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. It was known by the highly imaginative name of The New Church. It stood in 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 market square. One is unable to view the Town Hall at the end of Main Street, as it did not yet exist.
Also known as The Scotch Church and later in its existence as Robson’s Congregational Church, 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 belfry 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.
The inauguration services in connection with “New Church” were preached on the 25th July 1853. Standing in Main Street between Donkin Street and Constitution Hill, this was an Independent Church built by members of Union Chapel who felt they could now support a minister themselves. 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.
During August 1854, a memorial to Lt-Col John Fordyce of the 74th Highlanders, killed in an ambush in the Waterkloof in November 1851, and paid for by public subscription, was erected in New Church. It is now in the Pearson Street Congregational Church. His loss “was universally felt to be a public calamity“.
In due course, the Presbyterians formed their own congregation and hence this church became a purely Congregational one. It was known as Robson’s Congregational Church referring to Pastor Robinson who was the minister in charge.
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. He had the building altered and given a new street frontage to accommodate his auction business, Armstrong Auction Rooms. The architect was G. Dix-Peek.
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.
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.
Port Elizabeth: The Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine
Rations, Rules and other Regulations aboard the Settler Ships
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Earliest Photographs
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Empire units in P.E. during the Boer War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Defences during the Boer War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Memorials to the Fallen in War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Fire Damage to the P.E. Advertiser in 1913
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Albany Road
Algoa Bay before the Settlers: Sojourn by Henry Lichtenstein in the Early 1800s
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Captain Jacob Glen Cuyler
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Growth of the Population
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Murders most Foul
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Phoenix Hotel
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Echoes of a Far off War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street in the Tram Era
Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Customs House