A Brief History
The first church in Newlands was built in 1857 and still stands at the corner of Newlands Avenue and Palmboom Road. This church, designed by Sophy Gray, wife of the first Bishop of Cape Town, is now a national monument. A larger church was built off Palmboom Road, but soon became too small for the growing congregation.
St Andrew’s Church in Newlands celebrated its centenary in 1994. The foundation stone was laid by Lady Loch, wife of the Governor of the Cape, on 6 March 1894 and the completed building was consecrated by the Bishop West Jones on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November. It was the first of more than fifty churches in South Africa to be designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
The structure is of Table Mountain stone quarried not far from the church. The walls are of dressed stone in courses, with eight buttresses on the north, six on the south and two each on the east and west walls. Originally it had a thatched roof, which in 1949 was replaced by wooden shingles and they in turn by a new roof of mazista slate in 1969. A church bell, donated in 1895, was mounted in a turret added to the roof in 1897.
Inside, high on the west wall, is a circular children’s window depicting Jesus with six young children. This was brought from the earlier second chapel on the south side of Palmboom Road. The three-light east window above and behind the altar shows the Good Shepherd with two angels holding zithers. This was dedicated in August 1912 and is South Africa’s only example of Burne Jones glass. The other two windows, a bequest in 1940 by a former churchwarden , were designed and made by a firm in Durban and mounted in 1981.
A small apse to the south of the chancel was used as a side chapel until 1992 when the organ pipes, which had been installed at the west end of the church in 1979, were moved there to be close to the console and the choir. The re-sitting of the pipes necessitated the construction of a housing on the outer southern wall of the church for the switchgear when a new vestry was built as part of the extension of the Rectory in 1999.
The original vestry on the north side of the chancel was converted into a Prayer Chapel separated from a passage through to the chancel by an inner wall carrying a stained glass window made by well-known SA artist Leo Theron and erected in memory of Anne Killen, a member of the choir, from whom a generous bequest had contributed significantly to making the reconstruction possible. Influenced by the stained-glass window, Annette Foster, a member of the Tapestry Group, created the designs for the Prayer Chapel kneelers, which were then worked by the Tapestry Group.
Members of the congregations of early years too have been responsible for much of what is seen inside the church. Originally chairs were used, but these were replaced in 1970 by pews designed by parish councillor David Stapleton Cotton, soon after the new mazista slate floor had been laid. Shorter pews were later made by a parishioner, Owen Luter, for the side chapel.
The octagonal font in ornamental white stone was presented by a church in Rondebosch and dedicated in 1897 and the moveable font now used at the steps to the chancel, was donated by the De Villiers family in 1987. The carved wooden lectern was given in 1912, along with the four rows of choir seats, in memory of Ole Anders Ohlsson – chief of all the benefactors – by his family.
The wooden altar was donated by Frederika Heinemann in 1919 in memory of her husband and son. This has beautifully worked embroidered moveable front panels which are changed as appropriate for the season and occasions of the church year and are a real feature of the church. They were designed and embroidered with London City and Guild’s expertise by Kay MacLaurin in 1990. The themes are repeated on the chancel rail kneelers completed in 1994 for the centenary by the Tapestry Group.
Besides the chancel rail kneelers, the Tapestry Group has been responsible for making the 150 different kneelers in the pews. Barry de Villiers, Lesley Frith and Thelma Selfe have been the leaders of this group over the years. A striking feature of these kneeler designs is that only seven colours have been used. Barry de Villiers’ kneeler, ‘Crown of Thorns’, gained special recognition when, together with four other kneelers from St Andrew’s, it was exhibited at the International Ecclessiastical Embroidery Show held at Alexander Hall in London.
Some of the vessels used for the communion services, and the church’s fine vestments, have been given by, or made in memory of members of the congregation, some of whom are commemorated by brass plaques set into the walls, and the names and years of incumbency of all the Rectors are inscribed on a board on the south wall.
If this last serves as a skeletal history of the parish, it should be noted that there was a period from the early 1960’s, following the strict implementation of the Group Areas Act, when the great majority of its parishioners, being classified ‘Coloured’, had to leave the area, and this resulted in St Andrew’s having to revert to its earliest situation as part of the parish of St Saviour’s in Claremont from 1 January 1966. Sustained effort by the few older members who could stay, and generous support from newcomers in the decade following, achieved its restoration as an independent parish, now with its own new Rectory, in February 1976.
This sad period in its history is commemorated by the simple wooden Cross on the wall facing the entrance to the church and was placed there in 1994 as a material expression of thanksgiving for the attainment of the church’s centenary. Framed and hanging alongside the Cross, are the words:
this simple Cross calls to mind the pain of many parishioners
of St Andrew’s who were forced by legislation to leave
their homes here in the 1960’s, yet remained steadfast in their Faith.
It recalls, too, the courage of the remnant congregation
and support of the new residents in restoring the parish
and maintaining this church as the centre of worship
for which it had been built and has served since 1894.
This cross is erected here, in 1994, in humble gratitude,
to commemorate the centenary of this building.
These words were written by parishioners Anthony Mallett, a former Head- master of Diocesan College & John Selfe, a former South African ambassador.
St Andrew’s is approached from Kildare Road through a wooden lych gate. This was erected in 1908 by the Church Lad’s Brigade with funds from the Cape Government Railways as compensation for injuries sustained by some of them in a train accident, in thanksgiving for their preservation.
The path between the lych gate and the church porch is flanked by a low marble wall, erected in 1982 and extended in 1994, on which small plaques record the names of former parishioners and others remembered in this way , many of whose ashes are interred in the lovingly kept Garden of Remembrance.
The whole provides an appropriate and attractive setting for a truly beautiful Place of Worship.
Today St Andrew’s, as part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, is an active Christian community of young and old, that places strong emphasis on the role of the laity in leadership and ministry. The parish encourages a variety of styles of worship. There is scope for musicians and singers at all services. The early Communion service follows the SA Prayer Book, the later Eucharist the Anglican Prayer Book 89, and the evening worship uses the APB in a creative and relaxed way.
St Andrew’s depends on voluntary giving for covering its running costs. This takes the form of a dedicated giving scheme for the most part or by banker’s order, apart from the usual collection plate at services.
The parish welcomes members of all ages at all times. Children and young adults are important to the church of today and great care is taken to ensure that they feel they belong within the parish family. The Children’s Church meets during the 9.00 am service in school terms and joins the congregation in church for Communion. The Ladies’ Guild meets for tea and other activities, and there are several active groups involved in Soup kitchen, Tapestry, Pre-School Support for disadvantaged communities, Card-making, etc. There is also an HIV/AIDS Task Team which works with the Fikelela Aids Project (the co-ordinating body of the Diocese of CT) raising funds and supplying food parcels for the needy. Bible Study and Prayer Groups meet throughout the year. These enable people to explore their Faith and develop gifts of leadership and ministry and Alpha courses are conducted.
The Christian Life is one of following Christ, and we walk that pilgrimage in the company of others. Ministry and maintenance depend on each member making a full response to God. In the local parish community we share fellowship and contribute in terms of our talents, our time and our income. Then, as Anglicans, we are responsible to our own Diocese of Cape Town and we join with other denominations in the work of outreach to the local community. Funds raised by various parish activities during the year, especially the Morning Market – a truly lively fellowship event – are donated to a number of needy institutions whose work is followed with great interest and encouragement.
PEACE BE WITH YOU