardiner Street – today Dorothy Nyembe street – facing the City Hall which was shot in 1938.

In the foreground is the Kenilworth Building at the intersection of Gardiner and West (Dr Pixley kaSeme) streets, with Reed & Champion, the chemists, on the corner. And next you can see an early Woolworths store. This was shortly before the Kenilworth building was pulled down for a multi-storey art deco building which stood on the spot until it itself was pulled down in the early 90s.

Captain Allen Francis Gardiner, one of the city’s first missionaries, arrived at the Bay of Natal in 1834. He then visited Zulu King Dingane in uMgungundlovu, seeking to establish a mission in Zululand. When this was refused, he returned to the Bay of Natal and set up a small rustic mission, naming it “Berea“ after the Greek city in the Book of Acts.

Gardiner Street, now Dorothy Nyembe Street. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Born in Oxfordshire on January 28, 1794, he had a religious education before entering the Royal Navy, reaching the rank of commander, but his interests soon turned to missionary work.

Gardiner was among the city’s early pioneers who met on June 23, 1834 in the hut of Mr Berkin to discuss whether or not to establish a town at the Bay of Natal. On agreeing to this, the party then scouted the sandy plane alongside the bay for a suitable location.

He spent a further four years at Natal before leaving for a missionary station in Chile. He died on September 6, 1851, of starvation on Picton Island, Tierra del Fuego.

Gardiner Street was proclaimed by Durban’s first mayor, George Cato, in the 1850s, and formed the western boundary of the Market Square, the intersection of West and Gardiner Streets becoming the most important hub of a busy maritime city.

Today’s picture, by our photographer Shelley Kjonstad, shows a very different scene and far less charming scene.

Share this article: