All Saints Church this year turns 111 years old, since its establishment in 1908. The Anglican community living in the area of Plumstead can trace its roots back to the early 19th century. Since then, major milestones have shaped the history of this community over the subsequent years.
Joseph Higgs owned a huge agricultural farm called Rust en Werk, which covered an area that today includes the suburbs of Wynberg, Plumstead, Southfield and Diep River. Many labourers worked on the farm and needed accomodation, so Higgs built them cottages in the area around Gabriel and Doordrift Roads. In the mid 1820’s , he sold a large portion of his farm to Henry Batt, a wealthy landowner from England. Batt called part of the farm that he bought ‘Plumstead’ after the village of his own birth on the outskirts of London. When Batt died, his farm was divided up into half – acre plots and sold. In 1865, Richard Southey, the first Lieutenant General of Griqualand West, bought some of Batt’s land from his widow. His landholding in this area increased after he was granted land along the Southern boundary of Plumstead in 1886, and he called his combined property ‘Southfield Estate’.
After Batt’s death and the sale of his farmland, there was no more work for the farm labourers and they had to move away from the area to look for new jobs. As their houses became vacant, families from the local ‘coloured community’ moved into them. This whole area, which was enclosed by the present day Gabriel, Doordrift, Spaanschemat and Constantia Roads, was called Newton, and the members of this new community were mostly Anglicans. No one could know that, many years into the future this same area would undergo another painful and traumatic upheaval, when descendants of these families would be evicted from their homes under the Group Areas Act implemented during the apartheid era.
The nearest Anglican church to Newton was St George’s Anglican Church in Wynberg, which later became known as St John’s, and the community had to walk to this church to attend services, which was quite a long distance for many of the churchgoers. However despite the difficulty, they attended St George’s church from 1839 to 1907. However, during the last part of this period, three women from the Newton Community decided that they needed to try and find a solution to the problem of having to walk so far to get to church. In addition, together with other parishioners, they were also greatly disappointed by the failure to find an end to the dispute between the evangelical churches and the Church of the Province of South Africa, and they no longer wished to be under the control of the St John’s committee. These were the three women: Johanna Jacoba Segers, Eva Johanna Williams and Emily Davids; and their solution to the problem was to start a ‘house church’ in Newtown.
Due to the popularity of the ‘house church’ and the number of Anglicans in Newtown, the house soon became too small. So in 1907, Johanna, Eva and Emily asked Mr Yudelman, who owned the only shop on the main road in Plumstead if they could use part of his shop as a house church. The Rector of St George’s (St John’s) was licensed by the Archbishop in 1907 to officiate at this ‘house church’. During this period the parishioners of Newtown, with the support of the officers at St George’s Anglican Church, also met with Archbishop William West Jones to ask him to create a separate parish in Plumstead. on 08 January 1908, the Archbishop held a meeting in the Wynberg town hall, during which he acknowledged that the existing Wynberg parish could be divided to form a separate parish in Plumstead, but that the parishioners needed to vote on the issue. After the votes were counted, there were 128 votes for and 57 votes against the formation of the new parish.
Therefore on the 18 January 1908, it was announced in the Government Gazette that the District of Plumstead in the Diocese of Cape Town, commonly known as as the Parish of Plumstead, was declared a parish of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now known as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa).
The first ‘church’ in the new parish was Yudelman’s shop. However, the church officials at St George’s (St John’s) knew that a dedicated church structure would be needed, so they asked Colonel Southey, the son of Sir Richard Southey, to sell them some land in Plumstead on which to build an Anglican Church. In July 1908, Colonel Southey decided to donate a piece of land for the church, 200 feet by 100 feet (60,96 m x 30,48 m), from the Southfield Estate between present day Brent and Morton Roads, as a memorial to his Father, who had been knighted in 1891 and who died in 1901.
The Foundation stone was laid by Archbishop William Marlborough Carter , on the 14 May 1910. Subsequent to that, between May and June 1910 the name of the Parish was decided upon to be All Saints Parish to this day.
Past Rectors of the parish
It has been a wonderful privilege to have been served by these Servants of God’s church, who each have come with their contributions to the parish history. We give thanks to God for their services and ministry in Plumstead.