The Pyramid of Port Elizabeth

Posted by Travel Trip Blogger on Tue November 17, 2015 in Legends of Port Elizabeth.

The man who built the pyramid was Rufane Donkin and he came from a military family and was the eldest child. His father, Robert Donkin, who reached the rank of a full general, served with many famous British commanders including Wolfe and Gage.
Rufane was baptised with the name Rusaw Shaw Donkin, at St David's Exeter on the 9th October 1772.

Donkin became a captain in 1793 and  saw active service in the West Indies in the next year, gaining promotion to major in 1796. At the age of twenty-five he became a lieutenant-colonel and in 1798 led a light battalion with distinction in Popham's expedition to Ostend. He served with Cathcart in Denmark in 1807 and two years later won command of a brigade of three regiments in the army in Portugal, which he led in victory at the Second Battle of Porto (May 1809).


On the day prior of the Battle of Talavera (July 1809), an advance French force surprised Donkin's brigade (positioned ahead of the main British army) before they could post pickets: the British lost over 400 casualties. Donkin fell back, rallied the men at the main line and led the brigade throughout the battle.

The Army then transferred Donkin, in the role of quartermaster-general, to the Mediterranean command. He served there from 1810 to 1813, taking part in the Catalonian expeditions under Lieutenant-General Frederick Maitland (1812) and Lord William Bentinck (1813). In July 1815, the now Major-General Donkin received a posting to India, distinguishing himself as a divisional commander in Hastings's operations against the Mahrattas (1817–1818) and receiving the KCB as his reward. The death of his young wife Elizabeth Frances née Markham[1] [2] seriously affected him, after that he went to the Cape of Good Hope on extended sick leave. From 1820 to 1821 he administered the Cape Colony with success as acting Governor. He named the rising seaport of Algoa Bay Port Elizabeth in memory of his wife and in August 1820 erected a memorial to her on a hill overlooking Algoa Bay.[3] In 1821 he became lieutenant-general and a member of the GCH.

For the rest of Donkin's life he passed in literary and political work. He was one of the original fellows of the Royal Geographical Society, and was a member of the Royal Society and of many other learned bodies. His theories as to the course of the River Niger, published under the title Dissertation on the Course and Probable Termination of the Niger (London, 1829), involved him in a good deal of controversy. From 1832 to 1837 he sat in the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Berwick-upon-Tweed, and in 1835 became Surveyor-General of the Ordnance. He was elected as MP for Sandwich in 1839, and held that seat until he committed suicide at Southampton on 1 May 1841. He was then a general, and colonel of the 11th Regiment of Foot.

He is listed as one of the important graves lost on Baroness Burdett Coutts Memorial in Old St. Pancras Churchyard in London.

Rufane Donkin's cousin, Charles Collier Michell, served as the surveyor-general of the Cape Colony.

Today the Donkin Reserve is situated close to Belvedere & Doncaster Cottages in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.