Episode 84 – The 1820 Settlers ramble among Algoa Bay shrubbery

Between December 1819 and the first quarter of 1820, 21 ships left England and Ireland bound for the Cape carrying five thousand men, women and children.
The ships docked at Cape Town after weeks at sea to take on food and water, and for officials to come aboard. Settlers were not allowed to leave the ships, which then sailed onwards to anchor in Algoa Bay starting in April 1820. The rest would follow through to the end of July, the mid-winter in South Africa, and not the best time to land a ship on the coast.
You can imagine the immigrants shock as they looked out over the bay from these vessels, because there was nothing in the way of settlements, just bush, and the landscape was alien – at least at first.
The Eastern Cape is a remarkably beautiful area, but its rugged, full of succulants, dry, but when it rains, seemingly covered in vegetation.
Who were these people, these 1820 settlers? The Colonial Office initially had instituted rigid conditions to ensure that those of sound character were shipped out. But these rules were broken almost immediately.
Some were parties under the leadership of men of means and ability as you’ve heard, those who could take indentured servants, labourers and mechanics. The Colonial Office’s original idea of taking only agricultural men and women who’d been dispossessed of their land in Britain was poorly instituted.
IT appeared that many of these farmers were not farmers at all, but artisans, tradesmen and mechanics, who’d changed CVs so to speak, they pretended to be men of the earth when they were really men of settlements. They had grand dreams of paradise, after all the Times and other newspapers had published glowing reports of this new land of milk and honey and would do anything to get out of Britain. Some parishes sought to unload their less productive citizens and falsified their skills on the resumes.
Why did so many people want to escape from England at this time? Basically, it was hell back home. Riots, uprisings, land theft, economic decline, government oppression, it all tore at the fabric of British society and for many of these people escape to South Africa – or virtually anywhere for that matter – was better than staying at home. Ironic then that in the 21st Century, Africans are trying to make the reverse trip.
Times change.