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The Cuthbert's Building

The imposing treble-storeyed building, with its Flemish Renaissance gables, was designed by the architects Parker and Forsyth of Cape Town and erected in 1901 under the supervision of J. Pender West, of the same firm, for W.M. Cuthbert.

In 1895 a Mr David McMillian came out from Northern Ireland. He bought an empty site at the corner of Oxford Street and Argyle Street for the sum of £500. However, when he was asked to pay up he could not find the money.

Luckily he was able to talk a distant cousin, W.M. Cuthbert from Cape Town, into taking over the site for a branch of his shoe shop.

Thus it was that this magnificent building came to be erected. Invitations for tenders were advertised in the East London Dispatch in December 1900 by the Cape Town Architect John Parker. Tenders closed on Tuesday the 13th January, 1901.

The architects were later to be known as Parker and Forsyth. Building was supervised by a junior member of this firm J. Pender West who later opened up his own office in East London and was to design the Cambridge School.

Although some of the detailing and elements in this building are highly eclectic, for example the string course which joins pilasters but is intersected by the interesting gables, and the mixture of fenestration types, the whole building has a fascinating complexity and resulting richness which is altogether rather fine.

Mention must be made, too, of the very fine cast-iron balustrading which tops the street verandah roof. The Free or Flemish Renaissance gables and the three-storeyed massing provide a very pleasing composition and the corner treatment is highly successful.

But the most important element in this building is its urban context and it must be seen as a homogeneous part of the group which includes the Town Hall and the old Public Library. Location: 110 Oxford Street, East London

Constructed: 1901

Source: South African Heritage Resource Agency

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