There are 70 Heritage Sites in the central parts of old Grahamstown. Take a look at the map and you will see that the 10 religious ones featured here are mostly found between the Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels (on the Rhodes University campus) eastwards through the CBD and down to Sunnyside where you find St Bartholomew’s Church. Then to the east, and looking down from opposite sides of the Kowie River, are The Old Wesleyan Chapel on the Fort England ridge and St Philip’s Church at the bottom of Fingo Village.
The Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels has a lovely tranquil setting in the St Peter’s grounds of the Rhodes University campus. It was built in 1915 and consecrated in 1916. Inside there’s a beautiful altarpiece of the Madonna and Child that was painted between 1924 and 1929 by Sister Margaret.
The Cathedral of St Michael and St George is a most impressive building, and one of old Grahamstown’s icons. Situated right in the centre of the town it towers above Church Square and acts as a counterpoint to the Rhodes University clock tower. It was built between 1824 and 1911 in the neo-gothic style which makes quite a contrast to the basilican style of the Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels.
Just around the corner on Hill Street lies St Patrick’s Church. It was built between 1839 and 1844 by the Royal Inniskilling Fusliers who were stationed nearby. It’s another building that makes the most of its situation even though today it is slightly overshadowed by the Public Library next door.
Commemoration Methodist Church was built on High Street from 1845-1850 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of landing of the 1820 Settlers in Algoa Bay. You get a fine view of its neo-gothic facade from the junction of Bathurst Street and High Street.
A little further down High Street are the Shaw Hall (also known as the New Wesleyan Chapel) and next door lies the Sole Memorial Church. Shaw Hall became the home the Methodists in 1831 (previously they held services at the Yellow Chapel in Chapel Street) but by 1844 their congregation was too large and so Commemoration Methodist Church was built. Shaw Hall is named after Rev William Shaw, who was the founder of the Methodist Church in South Africa and in 1864 it was where the Cape Parliament was opened – the only time it ever sat outside Cape Town. Next door is The Sole Memorial Church that was built between 1838 and 1843. Originally a schoolhouse it’s named after John Henry Sole.
The Baptist Church on Bathurst Street will be celebrating its Bicentenary in 2020. Although the church was built in 1843 the congregation had moved from their first meeting house that was on Bartholomew Street in Sunnyside.
St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church and St Philip’s Anglican Church are still almost visible from one to the other. St Barts was built in the suburb of Sunnyside in 1857 and St Philip’s in Fingo Village in 1860.
My final picture is of the Old Wesleyan Chapel at Fort England. it was built in 1861 just outside the barracks on what was then known as East Barrack Hill. The school house adjacent was built later.
As 2020 – the bicentenary of the 1820 Settlers – gets closer I will be making further ‘occasional’ posts (with pictures) in this heritage style.
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