There are a number of abandoned churches dotted all over the Eastern Cape, some harking back to the early days of various settlers who needed a spiritual meeting place where they could draw succour from their belief in God and from each other as they battled to tame the land and deal with the drought or unfamiliar pests that attacked their crops. Perhaps some were abandoned once larger churches had been built and the means to get there had improved. There might have been changes in the communities themselves, with people moving away to try their luck elsewhere or through a waning relationship with formal worship. Who can tell? One such church is very close to the Southwell road.

This simple, white-washed church must have served a community for many years. The corrugated iron roof and fairly modern window frames with brass handles suggest that it may have been refurbished and used into the last century at least. There are no window panes left and the window in the transept has been boarded up with corrugated iron. This makes me wonder if it had perhaps been a stained glass window that now adorns someone’s home. As you can see, the veld has been allowed to grow to the buttressed walls and trees have seeded themselves nearby. The cement steps leading into the vestibule are broken.

Note the pale blue crosses added to the plaster on either side of the door as well as the cross-shaped hole higher up on the tower.

Surprisingly, there is still a bench in the vestibule.

The interior is cool, the walls painted a mixture of earthy tones and what had probably been white. Low brick steps lead up to the crossing, with a higher level indicating where the altar might have been. A broken bench is against the wall of the apse and a single broken wooden door leans against the entrance to one of them.

This is what the church looks like on the side away from the road: the windows open to the elements and the natural grass, shrubs and trees look ready to claim their own.

Unfortunately, it looks as though the foundation stone has been removed – putting an end to finding out when this church was built or consecrated. The building nonetheless remains as a reminder of an earlier time in this area when life was very different to what we experience these days.


  1. A fascinating exploration, Anne. Many of our churches and chapels have been converted to dwellings (often multiple if big enough) or even antique centres. I nearly bought a chapel once, but the buyer took it off the market


  2. Interesting. Occasionally we run across an old chapel when out birding. I always wonder why they become abandoned. Usually it is as you say the congregation goes to a larger church or they break up into smaller groups and go elsewhere. There are still several small chapels dotted around our county that are still having services.


    • The same applies here too: small churches or chapels that hold services on a regular basis. These usually are ones serving the various farming communities.


  3. I’ll echo Derrick. As far as I know, there are no abandoned churches in Maine. Instead, they are converted to other uses, usually homes. Artists are especially keen on buying them. Lots of space with great light.


    • There are said to be fifty-two churches in our town that are still in use – hence the nickname, The City of Saints! These range from very small to the large cathedral in the centre of town. The abandoned churches I have shown here occasionally have all been out in the country – possibly built by early farming communities. Each one must have absorbed an interesting history of the social development of this area.


  4. Interesting to view this modern ruin. Here as well, many churches have been sold or let go due to lack of congregation. Public church services have declined significantly in the past 50 years. In contrast, however, the rise of ‘mega-churches’ in the South as well as televised services show there are still strong religious interest.


    • Church congregations have suffered since the outbreak of the pandemic: churches were closed for many months’ then allowed to admit only a few congregants at a time; closed again; opened … some communities resorted to Zoom while others have faded. These ‘mega-churches’ must fill a particular need in modern society that draws people to them.


  5. When seeing these old, abandoned churches on the “platteland” my mind always goes to the happy and sad moments those buildings have been part of. Weddings, christenings, funerals. Congregants getting together for communion and regular services, their lives converging for an hour or two before each goes their separate way again.

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