WRONG DESTINATION

From an old notebook …

While on the subject of Dutch Reformed churches, it was during a military history tour of the Adelaide area in the Eastern Cape a few years ago that we were told an interesting story by our guide of an event that took place a year into the start of the Anglo-Boer War. In response to the Boer commandos invading towns along the  border of the Cape Colony, the British forces defending Adelaide at the time commandeered the well-built Dutch Reformed church for their headquarters and used it as barracks. Naturally the congregants of the church were angry at this rough-shod invasion of their church and the resultant damage to the interior. According to our guide, the rectory of the church was, for a time, used as a stable!

Once the war was over and the British troops had left, the Dutch Reformed community set about trying to restore the damage done to the interior of their church. There was little money available and their donation drive did not yield enough for the refurbishment of the pews and pulpit.

Three months later, however, they were astounded when two wagons entered the town of Adelaide laden with finely cut oak timber – apparently some sources say the consignment included a beautifully carved pulpit and matching chair. The townsfolk assumed that the British had sent this by way of compensation and as an apology for the damage the troops had caused. Within a few months the church and rectory was fully restored – all was well.

Except … two years later the mayor of the town received a letter from the mayor of Adelaide in Australia wondering whether the consignment of oak they had ordered from England for their new church had possibly been delivered to the wrong address …

Well, of course it had! What to do about it? Photographs were taken of the refurbished interior of the church and sent along with an explanation of what had happened.

FOUR RURAL TOWN CHURCHES

A striking feature of many rural towns in South Africa is the presence of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NG) / Dutch Reformed Church which is usually visible from a considerable distance. The architecture of these churches differs from town to town too, making them interesting places to visit. This one in Pearston was designed by Carl Otto Hager in the Neo-Gothic style and completed by Arthur Reid.

It was consecrated in 1887. Here is a closer view of the clock tower showing the clock face in a pedimented frame:

This is a close view of the gable finial:

Then there is the attractive Dutch Reformed church in Aberdeen.

It is reputed to have one of the tallest steeples in the country – the other is that of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Grahamstown.

The church, built in the Cape Gothic style, was constructed in two stages. The first was completed in 1864 and the second in 1907.

An interesting looking Dutch Reformed church is this one in Riviersonderend, which was designed by Wynand Louw and consecrated in October 1938.

Lastly, we look at the beautiful Dutch Reformed church in Heidelberg.

Although the foundation stone for the original building was laid in March 1872 and the church consecrated in July 1873, it became dilapidated over time and a larger building was required. The foundation stone for the current church, built in the Gothic style, was laid in March 1913. Note the rooster on its weathervane.

 

GRAHAMSTOWN HISTORICAL CEMETERY

A large number of our principal citizens gathered in Church Square yesterday afternoon, with the many immediate friends of the bereaved family, in order to follow to the grave the funeral of this lady, whose decease was recorded by us on Monday last. The ceremony took place in the Wesleyan Cemetery, the neatness and beauty of which bear testimony to the kindly care of Mrs. FLETCHER, with whom (as well as with other members of her family since her illness) it has long been a labour of love to attend to the adornment of the last resting place of so many of our early colonists and their descendants.

Extract from The Grahamstown Journal Wednesday 5 April 1882.  [Bolding of words is mine].

The Wesleyan Cemetery forms a part of the larger cemetery in Grahamstown that is often referred to as the ‘old cemetery’ as the ‘new’ one is situated much further away. Look on in horror at what this historical cemetery looks like today:

This overgrown unkempt cemetery filled with historical graves that provide a capsule of the history of the town is not only scattered with litter, but has been vandalised and it is in fact unsafe to clamber through the weeds and bushes on one’s own. Ironically, a strong metal fence, fancy gates and a sturdy lock guard one roadside frontage, whilst the fence has been torn down elsewhere as people have made a path through it – a shortcut into town.

Most of the rusty metal railings surrounding graves have either been broken or removed – doubtless to sell as scrap metal. This is one of the few that has survived such an onslaught. For how long?

We had visited the cemetery with out of town friends who were looking for graves with a family connection – a very difficult task under the circumstances. Not many graves were still upright and in a fairly good condition like this one:

An astounding number of gravestones have been deliberately pushed over:

Given the climate and the age of the cemetery, it is probably natural that some of the sun-baked bricks would erode – although we felt that some were being deliberately gouged out:

Even the marble lion atop a memorial honouring men from various regiments who had died while serving during various Frontier Wars has had part of its face smashed:

Sadly, this is the fate of many cemeteries, especially those in rural towns.