Clock Towers (2)

Yes, it is once again blog day! Yesterday we had a wonderful drive through the countryside in search of churches that have clock towers. The obvious target was the NG Kerk buildings. Not all of them have clocks, but most have steeples. This week the Clock Towers blog features 4 churches with clock towers.

We started our jaunt with our customary habit of sleeping late – that was after our decision to start early by getting up at 05:30. Well, that didn’t work and we finally got the car rolling at just after 07:00. (I must have hit the “dismiss alarm” function on my Blackberry instead of the “snooze”…anyway that’s my story and I am sticking to it!)

We had packed in some breakfast and snacks, iced tea for the day so, food-wise, we were sorted out.

I decided that the N7 was too boring (been there, done that too many times) so we took a back route to Malmesbury via Philadelphia. Wonderfully scenic, and aromatic – all the fresh farm smells oozed into our nostrils. The GPS voice lady kept on insisting that we turn around and go to the N7 and the thought crossed my mind (briefly) that perhaps she had also visited this area and experienced the odours with which we were being endowed.

We arrived in Malmesbury and there was this imposing building. The original church was built on ground purchased in 1744 from the widow van der Westhuizen, for a new piece of land of her choice and £175 for the buildings. This church had no steeple but was altered during the period 1833-1881 to include the steeple and clock.

From there we set the GPS for Riebeeck Kasteel. I had been there once before and I remembered seeing the church and being impressed with the beauty of the building. It was as I remembered, but now looking at the church with a new intent, it was far more impressive than before. It was built in 1915, from funds collected from the surrounding community, at a cost £6000. The document I used as a source indicated that at the time of  it’s writing there was an outstanding debt of £2500. The source book’s Forward, written by AI Steytler of Mouille Point, is dated 5th August 1916 – I could find no date of publishing of the book anywhere.

Next on our list of towns to visit was Tulbagh. We took the Nuwekloof route, past Hermon and Voëlvlei dam. Once again beautiful scenery. We saw many raptors, like the Steppe & Jackal Buzzard and a kestrel or two. There were fewer crows than expected which I was glad about. The Pied Crow is fast becoming a pest especially in the city areas.

We arrived in Tulbagh to find the gardens being watered and the church being tidied up in readiness for the Sunday Communion Service. I found the church office and introduced myself as a Photo-Journalist to a Mr Nel and a young lady there.

They were very friendly and gave me some literature on the congregation. There were a number of churches built in Tulbagh over the years. This community suffered a disastrous earthquake. In 1969 on Monday 29th September at 22:04 the quake struck and shattered the Kruisvallei church building. The community itself was devasted. They were preparing for the 2nd centenary of the rectory (Pastorie in Afrikaans) when the disaster occurred.

What stood out for me with this church is the tower. I was allowed access to see the Tower from inside – and also the clockwork mechanism. This was a highlight for me! A ladder was produced and I could climb up (carefully – not being very fond of ladders) with my camera tethered safely around my neck. I saw this most amazing clockwork mechanism manufactured by E Burmpster of Cape Town in 1908. I googled for E Burmpster but unfortunately without any success. Looking up I saw the tower stretching out to the top with the ladder to one side – I contemplated doing the climb but quickly decided against it!

Just inside the foyer is a wonderful tapestry depicting the history of the church and the community. It consists of 5 panels each one entitled as follows:

  • “Het Schone Landsdouwe” (which was an old name for Tulbagh): this panel depicts the oldest church in South Africa that is still retained in it’s original state and is now a museum.
  • “Waveren 1804 Tulbagh”: shows the ‘Onder-kerk’ which was a beautiful Gothic building. It was demolished in 1956.
  • “Soli Deo Gloria” (Glory to God alone): this panel illustrates the dove, the ark, cross and the symbols Alpha & Omega and points the way to Christ.
  • “1843 Ebenhaeser 1935”: this panel commemorates the re-union of the 2 congregations the ‘onder-kerk’ and the ‘bo-kerk’. The building shown on this panel is the one that was destroyed by the earthquake in 1969.
  • “God is Liefde” (God is Love): this panel has the image of the current church building. It also shows the Dutch Reformed coat of arms,  doves as well as the word Maranata which translated from the original Chaldean means ‘Our Lord is come’. This panel represents hope for the future.

Then we took the road to Piketberg. I had heard that there was a beautiful church building there. On the way there, we spotted a steeple and clock while passing through Porterville. Once again the gardens were being watered and I was directed to Ds Albé Theunissen for information on the building. A beautiful church with a lovely setting for weddings, it made a striking impression on me. Ds Theunissen was welcoming and friendly. He provided me with some material for the blog and we had a pleasant few minutes chatting about photography and some generalities. After a search for a pen that could write (his little child has a passion for drawing and his pens are used up at a rapid rate) he provided me with his contact details as well. The current church building replaced the original one and was consecrated in 1925.

Arriving at Piketberg, I was disappointed to find no Tower Clock. Although it is indeed a beautiful building, it would not fit into this blog subject, so we turned away and drove off to Agter-Paarl to visit family in the hope that the nearby church had a Tower clock.

Ben & Elsa Marais are wonderful people. Elsa is a cousin to my wife and we recently met them at a family re-union function. Ben is a retired Dutch Reformed Church minister and has a lot of literature. He hauled out a book 23 cm wide by 28 cm tall and including the heavy cover 4.5 cm thick. It weighs 5.5Kg. It is a comprehensive and well illustrated history of all the NG and Mission Churches in South Africa and Rhodesia circa 1916. The paper is thick and yellowing. But beautifully produced  It is titled “Ons Kerk Album” authored by a certain Mr Zinn after discussing the production of such a Coffee Table book with AI Steytler Emeritus Predikant van de Gemeente Kaapstad.

Thank you Ben for lending me this magnificent book! I will look after it and return it once I am done with this topic.

Thanks also to the staff at the Tulbagh church Office – Mr Nel and his colleague and also to Ds Albé Theunnissen of Porterville for all their kindness and assistance.

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