Christmas banner

St James's Church - Southwell

St James Anglican Church, Southwell, Eastern Cape, Diocese of Grahamstown

The Anglican church in Southwell is St James's church. The worshippers at this church are mainly from the surrounding farming community.

Contact details

The rector is the Venerable Cynthia Webbstock, she can be contacted on telephone 046 624 1236 or 073 180 0311, email

The church is near to the Southwell cricket ground. Travelling on the R72 towards Port Elizabeth from Port Alfred, begin measuring from bridge over the Kowie River, travel for 3.9 km turn right on the dirt road to Southwell, travel for 19.3 km, turn left to the church.

Location: S33°32'03", E26°41'05"
The orientation of nave aisle is 15° North of East

History of the church

In 1864 the Revd Robert Washington Stumbles came to Southwell. His middle name, with American connotations, was derived from the fact that his mother's father actually was a cousin of the first President of the United States.

During this time the collecting of funds for the erection of a church was proceeding very satisfactorily, being considerably boosted by a donation of £100 from Benjamin Keeton.

A plan by an architect named John Welshman was accepted with one modification, the addition of a porch, and on 14th July 1870 it was decided to invite Henry Waters (now the Revd Canon H. Waters) to lay the foundation stone. The church was built of stone from the farms of Benjamin Keeton, Charles Penny and William McLuckie, on the ground donated by Keeton in 1843.

Finances even allowed for a memorial window to William Gray to be ordered from England. Consisting of three lights, with the Crucifixion in the centre, St James on the right and St John on the left, it contributes much to the beauty of the church. In December 1871 the opening ceremony was held in spite of heavy rain. Bishop Gray, Archdeacon Merriman and Canon (later Archdeacon) H. Waters all being present. On the 9th of July 1873 the church was consecrated by Merriman who was now Bishop of Grahamstown, again in the presence of many notables. Stumbles' eldest daughter Annie played the harmonium, her sister Mary Ann led the singing and their ten-year-old brother Albert was an interested observer.

The Revd Robert Stumbles served at Southwell till about 1879 when he went to Peddie. From there he moved to St Luke's Mission, East London in 1883 and died at the town in July 1898 at the age of 72.

During the next forty years Southwell had several resident ministers, the last being the Revd A.C.B. Bickerdike who arrived in 1920. During his period of office the old school-chapel was used as a home for boys orphaned during the 1914-18 war, but in 1924 he and the orphans were transferred to East London. No doubt the boys were delighted to return to city lights. For ten years thereafter Southwell was rather left out in the cold and depended on preachers from other centres to hold services. However, in 1934 when the direct road from Bathurst was built, St James' became a chapelry of St John's church and, as such, was served regularly by its rectors, the first of these being H.T. Marston.

In 1943 the seventieth anniversary of the consecration of St James' was celebrated with a festival of dedication. Among the congregation was the Revd A.B. Stumbles of Bathurst; the same Albert Stumbles who had attended the consecration service at the age of ten. In the following year when the school- chapel celebrated its centenary, he took the service eighty years after his father hadn't preached there.

In 1971 St James church celebrated its centenary. The church was painted white for the occasion; as unnecessary an embellishment as the whitewashing of the 3athurst church in 1844. St John's church offered St James' R250 as a centenary gift and, appropriately Doris Stirk's book was published in that year. In the following year a thief broke into the church, damaging altar cloths and windows. The altar cloths were remade by some Roman Catholic sisters and a donation was given to their convent. It was at about the same time that Mr. Dell of Pieterrnaritzburg, being a descendant of the Dells of Bathurst and Southwell left £2,000 to each of the two churches, which received their windfall with all due gratitude.

In June 1979 the National Monuments Commission proposed that St James' be proclaimed a National Monument. The church officers asked for a period of six months in which to consider the matter and, in March 1980 a meeting was held with members of the Commission in the presence of the Archdeacon of Grahamstown. The pros and cons being pretty evenly balanced, it was decided to defer the consideration of National Monument status for the church for another year. During this period Mr. Charles Acton of Bathurst and Mr J. English of the Commission were to carry out a detailed investigation. Eventually the congregation of St James' rejected the Commission's proposals as they felt they would prefer to be free to make any future alterations to the church according to their own wishes.

The whole complex of church, school-chapel and mission church still stands and all are maintained in very good condition. The little school is still functioning at present; and colourful drawings on the walls, and mobiles suspended from the ceiling make it a cheerful place indeed. The old mission too, is also used as a school, which is attended by numerous Xhosa children, and in 2000 was restored, dedicated to St Thomas, and serves an active congregation. To me, one of the fascinating things about the three churches in the parish of Bathurst is the way the appearance of each is a reflection of its past The squat functionalism of St Mary's, the solid dignity of St John's and the elegant charm of St James' - each has its own beauty, its own atmosphere and tells its own story.


  1. Krsic, Shirley, Fortress of Faith: The Story of St John's Church, Bathurst Bathurst, 1986, ISBN 978-0-620-10308-4. pp 112-113