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St Peter's Church - Hilton outside Grahamstown


St Peter's Anglican Church, Hilton Farm, Grahamstown

The Anglican church on Hilton Farm outside of Grahamstown, is known as St Peter's, Hilton. It is a church with a long history.

Service Times

The church is not used for regular Sunday worship, but weddings are celebrated there from time to time and once a year a Christmas carol service is held.

Contact details

The church can be accessed from the the farm of Janet and John White, Hilton Farm, telephone 0836 732 434, email hiltonhouse@hiltonfarm.co.za

If one takes the R350 from Grahamstown in the direction of Cradock and begins measuring distance from the traffic circle at St Andrew's College Chapel, one must travel for 11.4 km, after which you will come to a small sign and a dirt road to the left. The sign's wording is "TABLE FARM HILTON The Whites". Travel along this dirt road for 7.5 km, you will cross the New Year's River, 200 m after crossing the river you will find the turn off to the church on the left.

Location: S33°14'53", E26°21'18"
The orientation of nave aisle is 45° North of East

History of the church

George Cumming, the owner of Hilton Farm in 1875, ceded a morgan of land to the Diocese of Grahamstown for a church to be built for the local community. The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1876. The little stonewalled, thatched roof church was built by a Mr. Charles Ansley, in memory of George Thomson, who had been Canon of the Cathedral and Curate of the Country Districts from 1848-1874. He would ride out on horseback and hold services in the drawing rooms of distant farms. Hence the appropriate text chosen - "In Journeyings Often".

Canon R.J. Mullins succeeded Canon Thomson from 1871 until 1913. Together with Tom and George White, he was one of the church's moving spirits.

The first service was held in April 1877 and thereafter at fortnightly intervals. People attended by horse and buggy from Table Farm, Brakkloof, Atherstone, Broadfields, Thornkloof, Teafontein, Palmiet, Vaalkraans, Aylesby and even Carlisle Bridge and Heatherton Towers. The services were mainly conducted by the Rev. R.J. Mullins, until poor health forced him to retire from rural work in 1911 and he died in 1913. He donated the chancel furnishings, which were made by Mr Forbes.

An interesting feature of the altar is the reversed cross carved into the stretcher signifying the manner in which St Peter chose to be crucified. St Peter is referred to as "the rock"- an extremely appropriate dedication as the ground is very stony with blue Dwyka rock just below the surface.

Mr Hyde of the farm Hounslow donated the font in 1891. He also donated an ostrich hen on condition a male ostrich and suitable grazing were found.

St Peters has been the venue for many baptisms, marriages and funerals. When Agnes Damant White was to be married to Charles Lawford in 1888 the New Years River unexpectedly came down in flood and she related how she had to clamber onto the seat of her buggy with her skirts held "immodestly high" while her father Thomas Charles White II negotiated the swollen stream.

In the early 1900's men and women left to serve in the forces. In 1919 a meeting was held to discuss the erection of a roll of honour and three memorial tablets.

The hatchway to the right of the altar was closed to allow one of the tablets to be erected. Rev. R.G. Mullins, son of Rev. R J Mullins, continued to conduct bi-monthly services. In 1922 Mr & Mrs. Barber purchased Hilton farm and continued to care for the church.

The 14 benches still in use today were built in 1896 by a Mr Bax at a cost of £20 each. In 1923 it was proposed that the benches be stained, and measures be taken against the bats. The benches were eventually varnished for the centenary in 1977. The bats are still a problem.

At a special meeting it was proposed that the burial ground, which lies between the main house and the road, be ceded to St Peters and thus the Diocese of Grahamstown. Mr Barber agreed to this and the money in the memorial fund was used to pay the transfer.

In 1929, because the number of people attending services was dwindling, it was decided to hold services monthly. Rev. RG Mullins who paid his own expenses to travel to Hilton remarked that it was the quality and not the quantity of worshipers that mattered. His last service was on the 15th June 1930 as he died suddenly on the 26th June of the same year.

In 1935 Mr. Colin Rose-Innes had bought Hilton Farm from the Barbers. The last regular service was held in 1941. Wartime conditions were prevailing. The last entry was 9th May 1943, whereafter services discontinued. This was partly due to an absentee landlord, a Mr. E.E. Bone, who was on active service, and petrol restrictions.

T.C. White and Sons, of Table Farm, bought Hilton Farm in 1951. In 1953, the neighbours came together after a 10year break to discuss the re-opening of St. Peter's Hilton. By this time the church had fallen into a state of disrepair.

A re-dedication service was held in November 1953 by the Rev. John Hodson and the Rev. B. Knowles. It was decided to have services every two months. The harmonium was played by Mr. Charles Wood, who continued to do so until his death in 1966 at 93 years old. The harmonium had to be repaired by a Mr. Winter in 1975 and is needing repairs again now.

The communion rail was acquired by Mr. Alan Selwyn Brown of Brakkloof at the salvage sale of the Parisian Bazaars, which burnt down. The charred banisters were repaired and Mr. Bill Hudson of Cranford built the wrought iron supports. His father, Edward, had donated the kneelers in 1959. The communion rail was erected and dedicated in 1959 in memory of Mr. C.T. Warren, Mrs. M. Hudson and Mrs. M. Dell. In 1962, an oak plaque was consecrated commemorating the above. In 1965 it was decided to add the name of Mr. E. Hudson to the plaque. This was still not completed in 1968. This was eventually done and the plaque was returned to its former place in the church. In 1972 Mrs. Millie Norton donated the vestment wardrobe in memory of her late husband Johnny Norton who died in October 1970.

In July 1977 the church celebrated its centenary with a service. It was then that Mrs. Ruth Knowling, the daughter of the Rev. R.J. Mullins, suggested an aloe garden be established around the church. Thus a new fence has been established although the original old sneezewood pole has been left in place. All those attending the centenary service signed a scroll, which has been framed and hangs in the church.

Since 1953, when the church reopened, a large number of guests have attended St. Peter's Church. It is regrettable that services are no longer held regularly. We do continue to have an annual Christmas carol service in December at which visitors are always very welcome. This, however, doesn't happen unless we clean the church, organise the minister, an organists and the congregation.

John and Janet White moved to Hilton in 1992 and have looked after the church since then.