LINE OF CELLS: The former gaols at the old Port Alfred Hospital
THE recent questions regarding slaves jogged me into telling some stories.
Port Alfred, at one stage had the largest number of slaves, about 600-odd. Bearing in mind, that having slaves was illegal for anyone to own, in the colony. However, with the construction of the harbour, these poor “prisoners” were loaded onto wagons, from the Cape, and brought to the village to work. Possibly the government of the time considered this an option?
Anyway, they worked on the walls of the harbour area and river, which, many of you know, are clad in rock. This rock in turn, was blasted off the cliff along the road to the West Beach area, and behind the existing hospital.
At night, the prisoners were incarcerated in cells in the hospital area. The “baddies” were put into a cave a little way out of the grounds. There they were chained at night, hence the stories of ghosts and the sounds of chains, which is another favourite topic from tourists.
It is said that due to incarceration and other tales handed down, a mental facility was constructed for slaves and other who needed this type of treatment. The hospital was known as “the mental” for many years, until revamped and is now a modern hospital.
Patients from the secure area were sent to Fort England in Grahamstown. There is a fairly well kept graveyard on the west bank where prisoners and others were buried. They are only numbered, but records are kept at Fort England.