CHURCHES THAT REMAIN

The Eastern Cape is not only home to numerous forts, battle sites, graves and monuments that attest to its turbulent past, but there are a number of churches dotted about the countryside – many no longer in use but which remain as a testament to spiritual succour as well as on occasion providing shelter in times of need.

One of the two focused on here is a stone church at Burns Hill, a site where, in 1846, the Xhosas attacked a British wagon train, capturing and destroying half of the 120 wagons and carrying off the wine and regimental plate of the Seventh Dragoon Guards. The whereabouts of the latter remain a mystery.

The corrugated iron roof is rusted, the windows are broken, sections of the guttering have disappeared and the down-pipes have fallen off. A tall tree shades one side, otherwise its surroundings are bare except for some cactus that has taken root in recent years.

Another church that probably dates from sometime after 1856 is St. Mungo Church, situated in the Beanfield Location outside Alice. The rear of the church provides evidence of the ravages of time: a hole in the wall, sun-baked bricks exposed where the plaster has fallen off, a large crack in the wall, and evidence of broken guttering.

These images reflect the state of this church building.

The pile of bricks in the corner suggest a desire to repair some of the damage to the church.

The dusty and torn Xhosa Bible and collection plate hints at a congregation still using this place of worship, if not regularly then at least now and then.

Outside the church is a simple monument erected by Toc H which reads IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO FELL IN THIS VALLEY ON CHRISTMAS DAY 1850. This being the Tyumie Valley, where the Gaikas under Chief Sandile attacked military settlers.

You can read a reference to this in http://www.historicalpapers.wits.ac.za/?inventory/U/collections&c=A182/R/6046

DUTCH REFORMED MOEDERKERK: CRADOCK

Should you have visited Trafalgar Square in London and noted the graceful lines of the St Martins-in-the-Fields church next to South Africa House, you will experience a sense of deja vu when travelling down J A Calata Street (formerly Stockenstroom Street) in Cradock and see the Dutch Reformed Moederkerk rising majestically above the buildings around it. This is because this church has been built to the same design.

This is the 200th anniversary of the Dutch Reformed community. The church has an interesting history, including the fact that President Paul Kruger was christened here by a Welsh pastor in 1826 and that it was occupied by British soldiers who occupied the town during the Anglo-Boer War. They apparently used it as a look-out post and kept watch on the inhabitants from the roof.

The interior is spacious, with seating for approximately 900 worshippers.

The stinkwood pulpit is impressive.

The windmill is an appropriate motif for this area.

The church contains an impressive organ.

And beautiful pews.

We were told of an interesting situation that occurred when a member of the congregation was working on repairing the roof in recent years. Looking down, he noticed two layabouts drinking alcohol on the pavement below. He rather mischievously bellowed down the drainpipe, I see you! The two layabouts got such a fright at hearing this disembodied voice right next to them that they fled in terror!

Sadly, the potential peace and tranquillity of the interior of the church is challenged by loud music blaring from the radios of vendors that crowd the pavement outside, selling anything from butternuts to cheap sandals.

DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH IN SWELLENDAM

One cannot pass through Swellendam without admiring the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church that elegantly presides over the town. Situated on the corner of Church and Voortrekker Streets, the eclectic fusion of its architectural styles is striking.

This church, also known as the Moederkerk (Mother Church), sports Cape Dutch gables and Gothic windows mixed with an Eastern dome, Renaissance entrances, and a Baroque spire, along with a replica of a Belgium wooden tower.

There is so much to take in. Look at this detail on one of the gables.

It has a fascinating history too:

CALITZDORP

Calitzdorp lies in the lee of the Swartberg range. I am always curious to know how the names of towns come about and so am interested to know that Calitzdorp is situated on the site of the original farm, Buffelsvlei (Buffalo Valley), granted to J.J. and M.C. Calitz in 1831. Our visit was fleeting as the next stage of our journey awaited. We nonetheless had a good look at Queens Street, well-known for its Edwardian, Victorian, and Karoo-style buildings. The wooden shutters, casement windows, sash windows, loft staircases and bullnose porch awnings reflect a time when architecture took into account the weather – cool verandas meant a cool interior during the heat of summer and the shutters block out the warm air. It is such a pity that most modern houses in this country no longer have verandas – they are regarded as expensive ‘add-ons’. Apart from the delightful architecture, I was struck by this open invitation to browse relics of bygone days – alas, there was no time to indulge on this visit!

The beautifully constructed sandstone Dutch Reformed Church is impressive. Originally built in 1857, it was declared a national monument in 1991.

Its clock keeps accurate time too – not a common expectation anymore!

Bougainvilleas abound. This multi-coloured hedge …

Almost matched a load of grapes …

Piled on a trailer.

Vineyards are so close that they seem to form an integral part of the town.

We didn’t even scratch the surface of the attractions this small town has to offer – which means a return visit is a must.