All Saints Maidstone (South Africa)

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All Saints Maidstone is a church on the Dolphin Coast in the Anglican Diocese of Natal in KwaZulu Natal.

History

Maidstone in KwaZulu Natal was named after Maidstone in Kent in the UK. It was a model village built exclusively for the white community who worked for the Tongaat Sugar Company. All Saints was likewise named after its English namesake in Kent.

In 1930, thirty-eight members of the sugar mill staff signed a petition asking for a central church to be built. They argued that a church would have a good moral and social influence on the community and would be a welcome addition to the district’s architecture. [1] The petition was granted by the Tongaat Sugar Company. Land was subsequently bought by Thomas Hamlyn from Edward Saunders. In granting the petition one of the company’s stipulations was that the building had to have a tiled roof and the walls were to be a least nine inches thick. The directors of the company also reserved the right to intervene should the grounds or buildings not remain in a state of proper repair. [1]

The cornerstone was laid in early 1932 but stopped in June of that year when several workmen fell ill with malaria. Work resumed in July and was sufficiently complete by October the following year (1933) for an opening ceremony.[1] The first priest, Rev Roderick Davies, furnished the interior through generous donations. All Saints Maidstone was dedicated with the prayer used in 1395 at the dedication of All Saints Maidstone in Kent. All Saints fell under the Parish of Verulam as a chapelry.

In the ensuing years stained-glass windows and plaques were added in memory of some of the families who helped establish the church. Seventy Teak chairs were replaced with nineteen pews made of Afromasia in 1965. A bell tower was erected and is an exact replica of the slave bell from Elsenberg Farm near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. Proposed additions to All Saints in 1984 to enlarge the current church never happened.[2]

One of the most striking features upon entering the church is the reredos (carved panel behind the altar) commissioned in the 1950s and carved by the sculptor, Mary Stainbank. The reredos shows twelve figures, six on either side of Jesus, some major, other minor saints, representing different races and ages, both male and female. Mary Stainbank displayed a remarkable prescience about the church and village as it would become post-Apartheid, especially once the demographics of Maidstone changed with the selling off of its property by the Tongaat-Hulett company.

In the early 1970s a commission was set up by Bishop Michael Nuttall to investigate parish boundaries. There were two problematic parishes on the north coast, namely Verulam and Stanger, with the boundary between the two running through the future town of Ballitoville (now Ballito). The commission recommended in 1972 that the parish boundary between Verulam and Stanger should simply be the Umhlali River.[3] All Saints fell under St Thomas Verulam along with St Catherine Edgecombe. The commission suggested that All Saints Maidstone and All Souls Umhlali become separate parishes. All Saints was made a parish in 1994.

However various Rectors of St Thomas' Verulam, resided in the Vicarage alongside All Saints' church in Maidstone, for a number of years, not withstanding the fact that the Parish was still officially designated "Parish of Verulam" till 1994 ; They were the Reverends Graham Ronald McCollum 1972 – 1980 ; William George Hardwick 1981 – 1985; Charles Ernest van Heerden 1986 – 1990 ; Rev Arthur Henderson Gosling 1992 – 1998. Thereafter in residence at Parish of Maidstone, were Rev Ivan Ruiters 1999 - 2000; Rev Ivan Gunkel 2001 - 2003; Rev Neville Pike 2009 - 2011 - who all officated under the oversight of the Archdeacon.

As the Parish of Verulam, St Thomas’ was the Parish Church. The Vicarage was moved from Verulam to Maidstone in 1963, and where All Saints’ Church was receiving greater support. In 1992 All Saints’ was made the Parish Church, and so giving the name to the Parish. Upon the retirement of Arthur Gosling in 1998 it was decided that Maidstone would not have an Incumbent, but instead would be cared for by the Archdeacon. This decision was reversed in 2012 when Peter Gunning was appointed Rector.

All Saints faced closure in 2003 with the congregation having dwindled to about ten regular members. The church was no longer able to afford a diocesan priest and was given a year to reverse the slide. Consequently, All Saints was linked with the parish of All Souls Umhlali and came under the oversight of the incumbent rector of All Souls Umhlali. All Saints was faithfully served by non-stipendiary clergy in the area and gradually the turn-around happened. The congregation is now thoroughly multi-racial, drawn from Maidstone and Upper Tongaat, but also from as far away as Ballito, Westbrook and Salt Rock.

Mary Stainbank Reredos

Mary Stainbank trained at the Durban School of Art (1916-21) under John Adams and Alfred Martin, and from 1922-24 at the Royal College of Art, London, under William Rothenstein (1872-1945) and Frederick John Wilcoxson. She was awarded a Royal College scholarship in 1925 and studied bronze casting at an engineering firm in London. On her return to South Africa in 1926 she set up a studio at Bellair. After war service from 1939-45 she was appointed Head of the Sculpture Department at the Durban School of Art, where she lectured until 1957. She exhibited widely in South Africa and abroad and undertook many sculptural commissions, particularly for buildings.[4]

The reredos at All Saints Maidstone is one of her lesser known works commissioned in the 1950s. The wooden carving represents “All Saints” gathered around Jesus. From left to right, the saints depicted are: St Veronica, St Simon of Cyrene, St Catherine, St Paul, St Peter, (centre – Christ), the Virgin Mary, St John the Divine, St Anthony of Padua, St James (brother of Jesus), and St Mary Magdalene. In the foreground to the left is a young African child in memory of the Ugandan martyrs of 1886 and to the right is a young man, St Mark.[5]

Prayer of Dedication (1395 and 1933)

O Lord our God, Who has put it into the hearts of us Thy servants to provide Thee a House worthy of Thy name; Prosper us, we pray Thee, in this our endeavour for Thy greater glory: Inspire us to offer willingly for the work; And in the House which shall be built vouchsafe the Light of Thy perpetual Presence, that Thy people may worship Thee in the beauty of holiness and offer Thee an acceptable sacrifice of prayer and praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[5]

List of priests-in-charge

  • 1933 – Rev Roderick Davies
  • 1934 – Rev Mort
  • 1940s – Rev Truscott
  • 1950s – Rev Alfred Cox
  • 1962 – Rev Harold C. Clark
  • 1981 – Rev Canon William G. Hardwick
  • 1985 – Rev Charles van Heerden
  • 1986 – Rev Arthur Gosling
  • 2000 – Rev Ivan.J. Ruiters
  • 2001 – Rev Ivan Gunkel
  • 2003 – Rev Colin Peattie (All Souls), with Rev John Alexander
  • 2006 – Ven Rob Taylor (All Souls), with Rev Neville Pike
  • 2008 – Rev Rob Jobling (All Souls), with Rev Neville Pike and +Peter Harker, Rev Peter Houston (early 2011)
  • 2011 - Rev Peter Houston (All Souls)
  • 2012 - Rev Canon Peter Gunning

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 75th Anniversary Article in All Saints Maidstone archives
  2. Building plans in All Saints Maidstone archives
  3. Commission Report in All Saints Maidstone archives
  4. "Pair of Bookends - Mary Stainbank". Tatham.org.za. http://www.tatham.org.za/1671.html. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 All Saints Maidstone archives

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