Durban West

Durban West encompasses a vibrant residential, commercial and industrial area inland from Durban, between the Indian Ocean to the east and the Valley of 1000 Hills to the west. The region’s pleasant, central position and many leisure attractions have seen it grow over the years to become a popular choice for residential and business property development.

BELLAIR lies between Hillary and Carrington Heights, west of the Umbilo River. This conveniently situated suburb is near to the main arterial routes of the M7, M10 and N2 and in close vicinity to the state-of-the-art Nkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

CATO MANOR is a suburb steeped in history, situated about five kilometres from the Durban CBD. It was originally settled in the early 1900s by Indian market gardeners who subsequently leased plots to many African families, resulting in the birth of a lively Afro-Indian society. Famous past residents include President Jacob Zuma, musician Sipho Gumede, poet Mi S’dumo Hlatshwayo and trade unionist George Champion. Much of its past has however been turbulent; from the 1949 race riots between Indian and African residents to the forced removal of occupants which took place in the 1950s and 1960s following the declaration of Cato Manor as a white zone under the infamous Group Area Act. The area has been given a new lease on life following the implementation of the eThekwini Municipality’s ambitious urban development plan, incorporating low-cost housing, schools, clinics, libraries, a market, heritage centre and multi-purpose centres with funding from the European Union.

CHESTERVILLE is a former ‘blacks-only’ township situated between Cato Manor and Westville and named after the one-time manager of Durban’s Native Administration Department, TJ Chester. It is the birthplace of the writer, academic and literary critic, Lewis Nkosi, who was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga during 2008 in recognition of his contribution to South African literature.

CLERMONT is surrounded by Westville, Kloof, New Germany and Inanda. During the Apartheid era it was a black middle-income township, and was one of the only places in the
Durban region where Africans were able to buy property and build houses. Swelled by rural-urban migration, this sprawling suburb has grown swiftly in recent years and facilities include a large number of schools, the important KwaDabeka Clinic, Elangeni College and Emphelandaba Sports Field. Clermont is home to a variety of active church communities, including Zionist, Nazareth Baptist (Shembe), Anglican, Catholic and Methodist, all sporting colourful and unique church uniforms. There are a number of taverns in the area, and night-life is lively, particularly on weekends.

COWIES HILL is an upmarket residential area located between Westville and Pinetown, 15 kilometres from Durban. Formerly named Steilhoogte (steep heights), it gained its present-day name from William Cowie, one of the original settlers. Today it is well-known as the final hill-climb in the exhausting down-run of the Pietermaritzburg-to-Durban Comrades Marathon. This peaceful suburb, with its luxuriant foliage, beautiful trees, rich bird life and proximity to indigenous forest, is nevertheless close to many nearby amenities such as Westville’s Pavilion Shopping Centre and the hubs of Hillcrest, Pinetown and Durban.

MARIANNHILL comprises a small suburb situated close to Pinetown and best known for the picturesque Mariannhill Monastery. Founded in 1882 as a Trappist monastery by Prior Francis Pfanner, the monastery was constructed by the monks themselves, many of whom were accomplished craftsmen and builders. Development was rapid, and additional land was soon purchased next to the Umhlatuzana River, where a mill and turbine were erected. A larger church – St Joseph’s Cathedral – was built in the Romanesque Revival architectural style and remains in use to this day. Starting out as a clinic, St Mary’s Hospital was opened in 1922 and still serves the surrounding communities with an operating theatre, maternity section, outpatients’ clinic and nurses’ training centre.

Mariannhill has also been an important educational centre for African boys and girls since the late 1800s, and St Francis College has produced many notable alumni, including the linguist and poet, Dr BW Vilakazi; former UN Secretary, Dr B Chidzero; and the black consciousness leader, Steve Biko. The first-ever Zulu newspaper, ‘umAfrika’ (originally titled ‘Izindaba Zabantu’) was printed by Mariannhill Mission Press in 1911. Today, the monastery is a lovely spot to visit, take in the unique architecture and experience the serenity of the surroundings. Tours of the museum and old tannery are available and there is a tea garden.

MAYVILLE and the neighbouring suburb of Westridge comprise a mix of residential, commercial and light manufacturing zones lying between Durban’s Berea and Sherwood, close to Tollgate and the N3 freeway.

NEW GERMANY, which was originally known as ‘Neu-Deutschland’, was founded in 1848 by a group of 183 German settlers under an immigration plan initiated by Jonas Bergtheil. When the original scheme of growing cotton proved unsuccessful, these first settlers began instead to grow flowers and vegetables. New Germany became a municipality in 1960 and has subsequently been incorporated into the eThekwini Municipality. Today the suburb is a popular residential area, especially for starter homes, and is close to the main highways between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The section bordering on Pinetown is involved in light manufacturing and includes an industrial park.

For a taste of the area’s history, visit the Bergtheil Local History Museum, which is housed in a 19th Century farmhouse and contains an interesting collection of photographs, documents and artefacts relating to the German settlers and the surrounding communities. Other attractions include the New Germany Nature Reserve with its prolific birdlife, walk-in bird aviary, two dams and animals such as impala, bushbuck and duiker.

PINETOWN lies at the foot of Field’s Hill on the road to Kloof and covers the area between Cowies Hill to the east and the Westmead industrial area to the west. The town grew up around the old Wayside Hotel, which was built in 1849 along the main wagon trail between the seaport of Durban and the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg.

Today a residential as well as light industrial area, Pinetown has many amenities, including shopping centres like Pine Walk and Pine Crest, and health facilities such as the Crompton Hospital and Medicross private medical centre. Sports facilities include the Pinetown Cricket Club, established in 1873 and said to be the oldest cricket club in the province.

During the second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the British army under Lord Kitchener was given orders to burn Boer homesteads and destroy their livestock in an effort to put a stop to the Boers’ ongoing guerrilla warfare tactics. This move saw thousands of women and children being removed from their farms and transferred to concentration camps across the breadth of South Africa and beyond its borders. Four of these camps were established in the eThekwini area, including Pinetown, Jacobs, Isipingo and Merebank. Although there exists little to no evidence of the camps at either Isipingo or Pinetown, the site at Jacobs contains a few graves and a central memorial, and the Merebank camp witnessed some limited restoration during the 1970s. Anglo-Zulu War and Anglo-Boer War graves may be seen in Pinetown’s St John’s Church, while Mariannhill Mission also contains the graves of several British soldiers who died from wounds or disease during the Anglo-Boer War.

QUEENSBURGH is a hilly area bounded by Westville and Pinetown to the north and Chatsworth to the south, and consists of the suburbs of Malvern, Escombe, Northdene and Moseley. It contains a wide range of residential properties, from affordable to distinctly upmarket, and is popular because of its accessibility as well numerous nature-based attractions. These include the beautiful and secluded coastal forest reserve of North Park, with its water birds, duiker and mongoose, and the lovely four-star Queensburgh Caravan Park, situated in a valley facing the Umbilo River and Roosfontein sub-tropical forest and cliffs. The Roosfontein Nature Reserve comprises 150 hectares of grassland and riverine bush.

RESERVOIR HILLS incorporates the region north of Westville and east of New Germany and Clermont. Under the former Apartheid system, this pleasantly green residential suburb was zoned as an ‘Indian area’.

SARNIA is a quiet suburb in close proximity to Cowies Hill, Pinetown and the Umbilo River, which meanders through the 170-hectare Paradise Nature Reserve. The Umbilo Water Works (1887-1905) is a national monument located in the reserve, which also boasts attractions such as four kilometres of trails through grassland and forest.

SHERWOOD is one of the region’s older suburbs, lying close to Durban between Sydenham and the 45th cutting and Westville areas. It is often called the ‘garden suburb’ because of its many nurseries and picturesque gardens, and a number of properties here have been upgraded and improved in recent years. It is named after the British army’s 45th Regiment of Foot – tagged the ‘Sherwood Foresters’ – who were based here in the mid-1800s. The regiment was responsible for digging the cutting through the hill, which was achieved using picks and shovels, and the spot became known as ‘45th cutting’.

SYDENHAM is a vibrant fusion of different cultures which lies behind Durban’s upmarket Berea yet in close proximity to the bustling suburbs of Sparks Estate, Sherwood and Clare Hills. It enjoys easy access to the Durban CBD as well as other surrounding commercial centres to the north, north-west, and south-east via the N3, N3 and M13 highways. Property here is a mix of residential and commercial, and there are quite a few apartment blocks.

WESTMEAD, which is a predominantly commercial and light industrial area, covers the area west of Pinetown near the N3 highway.

WESTVILLE is just a 15-minute drive from the centre of Durban, between Sherwood and Pinetown, yet retains a peaceful, suburban atmosphere. Substantial properties, lush gardens and quiet streets set amidst rolling hills hark back to the area’s farming roots.

Aside from its residential advantages, Westville has a number of thriving office parks and a variety of good shopping malls, including the region’s second-largest mall in The Pavilion shopping centre. There are excellent schools as well as the Westville campuses of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Varsity College. Places of worship include Catholic, Baptist and Anglican churches, and the Habibia Soofie Masjid mosque. The forested Palmiet Nature Reserve is characterised by rugged cliffs, diverse indigenous vegetation and fascinating birdlife, and contains an iron-age site as well as the ram pump from the historic Durban to Pietermaritzburg wagon route.

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