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St Michael and All Angels
Komani (Queenstown), Eastern Cape

WH READ: Architect 1882
William John DELBRIDGE: Architect 1921
Arthur Henry REID: Architect 1921

Date:1882 : 1921
Type:Anglican Church


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31°53'37.42" S 26°52'19.52" E Alt: 1078m

(Restorica Aug 1978:21; Langham-Carter MS)

Original building by WH READ in 1882, the top of tower and west front of chancel were done in 1921 by WJ DELBRIDGE together with AH REID.


The history of the Anglican Church in Queenstown began in 1853 with the granting by Governor Sir George Cathcart of about two acres of land fronting on Robinson Road. The first Rector was the Rev. E.P. Green and, according to the records of Mr Beswick, for the first two years services were held in the courthouse, "a thatched building on the west side of Cathcart Road."

The first "English Church," later the parish hall, was erected in 1855. It had no chancel, but narrow Gothic windows and a thatched roof, which was replaced by iron in 1901.

In 1862 the Rector was succeeded by the Rev. F. Y. St. Leger. In his time a chancel and vestry were added to the old church, as well as the first stained-glass window to be seen in these parts. After he had left St. Michael's, the Rev. St. Leger would go on to establish The Cape Times newspaper in Cape Town in March 1876 as the first daily newspaper in South Africa.

During the Rev. E.C. Baldwin's spiritual oversight Queenstown was declared a Municipality by Act of Parliament. The town's heightened status seems to have inspired both Rector and congregation to decide upon the building of a new church. Baldwin was succeeded in 1881 by the Rev. C.S. Vyvian, under whom a scheme was launched for the building of, possibly, the most beautiful parish church in South Africa.

When the building was dedicated on15 February 1885, The Queenstown Free Press wrote: "The design is of pure Early English, the work of W.H. Read, architect, of Cape Town. The walls of the nave are supported by columns of polished Devonshire marble - each the gift of members of the congregation. The roof, which is very effective, is 50 feet from the floor, and is made of substantial principal rafters, covered with diagonal boarding, all in pitch pine, well oiled. The windows are filled with white glass, coloured until such time as funds for quarry-glazed cathedral glass windows can be raised."

While the building was dedicated in 1885, it could not yet be consecrated as the building had to be free from debt and £2 000 was still owing. Indeed, the problems of finance were at times almost overwhelming. Original estimates proved misleading; work faltered for lack of funds, and on one occasion came to a complete standstill.

According to Beswick, "strenuous efforts were now put forth by the congregation, by means of 30 shares taken out in the Queenstown Mutual Building Society, payment being guaranteed by 30 members, supported by personal guarantees. £3000 was raised, and enabled the work to go on once more. Mr Charles Brown gave the iron for the roof and £100 for fixing it."

During 1917 - for the British, the worst year of the worst war in world history - the Rector, the Rev. Goodwin, wrote this about the Vestry Meeting of that year: "Vestry resolved to complete the church as a War Memorial, the Chancel and Reredos in memory of the gallant dead, the Tower in memory of those who would be spared to return ... plans were made to include Chancel and Chancel Aisles, separated as in the Nave by a series of marble pillars. It was further proposed to complete an adequate Central Tower, and to add a Spire, as originally intended."

More land was however needed. An exchange of ground was sanctioned in 1920 by the Administrator of the Cape, Sir Frederic de Waal. On 18 April 1921 the foundation stone of the extension to the church was laid by H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught, Governor General of the Union. In 1922 construction began; in December 1923 the church was, to a large extent, complete. At its dedication Mr W. Coulson Tregarthen and the Rector's wife, Mrs Goodwin, tolled two bells.

Two flags having military connotations were hung in the chancel. One was the Regimental Colour of the Queenstown Rifle Volunteers, a local regiment at the time of the First World War. The other was the King's Colour, presented to the regiment on behalf of King Edward VII on 10 October 1904 by Princess Christian, a daughter of Queen Victoria.

Greaves, Alan Tell Me of Komani - A history of Queenstown for The Queenstown and Frontier Historical Society, June 1987.pp 34-36

Submitted by William Martinson, June 2023


Read A short description of St Michael and All Angels Queenstown, April 4, 2018, by Miss E Dankwerts on The Heritage Portal.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.