Image courtesy of J Davis
What were their sentiments, motivations, values and activities?
Around this time an open air street market was developed by the Durban City Council in Victoria Street extending from Grey Street to Brooke Street and the corner of Cemetery Lane. This market was the trading hub for around 2000 sellers whom majority were market gardeners that lined both ends of the street in carts selling mainly staple vegetables in baskets and barrows. These traders used to arrive each evening around 20:00pm and spent the night sleeping under their carts before trading began at 04:003m the next day.
According to the trading restrictions from the Council, trading ceased at 09:00 on weekdays and 10:30 on Saturdays. 30 minutes later a municipal water cart moved down the street to wash it down. This market came to be known as the ”Squatters Market” as many traders squatted cross-legged in the street alongside their goods. Grey street developed into an established Indian business district but the white people saw the traders as a public nuisance as the streets were covered in rotting vegetables and leaves and schism developed between the Hindu and Muslim farmers which resulted in the Hindu group organising a Market Committee to meet with the council to request a separate market for their exclusive use. This resulted in the city council moving the squatters market to Warwick Avenue as the Council considered the market a lucrative industry to the economy of Natal. The Warwick early morning market was therefore established on the 1St February 1934, while the original Victoria Street Market, better known as the Indian Market, or the Stallholders’ Market, became an outlet for more diversified goods.
At around the same time the Council reconsidered the location of the Borough Market in the central CBD as its facilities, over time, had become congested and the availability of a railway siding in Berea Road Station had made the relocation more suitable, as a result a new bulk sales hall was opened south of the early morning market on the 1‘t October 1935. This tine brick building stood in stark contrast to the Early Morning Market, which was housed in a rudimentary, open-sided structure with concrete tables and few amenities. Access to the area was originally limited to a bridge which crossed over the railway line at Theatre Road, and was probably built before 1910, but this was improved in about 1931 with the construction a road bridge over the railway line at Victoria Street, and the development of a boulevard in 1933 linking Warwick to Old Dutch Road.
1860 – 1885
The site on which the present day Victoria St Market was rebuilt, was that of the” Original Indian Market ” that was built Town Council in 1910 which was eventually guttered by fire in 1973. Prior to this major event, the history of the fight and struggle to keep the market a multi-racial and unrestricted place of trade stems from the arrival of Indian people labourers to south Africa in 1860 where approximately 152,641 people came to the Natal Colony as indentured labourers working on the sugar cane fields.
Indentured labourers working on the sugar cane helds
Upon expiration of their 5-year contracts, a few renewed their indenture and some returned to India but almost 60% decided to make their permanent residency in South Africa around the 18705. This trend was also followed by families of entrepreneurs, known as passenger Indians who independently funded and established themselves locally as traders. Around 1884 some 20,877 free Indians had made their homes in Natal.
These Indian people employed market gardening and fishing as a means of making a living.
By 1885 around 2000 were labouring on lands in and around Natal, Some had established thriving businesses by being the cheapest suppliers of fresh produce whilst others led a hand to mouth existence therefore trading in Natal was a crucial factor to their economic survival.