SERENDIPITY – TIME SERVED

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WE have highlighted the settler jail in Alexandria in previous articles, and the reason it is being mentioned once more- is that an amazing family have recently purchased the building, and have totally refurbished all that was needed to repair.

Tasked with ferreting out the history and contributing to the photographs, this story is a combination of absorbed interest.  The little building is exquisite, with all timber and dungeons intact.

Although the courthouse and village predates the 1820 Settlers, the Alexandria division was originally part of Uitenhage. However, in 1855 a notice was published in the Government Gazette specifying the boundaries of the proposed district of Alexandria.

In the following year, it was separated from Uitenhage and under British rule a magistracy created. The first official to occupy the bench was WF Liddle, former private secretary to the Governor Sir George Grey. He was appointed resident magistrate on January 8 1856, at a salary of £300 per annum.

The first chief constable was W Deacon, the senior constable and interpreter was W Baker, former messenger to the Colonial Office, while there were also another unknown constable and gaoler. The jail was capable of holding 12 people in the cells.

In August 1857, E Philpott, who had entered the service in 1837, was appointed resident magistrate in the place of Liddle, and when Alexandria became an entirely separate division on January 7 1858, he was also appointed civil commissioner with an additional salary of £100 per annum.

The prison was upgraded in 1859 to a much more substantial structure than the lock-up that had done duty before. It was not completed until 1860, when nearly £1 500 had been expended on it.

Philpott remained there until February, 1866, when he was promoted to Cradock, and subsequently to Uitenhage, his place on the Alexandria bench being taken by CW Southey, who in turn was succeeded by J W Honey.

Magistrate Honey reported in 1869 that a chapel for the coloured people was being built, and would shortly be completed. He also stated that a large windmill, costing between £700 and £800 was being erected, and would add greatly to the appearance of the village when looked at from one side.

The flourmill was built, without a windmill, after town engineers, had re-routed the Oliphants River, hence the name of the village in 1746 – Oliphants Hoek.

Caption: The building which once served as the jail in Alexandria

 

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