Lovedale (South Africa)

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The Lovedale Mission Station

Lovedale was a mission station and educational institute in the Victoria East division of the Cape Province, South Africa (now in Eastern Cape Province). It lies 1,720 feet (520 m) above sea level on the banks of the Tyhume River, a tributary of the Keiskamma River, some 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Alice.


The station was founded in 1824 by the Glasgow Missionary Society and was named after Dr John Love, one of the leading members of, and at the time secretary to, the society. The site first chosen was in the Ncera valley, but in 1834 the mission buildings were destroyed by natives. On rebuilding, the station was removed somewhat farther north to the banks of the Tyhume river. John Bennie was one of the founding fathers of the mission station, which was established among the Ngqika. In 1846 the work at Lovedale was again interrupted, this time by the War of the Axe. On this occasion the buildings were converted into a fort and garrisoned by regular troops. Once more, in 1850, the natives threatened Lovedale and made an attack on the neighbouring Fort Hare, built during the previous war.

Until 1841 the missionaries had devoted themselves almost entirely to evangelistic work; in that year the Lovedale Missionary Institute was founded by Edward Govan, who, save for brief intervals, continued at its head until 1870. He was then succeeded by Dr. James Stewart (1831-1905), who had joined the mission in 1867, having previously (1861-1863), and partly in company with David Livingstone, explored the Zambezi regions.

Native education[edit]

Titlepage of the first volume of the magazine Indaba published at Lovedale, 1862-1863

The institute, in addition to its purely church work — in which no sectarian tests were allowed — provided for the education of Africans of both sexes in nearly all branches of learning (Stewart discontinued the teaching of Greek and Latin, adopting English as the classic); it also took European (white) scholars, no racial distinction being allowed in any department of the work (indeed; until it became part of the new Union of South Africa in 1910, the laws of the Cape Colony were "colour-blind"). The institute gave technical training in many subjects and maintained various industries, including such diverse enterprises as farming and printing-works. Eventually it included a primary school, high school, technical school, a teacher training college, a theological college and a hospital.

The school buildings rivaled in accommodation and completeness those of the schools in large English cities. The educational and industrial methods initiated at Lovedale were widely adopted by other missionary bodies.

Lovedale later became a branch of the work of the United Free Church of Scotland, becoming part of the Church of Scotland in 1929 (when the United Free Church united with the Church of Scotland). It was closed in the 1950s under the Bantu Education Act. The last ordained Principal of Lovedale was the Reverend R. H. W. Shepherd, who became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1959.

Missionary control of the college at Lovedale ended in 1955, passing to the state through the Bantu Education Act of 1952. The Lovedale Bible School continued as a separate Christian institution.[1] Lovedale Press, in Alice, continues to publish religious and educational material in several languages.

The Ciskei Government closed the college in 1979 but later re-opened it.[1] The campus at Alice continues today with an emphasis on Agriculture.

Famous alumni include Steve Biko, Z. K. Mathews, Govan Mbeki, Tiyo Soga, Charles Nqakula, King Sobhuza II, Sir Mwanawina Lewanika III, Ellen Kuzwayo, Sam Nolutshungu, Sir Walter Stanford and William Wellington Gqoba. Teachers included George McCall Theal, Milner Langa Kabane (later became principal).


Lovedale is also the name of a house on the Isle of Iona in Scotland. It is believed that a previous resident of the house had South African links, which explains the naming of the house in an area where Gaelic house names predominate.

Notes and references[edit]

  • The Gov'nor Observer Column in: The Financial Times, June 14, 2001)
  • Stewart, James Lovedale, Past and Present. London, 1884
  • Stewart, James (1887). Lovedale: Past and Present: a Register of Two Thousand Names. Lovedale Mission Press. 

External links[edit]

Official website