Port Elizabeth of Yore: New Church in Main Street

One of the little known facts about Port Elizabeth of Yore is that there was another church in Main Street apart from St. Mary’s Church, known by the highly imaginative name of New Church. Occupying Main Street between Donkin Street and Constitutional Hill, which extended down to Main Street in those days. This church was initially an independent church built by the members of Union Chapel. 

Main picture:  New Church is on the right looking towards the Town Hall. One is unable to view the Town Hall bracketing the buildings at the end of Main Street, as it did not yet exist. 

Also known as The Scotch Church and Robson’s Congregational Church later in its existence, the architect of New Church was Peter Penketh, who practiced in Cape Town. It was constructed over the period 1852 to 1853.

Most notably, the tower contained a clock known as Town Clock which was later donated by William Jones to the Town Hall where it was installed in 1883.

St Mary's Church in the foreground with the New Church on the left hand side of Main Street

St Mary’s Church in the foreground with the New Church on the left hand side of Main Street

During March 1853, John Harsant arrived with his family from England to be the first minister of the “New” Church. He served until April 1866, whereupon he returned to England. He was succeeded by John Cheyne Macintosh, after whom the Macintosh Memorial Hall in Pearson Street is named.

New Church circa 1871 from Donkin Reserve

New Church circa 1871 from Donkin Reserve

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In due course, the Presbyterians formed their own congregation and hence this church became a purely Congregational one. Therefore it came to pass – taking a biblical saying – that it became known as Robson’s Congregational Church referring to Pastor Robinson who was the minister in charge.

 

The Independent or New Church

The Independent or New Church

 The church’s use declined following the construction of a new Presbyterian church higher up the hill and was sold to John Holland, in 1878, who had the building altered and given a new street frontage to accommodate his auction business, the Armstrong Auction Rooms. The architect was G. Dix-Peek.

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This was originally Armstrong & Co and then it became auction rooms

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In 1926 the Netherland Bank acquired the building It is not clear if the new bank by

Siemerink included elements of the original church but certainly the elevational treatment of the building was completely changed.

Netherlands Bank in the altered New Church Building

Netherlands Bank in the altered New Church Building

This building was in turn demolished in 1976 and the new Nedbank Building constructed on the site incorporating the lower part of Constitution Hill.

This building is still extant.

 

A “New” New Church

After the demise of the New Church, an American architect  R. Norman Shaw, was requested to design a new “New Church.” As far as it is known, this church was never ever built.

 

New Church Port Elizabeth - Designed by R. Norman Shaw

New Church Port Elizabeth – Designed by R. Norman Shaw

 

Sources:

Artefacts: http://www.artefacts.co.za/main/Buildings/bldgframes.php?bldgid=6030

Port Elizabeth: The Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine

 

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