All Saints Church, Maidstone, KwaZulu-Natal
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Maidstone in KwaZulu Natal was named after Maidstone in Kent in the UK. It was a model village built exclusively for the white community who worked for the Tongaat Sugar Company. All Saints was likewise named after its English namesake in Kent.
In 1930, thirty-eight members of the sugar mill staff signed a petition asking for a central church to be built. They argued that a church would have a good moral and social influence on the community and would be a welcome addition to the district’s architecture. The petition was granted by the Tongaat Sugar Company. Land was subsequently bought by Thomas Hamlyn from Edward Saunders. In granting the petition one of the company’s stipulations was that the building had to have a tiled roof and the walls were to be a least nine inches thick. The directors of the company also reserved the right to intervene should the grounds or buildings not remain in a state of proper repair.
The cornerstone was laid in early 1932 but stopped in June of that year when several workmen fell ill with malaria. Work resumed in July and was sufficiently complete by October the following year (1933) for an opening ceremony. The first priest, the Revd Roderick Davies, furnished the interior through generous donations. All Saints Maidstone was dedicated with the prayer used in 1395 at the dedication of All Saints Maidstone in Kent. All Saints fell under the Parish of Verulam as a chapelry.
In the ensuing years stained-glass windows and plaques were added in memory of some of the families who helped establish the church. Seventy teak chairs were replaced with nineteen pews made of afromasia in 1965. A bell tower was erected and is an exact replica of the slave bell from Elsenberg Farm near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.
Upon entering the church is the carved reredos can be seen behind the altar, commissioned in the 1950s and carved by the sculptor, Mary Stainbank. The reredos shows twelve figures, six on either side of Jesus, some major, other minor saints, representing different races and ages, both male and female.
In the early 1970s a commission was set up by Bishop Michael Nuttall to investigate parish boundaries. There were two problematic parishes on the north coast, namely Verulam and Stanger, with the boundary between the two running through the future town of Ballitoville (now Ballito). The commission recommended in 1972 that the parish boundary between Verulam and Stanger should simply be the Umhlali River. All Saints fell under St Thomas Verulam along with St Catherine Mt Edgecombe. The commission suggested that All Saints Maidstone and All Souls Umhlali become separate parishes. All Saints was made a parish in 1994.
However various rectors of St Thomas Verulam, resided in the vicarage alongside All Saints' church in Maidstone, for a number of years, not withstanding the fact that the parish was still officially designated Parish of Verulam till 1994 ; They were the reverends
- Graham Ronald McCollum 1972 – 1980
- William George Hardwick 1981 – 1985
- Charles Ernest van Heerden 1986 – 1990
- Arthur Henderson Gosling 1992 – 1998.
Thereafter the following priests were in residence at Parish of Maidstone, and all officated under the oversight of the archdeacon.
- Ivan Ruiters 1999 - 2000
- Ivan Gunkel 2001 - 2003
- Neville Pike 2009 - 2011
As the Parish of Verulam, St Thomas’ was the parish church. The Vicarage was moved from Verulam to Maidstone in 1963, and where All Saints’ Church was receiving greater support. In 1992 All Saints’ was made the Parish Church, and so giving the name to the Parish.
Upon the retirement of Arthur Gosling in 1998 it was decided that Maidstone would not have an Incumbent, but instead would be cared for by the archdeacon. This decision was reversed in 2012 when Peter Gunning was appointed rector.
Threat and recovery
All Saints faced closure in 2003 with the congregation having dwindled to about ten regular members. The church was no longer able to afford a stipendiary priest and was given a year to reverse the slide. Consequently, All Saints was linked with the parish of All Souls Umhlali and came under the oversight of the incumbent rector of All Souls Umhlali. All Saints was faithfully served by non-stipendiary clergy in the area and gradually the turn-around happened. The congregation is now thoroughly multi-racial, drawn from Maidstone and Upper Tongaat, but also from as far away as Ballito, Westbrook and Salt Rock.
List of priests-in-charge
The following clergymen were priests-in-charge or rectors:
- 1933 - Roderick Davies
- 1934 - The Revd Mr Mort
- 1940s - The Revd Mr Truscott
- 1950s - Alfred Cox
- 1962 - Harold C. Clark
- 1981 - William G. Hardwick
- 1985 - Charles van Heerden
- 1986 - Arthur Gosling
- 2000 - Ivan.J. Ruiters
- 2001 - Ivan Gunkel
- 2003 - Colin Peattie (All Souls), with John Alexander
- 2006 - Rob Taylor (All Souls), with Neville Pike
- 2008 - Rob Jobling (All Souls), with Neville Pike, the Rt Revd Peter Harker, and Peter Houston (early 2011)
- 2011 - Peter Houston (All Souls)
- 2012 - Peter Gunning
- 2017 - Siyabonga Mdluli
- 75th Anniversary Article in All Saints Maidstone archives
- Commission Report in All Saints Maidstone archives
- Merrington, Peter (December 2006). "Cape Dutch Tongaat: A Case Study in 'Heritage'". Journal of Southern African Studies. Taylor & Francis. 32 (4, Heritage in Southern Africa): 683–699. JSTOR 25065145. (subscription required (. ))
- Merrington, P. (1998). "Heritage, Pageantry and Archivism: Creed Systems and Tropes of Public History in Imperial South Africa, c.1910". Kronos: Journal of Cape History (25): 129–151. JSTOR 41056431. (subscription required (. ))
- Brain, J. B. (1983). Christian Indians in Natal, 1860-1911: An Historical and Statistical Study. Oxford University Press, South Africa. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-19-570297-2.
- Pilkington, Alice Leonie (1992). Anglican Parish Churches in Natal, 1824-1910: An Architectural Evaluation. University of Natal.