Rise of the Clumber Church buildings

National monument took on various shapes and forms after its establishment

In the second of three articles about the history of Clumber Church leading up to its 150th anniversary, COURTENEY GEORGE BRADFIELD writes about successive early church buildings and circumstances endured by the congregation.

COMMUNITY CHURCH: The Clumber Church complex in early days, showing the school, schoolmaster’s house and hall

PRIOR to the first church being built, the Nottingham Party used to congregate under the trees at John Bradfield’s home, in inclement weather at William Pike’s and even in the open on Mount Mercy.

The first service conducted by an ordained minister was on January 11 1821 when Rev William Shaw visited Clumber. By April 1821 a district preaching plan had been put into operation which resulted in a service being held each Sunday.

The first 100-seater church was opened on September 28 1825 at Mount Mercy which was remarkable considering the financial circumstances of the party and that there were three successive crop failures due to rust and the Great Flood of October 1823.

William Pike died in 1829 and is buried close to the existing church. In 1834 the 6th Frontier War erupted and the entire district had to be vacated and thus lay abandoned. The Settlers concentrated in Bathurst but the authorities deemed the protection here insufficient so on December 28 they were relocated to Grahamstown under armed guard.

The first Clumber Church was entered during this time and when everyone returned it was recommended that a second, 200-seater church be built. By 1837 this second church was operational. Rev John Ayliff, a friend of Clumber for 20 years past, preached in January 1845.

During the Seventh Frontier War, or War of the Axe, the church became the refuge for women and children while the men were on reconnaissance duties

In March 1846 the Seventh Frontier War, or War of the Axe began.  In April the Clumber Church became the Clumber Command Station with Thomas Cockroft as commandant. Rather than evacuating the entire area, the church became the refuge for women and children while the men were on reconnaissance duties. Martial law was lifted in January 1847 but it was not possible to resume services until March.

On December 27 1850 the Eighth Frontier War began and during this time the base camp was established on Edward Timm’s farm, Prospect, as it was easier to defend than the church. By January 1851 most Clumber people were in the camp, living in wagons and hastily erected wattle and daub huts. Hostilities only ended in March 1853. The church badly needed repairs and Thomas Tarr and William Foxcroft were each paid 10/- for the work.

In August 1854 William Shaw preached the Anniversary Sermon, more than 33 years since his first visit.

The church and school were proclaimed National Monuments on November 23 1980

With the congregation increasing, and the church being in a poor state, the erection of a new Clumber Church had to be considered. In July 1860 with Purdon Smailes in the chair it was passed that a church of 45 feet by 20 feet should be built.

In July 1866 it was decided to incorporate a ten foot by six foot porch as well as a steeple. On July11 1866 George Wood MLC laid the foundation stone. Plans and specifications were done by George Jarvis, a draughtsman from Port Alfred. The church was to have three windows on each side and stone walls of 14 feet high. This height was increased to 16 feet in September 1866. Brislin and Mack tendered £162-15-0 for the masonry, plastering and materials and an extra £2-5-0 for the increased wall heights. Charles Poulton tendered £90, including materials, for carpentry of the roof, floor, ceiling doors and windows. In November 1866 he also tendered 2s/6d each for the making of the yellowwood pews. In June 1916 a vestry was added at a cost of £320.

Opened in November 1867, the church and school were proclaimed National Monuments on November 23 1980. The South African Heritage Resource Agency has granted the Clumber precinct Heritage Status, with SAHRA Identifier Number 9/2/009/0014.


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