St Stephen’s Church in Northern Paarl

St Stephen's Church

© Gribble Collection, Drakenstein Heemkring

The St Stephen’s parish was founded by Fr James Inglish, a priest in theAnglican Church, who started to work among residents of Noorde Paarl – or Lower Paarl as it was then called – in 1850. The Lower Paarl Mission School was also established by the Cape Town Diocese in 1854  with Fr J F Curlewis as its first teacher.

A school chapel was built in 1858 and served as a place of worship and a primary school. The building stood on the corner of Main and School Streets.

In 1876 the Anglican Church bought a property in Main Street in order to build a new church for the Noorde Paarl parish. The St Stephen’s Church was consecrated on 7 August 1877 with Fr Arthur Fraenkel Jeffery as its minister. The old chapel could then be subdivided into four permanent classrooms. In 1982 the school closed down and pupils were moved to the Nieuwedrift Primary School. The original school building in Noorde Paarl was demolished under the Group Areas Act.

The congregation had its own rugby club called the St Stephen’s RFC – also known as the Swartbekbootjies. The team was coached by Fr LK Zeeman, and many of the players also sang in the St Stephen’s Church Choir. They wore a black rugby jersey with a white collar, black shorts and black socks with a white stripe.

The St Stephen’s School was founded in 1854 by the Anglican Church with

St Stephen’s Friendly Society (1882 – 1971)

The society was formed in 1882 to provide social and financial support to members living Noorde Paarl. In order to join, applicants had to be between the ages of 18 and 45. New members also had to pay a once-off fee of 75c if they were under the age of 30 years, or R1 if they were older than 30. Weekly contributions were set at 10c per member. In return, the society supported members in terms of medical costs, funeral costs and also provided financial support when members were too ill to work. Society meetings were held in the St Stephen’s church hall in School Street. The society also owned houses in Bosch Street.

Group Areas Act

When the Group Areas Act of 1961 was enforced in Paarl, Noorde Paarl was initially declared a “Coloured” area. “White” residents campaigned vigorously against this classification, and the area was subsequently reclassified as a “White” area. This reclassification happened despite the efforts of the Noorder Paarl Waaksaamheidskomitee under the chairmanship of John Martin to wanted to retain the “Coloured” classification.

The Community Development Board bought the St Stephen’s Church on 18 October 1979 for R50 000 and paid an additional R110 000 for its church hall, school, rectory, caretaker’s cottage and graveyard in School Street. Fr Frank de Jager conducted the last service on 25 January 1981.

The government subsequently sold the church building to the Paarlberg Dutch Reformed Church for R20 000.

In 1998 the St Stephen’s congregation approached the Commission of Land Restitution in order to have the building returned to them. Negotiations were set in motion between the Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Church, after which the State decided that R780 000 would be a fair value for the building. Funds were made available to the Paarlberg NGK so that the claim could be settled. The ministers involved in the act of reconciliation were Rev Pieter van der Walt (Paarlberg NGK) and Fr Roderick Cox (St Stephen’s).

References:

Arendse, IHG – Ons Mense
Paarl News, 7 April 2013 – A little school in Northern Paarl by Johnny Martin
Paarl Post, 24 April 2003 – Historic occasion as church is returned
Paarl Post, 30 April 2003 – End of ‘exile’

 

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