The History of The Land Between Hartley & Hopelands Road Every day, hundreds of people drive up the narrow road which leads to Parklands Hospital in Overport, but few know the romantic story that lies behind the area. In Yorkshire, a hundred and fifty years ago this month, a twenty-one year old draper’s assistant, William Hartley, happened to pick up a book entitled “The New Colony of Port Natal” written by a Mr Methley. He was so fascinated by it that he read it aloud to his fiancé, Isabella Hughes. Although she had never set foot outside her home town, Leeds, she became fired by William’s enthusiasm. The couple were married on 14 November 1849, and set sail for Port Natal a fortnight later. All the money they had was $100 in gold sovereigns, a gift from William’s parents. Their ship anchored off Port Natal four months later. Isabella eyed the rough seas and said: ‘What if our boat overturns and we lose everything?’ William laughed, but his wife quietly went and sewed the gold sovereigns into her corset. The boat did overturn, and the Hartleys were washed ashore, more dead than alive, having lost all their possessions – except the sovereigns, which, weighing nearly a kilogram, could not have helped Isabella’s buoyancy. A kind citizen looked after the Hartleys and helped them find somewhere to stay; his name was Dick King.
William Hartley looked for work but could find none. So Isabella snipped four gold sovereigns out of her corset and the couple bought a plot of land in West Street for $42. Here they built a house and a grocer’s shop. In March 1854 the vessel Ariosto was wrecked on the beach where West Street ends today. Its cargo of peppercorns was piled high on the beach and began to stink. The resourceful Hartley swopped his shed for the cargo and the ship’s sails. He dried the peppercorns on the sails and sent them in bags to England where they were sold for $6000. Hartley visited England with Isabella and brought back Manchester cloth of a quality never before seen in the colony. He had soon saved $60 000, and in 1862 he daringly opened a bank, the ‘Durban bank’, issuing his own banknotes. Just ten years after he had first set foot on Natal soil, Hartley was elected as the city’s 8th Mayor. In those days the area we know as Overport was called West Hill. Hartley bought 450 acres (182 ha) of land which is today bordered by Julia, Springfield, Essenwood, and Brickfield Roads, and named the estate ‘Overport’. He had the bush cleared and planted coffee and sugar. The coffee didn’t do well, but in 1872 he was able to build Natal’s first sugar mill in South Road.