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Hilton Methodist Church
Hilton Farm, Whittlesea, Eastern Cape

Type:Methodist Church


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32°12'26.11" S 26°57'46.28" E Alt: 1200m



Many folk will wonder where Hilton is, as it is not to be found on any map. Actually it is the name of a farm, of which a morgen of land has become the property of the Church through the kindly action of the owner, the late Mr. John Miles. It is situated on the boundary of the Queenstown and Cathcart districts, 10 miles east of Whittlesea.

Surrounded by beautiful undulating hills, with pine trees on the site making the scene even more picturesque, there stands what is considered the most beautiful country church in South African Methodism.

In 1853 the territory adjoining the Kei River became a sort of buffer State. The Cape Government granted large tracts of land to European farmers who were willing to settle in the area, and offering in return their services to help control the Natives (sic) on the Border. The Hon. Thomas Brown was one of the first to settle in the area, quickly followed by the Miles and others.

Mr. John B. Weakley, a revered local preacher from Queenstown, held the first Methodist services at Hilton, and as a result the minister from Queenstown held services in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Miles. This wattle and daub building still stand where the first services were held. Folk from far and near came in cart and horses, or on horseback. The services were inspiring and although there was no organ, many recall the wonderful singing of those days.

On February 26, 1874, Mrs. Ann Miles, an 1820 British Settler laid the foundation stone of The Settlers Chapel. The first bride to be married in the Church is still alive, viz: Mrs. Stephen Brown, of Vaalkrantz, Cathcart, who is now in her 94th year.

On March 21, 1883 the foundation stone of the parsonage was laid by Mrs. Thomas Brown, wife of the Hon. Thomas Brown, a member of the old Cape Parliament, during the ministry of the Rev. George Weaver.

In 1893 under the leadership of the Rev. Thomas Spargo a public school was commenced at Hilton and for over 20 years it was in existence. A boarding establishment was erected, and pupils came from far and near, many of them travelling in ox-wagons from Tyldon. Amongst the pupils were Col. Dalgetty, the Stanfords, Klette and Kenyon, of magisterial fame, also the newly elected M.P.C. for Queenstown, Mr. Warren Fincham, and many others who have played a noble part in the life of South Africa, and who treasure happy memories of their old school.

Owing to the growth of the school the old Settlers’ Chapel proved inadequate and it was resolved to erect a new church. From the commencement much enthusiasm was shown and the members gave with great generosity. On December 15, 1903, Mrs. Filmer of "Rookwood," laid the foundation stone. The church was built of stone in Gothic design and furnished in every detail at a cost of nearly £4,000. There was a wonderful gathering on August 24, 1904, when Mrs. Harvey Wilkinson, the superintendent minister’s wife, unlocked the door. The Rev. Ezra Nuttall, the President of the Methodist Conference, preached the official sermon and dedicated the church to the service of God. The amount raised on the opening day was £600, which was in addition to the £2,400 previously raised and within a short time the church was free of debt.

Some of the ablest ministers have been appointed to the Circuit and two of them, the Revs. George Weaver and Samuel Clark, were elected Presidents of the Methodist Conference. From the commencement of the work a noble band of men and women have been associated with the church and the names of Miles, Brown, Filmer, Forward, Wiggill, [illegible], [illegible], Purdon, Scott, Davies, [illegible], Hill, Bartlett, Hobbs, [illegible], and many others on the Border have secured an honored place in the annals of the church. The oldest trustee now alive is Mr. L P Miles, now in his 89th year, and who still takes a keen interest in the church.

During the Great War many of the young men went on active service and again in this war many young men and women from the Circuit have responded to the call and have played heroic parts in this [illegible] war, thus showing their loyalty to their country.

It has been resolved to hold "Remembrance Sunday" on October 10, 1943, when, with thanksgiving to God, there will be a call to remember the past, those who have been called to Higher Service; the former ministers of the Circuit; the old boys and girls of the Hilton Public School; the young men and women away on active service, as well as absent friends. The superintendent minister, the Rev. A H Barnes, will conduct the service at 11 a.m., and after the service refreshments will be provided for the congregation, to be followed by a sacramental service at 2.30 p.m.

It is anticipated that there will be a great Church family gathering and many in the Union who are unable to be present will remember with great thankfulness to God the church situated amongst the mountains so dear to them all.

Ref: Text of a newspaper article transcribed from original framed newspaper cutting (from an undated and unidentified newspaper) exhibited in the Museum in the Settlers' Chapel (1874) sited in close proximity to the Hilton Methodist Church.

(Submitted by William MARTINSON)