The Cathedral Parish of St Dunstan's
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records of services of the Anglican
Church in this district date from
1894 and were conducted by the
Rev'd. J. R. Godfrey, then Rector of
Shortly after the end of the Anglo-Boer War the mining industry expanded its activities in this area very considerably. Modder Bee followed the mines called New Modderfontein, Van Ryn, and the Kleinfontein. Cloverfield (afterwards named Modder East) Brakpan, State Mines and what was then called "Rand Collieries" but which was, in fact, a gold mine. Benoni as a town was not then in existence, nor had it been planned, and the earliest services of the Church were conducted in private homes or buildings owned and used for other purposes by the mines. An ex-Chaplain of the South African War, Fr. Eustace Hill was then sent by the Community of the Resurrection to further the work of the Church on the East Rand and it was in the year 1905 that the first Church building was erected on the Van Ryn Mine property and was dedicated to St. Matthew the Evangelist. This little pre-fabricated church was enlarged in 1911 and removed to New Modderfontein.
Benoni was emerging as a village in 1906 and much of its development and planning was inspired by Sir George Farrar after whose home town of Bedford, England, several streets were named and from whom the suburb of Farrarmere takes its name. It was in this year that Bishop Carter of Pretoria (as there was no Diocese of Johannesburg) made the choice of the Rev'd. Alfred T. Harre, to serve as resident priest in the district and very soon plans were being made for the erection of a stone Church and a Rectory. Lady Ella Farrar laid the foundation stone of this First Church of St. Dunstan in April 1909 and Bishop Michael Furse dedicated the Church on August 1 of that year. It was situated in Cranbourne Avenue between the junction of Rothsay and Tom Jones Streets. At first thought to be too ambitious in size, seating just over a hundred persons, the attendances at Evensong soon made this opinion very questionable. In 1910 the Rector was joined by the Rev'd. Robert A. H. Urquhart, as his commitments extended throughout the Modders and Brakpan. It was during this period that the Church of All Saints, Modder Bee, was opened, the building having been converted from a hospital, the east end of which provided an attractive Church whilst the western end served as a Church Hall. The building was removed after Modder Bee became a prison. In 1914 Mr Harre retired in order to accept a position in Kenley, in Sussex, England, where he died in 1947. His son, Dunstan, was born on St. Dunstan's day, 1913, in Benoni Rectory. In the 1939-45 war he was a tank officer winning the Military Cross and was killed fighting at El Alamein. In the Chapel of the existing Church there is a stained glass window to the memory of both father and son.
At this time a famous trio of Clergy arrived from Oxford; Edward Paget, as Rector, with Robert Moberley and Arthur Hill as his assistants, to be joined in 1915 by the Rev'd. C. L. Outram. Shortly after the outbreak of World War 1 this distinguished team all left to become Service Chaplains until the end of the war. The greatly loved Rev'd. John Coombs kept the work going until the return of the Rector. The development of the East Rand had continued. In 1910 and 1921 Springs and Brakpan were to become separate parishes. Under the leadership of Edward Paget the Parish of Benoni developed apace. St. Dunstan's Memorial School was opened as a living memorial to those who died in the war. In 1919, by raising a loan of £1,000 the parish built St. Dunstan's Hall in Cranbourne Avenue, a building which has since been invaluable for the service it has rendered to the Scouting and School activities as well as a social center for Church work. During the dangerous days of the terrible Influenza epidemic and the Strike, of 1922, St. Dunstan's and its clergy won an honored name. The Rev'd. E. Paget tells of occasions when he has had to take shelter from rifle fire and bombardment in the porch of the Church. In 1925 he was elected Bishop of Southern Rhodesia and was later joined by the Rev'd. A. P. Hill who became Dean of Salisbury.
R. H. Moberley also left to become Principal of Cheshunt Theological College and later Bishop of Stepney.
The new Rector was Charles Eric Goodall who was assisted by G. W. Silk and J. Osborne. Until this time two congregations of coloured people in the district had been cared for by what was known as the East Rand Coloured mission, and were placed under the care of the Rector of Benoni. One of these congregations was at Modder Bee where good work continued until the closure of the mine in 1958. The people then joined the Benoni South Coloured community. Fr. Goodall left the parish in 1928 and later became Provincial of the Community of the Resurrection in South Africa. Fr. George Silk left at the same time, to serve in the newly consecrated Cathedral Church in Johannesburg.
The Rev'd. Godfrey Evans followed Fr. Goodall, assisted by the Rev'd. Buckingham Baker and the Rev'd. Alfred Hipkin The new Rector was a man with a tremendous capacity for work and under his direction many new areas were opened up for the Church's ministry, including the district of Putfontein and Petit. During his term as Rector the Rev'd. A. W. Eaton joined the staff as a Deacon, having been ordained to the Priesthood in St. Dunstan's Church. The first Ordination to take place in the parish, was on 20th December 1930. Mr. Eaton later became a Canon of Leicester Cathedral after which he returned to the African continent to become Dean of Kitwe, N. Rhodseia. Mr. Evans left Benoni in 1934 to become Dean of Pietermaritzburg and he died soon after taking up that appointment.
The Rev'd. Harold Cranswick was Rector from 1934 to 1945, assisted Revíd. E. S. Miller and the Rev'd. N. Jarivs Palmer, the former working especially in the mine Churches whilst Fr. Jarvis Palmer did splendid work amongst the youth of the town, particularly amongst the Scouts. He later became Chaplain to the 2nd Transvaal Scottish Regiment, leaving the parish in 1941 and was succeeded by the Rev'd. A. J. Sexby. During his Rectorship the difficult decision was made to sell the site of the first St. Dunstan's Church and to build a new Church from the proceeds of the sale. Great care was taken to preserve the stones of the older construction and they now comprise the lovely Chapel, a smaller replica of the Mother Church. the noble arch over the high altar in the new building.
Revd Cranswick was deeply interested in the formation of the Guild of St. Luke, who engaged in regular intercession for the sick and a fine stained glass window of St. Luke was erected in his memory.
Gilbert Hall became Rector in 1945.
He was a devoted priest and scholar
who had served in Malaya. He made a
splendid contribution to the
Serverís Guild and St. Dunstanís
School. The parishioners erected the
beautiful St. John's window of the
Chapel to his memory.