Then & Now: The Kentish Tavern

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Mar 28, 2020

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Durban - The Kentish Tavern, at 446 Dr Pixley kaSeme (West) Street, was one of Durban’s famed drinking holes, being first shown on the map of the city in 1892. It was opposite a pub called the Phoenix, described as a wattle and daub building enclosed by a tall reed fence.

It was started by a widow named Quested, from Kent. Originally, it was “a pretty thatched cottage standing back from the street with neat palings and flowers in front”, according to the tome Durban 1824-1974.

Widow Quested and her two daughters made ginger beer to make ends meet, setting up “a comfortable room for its quiet consumption”. Business thrived and she soon started a brewery and ultimately got a canteen licence in her enlarged establishment, seen in the first picture.

In a close-up picture of the tavern, it’s interesting to note that it stocked Castle Beers.

The Kentish Tavern in West Street with C Argo and the new Bales building in the background. The picture was taken sometime after 1936.

The first picture was taken after 1936, which was when the “high-rise” Bales Building just past C Argo’s was built. The building was designed by architects Moffat and Hirst.

C Argo’s at 440 West Street was a supplier of bathroom fittings, baths, toilets and porcelain sanitaryware. The little lane on the left is Foundry Lane.

It is believed the Questeds were originally on their way to Australia on the Minerva, but settled in Durban after the ship was wrecked on a reef off the Bluff in 1850. No lives were lost among the 287 passengers and crew, but the settlers lost all their possessions.

The Questeds went on to make their mark in the fledgling city in the sugar industry, with plantations at Isipingo.

In the modern picture taken by photographer Shelley Kjonstad, the Argo’s building (now a McDonalds) and Bales building are still standing. The Kentish Tavern has been pulled down and the new building houses a Pep store.

The Independent on Saturday

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