Fonds AB748 - Cathedral Church of St. Mary, Johannesburg records

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Cathedral Church of St. Mary, Johannesburg records


  • 1853 - 1971 (Creation)

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The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, previously known as the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, is the province of the Anglican Communion in Southern Africa. Its primate is the Archbishop of Cape Town. The church includes dioceses in present day South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland and St. Helena.

An agreement was signed in 1937 between the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA) - now known as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) - and the University of the Witwatersrand, whereby the church's central record library was places on loan with the University. The library consisted of books, pamphlets, periodicals and manuscripts. The richness of the Anglican Church's manuscript collection is due to the efforts of the provincial archivists appointed by the church to collect material and transfer it to the university. The first, 1937-1957, was Father Osmund Victor, followed by Canon Cecil Thomas Wood from 1958-1979. Mrs AR Kotze then took over from 1979-2000, until Carol Archibald was appointed as Provincial Archivist in 2001.

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The records comprise diaries, minutes, correspondence, memoranda, scrapbooks, registers, press-clippings, legal and ecclesiastical documents, photographs, printed items and plans. These records were transferred to the C.P.S.A. record Library in July 1972 from Darrah Hous, just prior to its demolition to make way for a new block of offices and flats, which is to be built on the same site, adjacent to the Cathedral.

From the records one obtains a clear picture of the beginning of the Anglican church in Johannesburg, of its work and growth and importance in the life of the community. The records contain much on the buying and selling of stands, on the raising and spending of money and on the relationship of St. Mary's with first of all, the Diocese of Pretoria and from 1922 with the Diocese of Johannesburg. There is much on the building, repair and ornamentation of the various St. Mary's churches, the services held, the elections and work of churchwardens and on activities closely linked with the church such as the choir, Church Men's society and the Dean's Shelter for the aged, unemployed and homeless. Closely associated with St. Mary's were might be described as her 'daughter' churches, St. Alban's, St. Cyprian's and St. Saviour's and the records contain information on their beginnings and on the missionary and educational work done at St. Cyprian's for the Bantu and at St. Alban's for the coloured people.

The records also throw light on the history of St. John's College and on the work done at St. margaret's Mission House by the sisters of East Grimstead. Side by side with the records of the church itself go the records of its commercial buildings, first St. Mary's buildings in Eloff Street (built on the site of the first St. Mary's church) and later Darragh House in Plein Street (built on the site of the second St. Mary's church), both of which produced revenue from the rents of offices, flats and shops. There is a great deal in the records on the leasing and upkeep of these buildings.

The records of St. Mary's Church are of interest not only to the church historian but also to researchers enquiring into the history of education, social services and property development in Johannesburg.

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Biographical and administrative history: The church of St. Mary was the first Anglican Church in Johannesburg and was founded in 1887, just one year after the discovery of gold on the witwatersrand. At that time Johannesburg was part of the Diocese of Pretoria and remained so until 1922 when the new Diocese of Johannesburg was formed. In June 1887, at a service held in Malcomess's store, Commissioner street, Bishop Bousfield of Pretoria inducted J.T. Darragh, the first rector of St. Mary's. Servies were held by Darragh in the rand club until Christmas 1887 when the first St. mary's church, on the corner of Eloff and Kerk Streets, was ready. In 1904 Viscount Milner laid the foundation of St. Mary's Hall in Plain Street, the architect of which was G. Fellowes Prynne and which was used as a parish church for 25 years. On the creation of the Diocese of Johannesurg, this second St. Mary's church became the Pro Cathedral. A meeting was held in Johannesburg on January 6, 1924, to launch a campaign for the erection of a caathedral in Johannesburg. The foundation stone was laid in 1926 and the consecration took place in 1929. The architects were Sir H. Baker and F.L.H. fleming and the master craftsman was H. Berryman. The cathedral is built on the stands adjoining the second St. Mary's Church in Plein Street.

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Archivist's note

Inventory compiled by Anna M. Cunningham, January 1973

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