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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.