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Cathedral of St John the Evangelist
Mthatha, Eastern Cape

George Halford Fellowes PRYNNE: Architect

Type:Anglican Church


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31°35'33.02" S 28°47'19.67" E Alt: 711m

Transcript of a document held at the Diocesan Archives,
William Cullen Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
(Bg1 1906)



To be presented to the Diocesan Synod


Your committee in presenting their final report desire to express their thankfulness to Almighty God for the privilege accorded to them of being allowed to share in the work of erecting the first portion of the Cathedral Church of the diocese, and for having been permitted to witness the completion of this part of the building. Your committee met for the first time on Oct. 28th, 1897, and has since met 88 times. On and after Feb. 25th, 1904, meetings were held monthly; after January, 1906, they were held fortnightly, and after August 30th of this year the committee met every week. From time to time other members have been added to the committee, including clergymen living in Umtata, the church officers of the parish and representatives from the several parishes within the diocese. The work of the committee has been harmonious throughout, and on all important points the decisions arrived at have been practically unanimous.

In the special synod of 1897 two resolutions were passed, the first empowering the standing committee of the finance board, under certain conditions, to select, and if necessary, to purchase a site for the Cathedral; the second empowering the Chapter to associate others with them in the formation of a building committee. The committee met on Oct. 28th, 1897; and of the eight members then present only three remain with us. Four donations of £1,000 were received, three anonymous and one from the Marriott bequest, and it was resolved to instruct Mr. G. F. Prynne to prepare plans and specifications of a complete Cathedral of which the chancel and transepts, to seat 400, should not exceed in cost £5,000 and a site was purchased in the upper part of the town near the recreation ground. In 1898 a further step was taken by the engagement of Mr. George Home, who came on strong recommendations from Scotland to act as clerk of the works. Mr. Home arrived in June or July, 1899; but as the architect’s plans had not been received, employment was found for him in the parish of St Cuthbert’s, and on the new girls school. It was found inadvisable or impossible to proceed with the Cathedral by way of contract, and Mr. Home, acting for the committee, gathered round him a number of native boys, whom he trained as apprentices.

In the latter half of 1900 the Bishop had been obliged as the result of an accident to proceed to England for medical advice. While there he interviewed the architect, and on November 30th wrote that he had seen the plans, but spoke doubtfully as to the possibility of carrying them out. No further letter was received from him regarding them, and on January 12th he passed away. This was a blow so overwhelming that the work would have been definitely set aside by the building committee had there not been the necessity of taking action; for the whole conception had been the Bishop’s and his had been the great faith needed to embark on such a scheme.

The necessity arose from the conditions of the grant from the Marriot bequest. On April 18th, 1901, the Synod met and resolved to complete the first portion of the Cathedral as a memorial of the Bishop. Meanwhile plans were received in May, 1901, and proved to be of such an elaborate nature that it was estimated that the building of the eastern portion, if indeed it could be accomplished at all, might be expected to cost in Umtata some £30,000.

Accordingly, as the conditions of the Marriott grant of £1000 required the building to be begun before the close of 1901, the committee resolved to build the western portion; and as still no detailed plans of this part, and no working drawings at all, had been received, Mr. Home was instructed on August 1st to proceed for the present at his own discretion with the base-course as proposed by him. On December 16th, 1901, the foundation was laid by the present Bishop. Thereafter the work proceeded, but owing to the want of plans with extreme slowness, and at no time was Mr. Home able to employ more than one-third of the labour which he could well have supervised. In August his health failed and in the following month his three years’ service of the diocese came to an end. The committee desire to record here their cordial appreciation of the whole-hearted services which he rendered. On September 13th, 1902, the committee were obliged to suspend work.

In 1903 the Bishop, who was in England, brought pressure to bear on Mr. Prynne, and plans of the west end were sent out; and here the assistance derived from that gentleman ceased. When subsequently after repeated requests from the committee he sent in an account of his charges, they were found to amount to £1,128 12s 3d, being at the rate of twenty per cent on the cost originally proposed of £5,000. The committee thought it right to take counsel’s opinion as to the desirability of contesting this charge, but the reply was unfavorable. The claim was subsequently reduced by £300, and the balance is in process of payment.

In February, 1904, the committee entered into negotiations with Mr. L. W. Barnard, who had estimated the cost of completing the western portion at £10,151, and by largely re-constructing the design had reduced this to £7,000. Tenders were advertised for and Mr. Barnard’s was accepted at £6,885. There was only one other tender, viz., of £10,630. It has proved impossible to obtain a clerk of the works, though several efforts have been made. For the erection of the roof the advice of Mr. Good of Umtata was secured. The committee were so fortunate as to obtain the services of Br. Maynard of S.S.J.E., formerly a partner of Mr. G. F. Bodley, R.A., as consulting architect. He was residing at St. Cuthbert’s while the Cathedral was in building, and he has repeatedly travelled over to examine and report upon the work. It is impossible to exaggerate the value of his generous services, and the committee desire to express their warmest gratitude to him and to the society if St. John the Evangelist.

The committee desire to place on record their sense of the competence, thoroughness and zeal which Mr. Barnard has shewn, and of his readiness to assist them whether as architect, contractor or builder, by every means in his power. No one not conversant with the circumstances can appreciate the difficulties with which he has had to contend, and he deserves the utmost credit for the courage with which he has faced them and for his success in overcoming them. The committee have especial satisfaction in recording the readiness and success with which he has trained and employed native workmen in all departments of the building.

In regard to the financial position the committee record with profound gratitude the generous contribution from the Scottish Church of over £1,100 brought by the Bishop of Glasgow at the time of the consecration, and with the aid of this Building Fund would have been practically out of debt but for circumstances which it was impossible to forsee. These were the unexpected excess in the architect’s charge of say £600, and the severe depreciation in local values. The result is that the building fund will, when all assets are realized, be in debt to the amount of some £1,200.

An offer was received on the morrow of the consecration of £100 to be paid within five years, with interest on the balance unpaid, on condition that nine similar efforts should be made before the end of 1906. Towards this were to be reckoned the very liberal collections received in church at the consecration and amounting to upwards of £200; and within three days three more promises of £100 each were received.

Thus £600.00 towards the £1,000 was secured almost immediately. But the committee regret that only £25 has since been added to this, and they are now in danger of losing the original promise owing to non-fulfillment of the conditions. (A further promise of £100 has since been received, leaving the amount to be raised at £275; and the original promise has been extended to July 31st, 1907.)

A statement of accounts is appended, and also a statement of the contributions received from the several parishes, which were all assessed, it is hoped, according to their ability, though without their assent. Further contributions are still to come in; but it is most satisfactory to recognize the ready response which this appeal received, some parishes having contributed considerably more than their assessment; and it may be felt as a result that the Cathedral really belongs to the whole diocese.

In conclusion, the committee would express their thankfulness to Almighty God that a task necessarily under taken with scanty appliances and involving often much risk has under Mr. Barnard’s superintendence been unattended with any serious accident.

They venture to express the hope that the building thus erected as a memorial of a great Christian-hearted bishop may serve to promote the glory of Almighty God, the conversion of the heathen, and the brotherhood of all Christian people.

On behalf of the committee,


Christmas, 1906.


Profits on Investments
Property on hand
Donations promised
£13811 5 9
Cost of Site
Mr. Prynne
Mr. Barnard



£894 10 11

£13811 5 9

Document sent to us by William MARTINSON.

View original document

(Welz 1984)

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.

Books that reference Cathedral of St John the Evangelist

Gray, Alexander Stuart, Breach, Nicholas & Breach, Jean. 1985. Edwardian architecture: a biographical dictionary. London: Duckworth. pg 297-8