Port Elizabeth of Yore: Destruction of St. Mary’s Church by Fire in 1895

The destruction of the St. Mary’s Church was devastating for the community in Port Elizabeth. Not only was it the first church to be erected in the town but it was also the focal point of many activities in the town as well as being the mother church for all the sibling Anglican churches.

If there was any beneficial effect of its destruction is that it afforded the congregants an opportunity to transform a non-ecclesiastical oblong building devoid of architectural merit into a building befitting its status and not just a building fit for purpose.

Main picture: St Mary’s church the morning after the fire

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Mad Pyromaniac

Some people gain fame, and possibly fortune, through charity, good deeds and hard work whereas Miss Francis Livingstone Johnson only gained notoriety through setting fire to numerous buildings in Port Elizabeth in the mid- 1890s. The reason for burning down churches was an apparent irrational hatred of altars. 

The blog covers the wayward and abnormal career of this atypical female.

Main picture: The Cleghorn, Harris and Stephen’s building, next to where the present Port Elizabeth Public Library was later built, burnt down on Wednesday night 6th May 1896.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Holy Trinity Church in Havelock Street

St. Mary’s was the progenitor of a number of daughter churches such as St Paul’s Church. As always, like in politics, there are different views of liturgy in ecclesiastical affairs. Central to this dissident group’s disaffection, was their disapproval of the replacement clergyman(Rev. W H Fowle) at St Mary’s Church “high church” proclivities, , and they left St Mary’s in January 1854.

Therefore it came to pass that this disaffected group abandoned St Mary’s Church and formed what they initially called the Trinity Church.

Main picture: Holy Trinity Church near Havelock Square

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