Cathedral church of St Michael and St George
Col H Maurice SCOTT: Architect
Sir George Gilbert SCOTT: Architect
John Oldrid SCOTT: Architect
William WHITE-COOPER: Architect
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(JO Scott's FRIBA nom papers 1878), 1892
The building of this cathedral, following medieval tradition, was an extended operation for it began as the Church of St. George in 1824 and its building continued into the 20th century. In spite of this it is a fine unified neo-gothic composition.
The original design by William Oliver JONES, the Government Inspector of buildings in Cape Town, was amended by Colonel HM SCOTT who was stationed in Grahamstown. He was the first of three men of that name to have a say in its design. The subsequent building, admittedly hampered by prevailing conditions and the small amount of money spent on it, was a crude, debased version of neo-gothic with pointed window and door openings set in stone walls three feet thick, plastered on both sides and ornamented with stone quoins. At the west end, looking somewhat like that of a Fenland church, stood a pinnacled, projecting tower. Internally the church was treated in a classical manner.
In 1853, St. George's Church became a Cathedral.
In 1874, a new tower and spire, designed by Sir Gilbert SCOTT a leader of the Gothic Revival in England, was built in conjunction with the old nave, and plans for a new chancel in the form it has today were prepared by Sir Gilbert's son, John Oldrid SCOTT. A new nave was built in 1911, also according to his plans, which embodied the south wall of the existing nave and its gallery which is said to be the oldest piece of English church architecture in South Africa. The cathedral was completed by a south aisle and a chapel on the north.
The designs of the two Scotts for the reconstruction and extension of the cathedral were in a virile, early medieval style and the plan had much in common with the slightly earlier Church of Christ having a square east end, bold projecting transepts, a high timbered roof and a single broached spire. The cathedral's external walls were strengthened by buttresses formed in receding stages with weathered offsets but the windows and decorations showed that two different minds had directed their forms: generally they were of the Early English type, but the hundred and fifty foot high tower and spire with their adjoining structure had the double recessed windows of a later Early English period with plate and bar tracery as well as lancet-shaped openings. This tall octagonal spire rises out of the unparapeted square tower by means of a broach in the same way as that of the Church of Christ but here the treatment is more simple and the buttresses stop before they reach the top of the tower. Under the spire, at the top of the tower, there appears a vestigial Norman corbel table.
The stone used for building the cathedral was a local blue quartzite with dressings to arches, windows and buttresses of limestone from Bathurst and Steenpan sandstone from the Orange Free State. The principal trusses to the roofs are of Burmese teak with boarding of teak in the nave and cedar, obtained from a vessel wrecked on the coast, in the chancel. Tie-beams to the nave roof are of English oak and the roofs are covered with sheet copper.
Pointed arches rise to the roof of the nave and spring from octagonal piers of black Belgian marble whose bases are of sandstone from Queenstown.
The pulpit was designed by JO SCOTT and made in England of oak with three carved panels, one containing the portraits of the first four bishops of Grahamstown; this is one of the finest examples of wood-carving in the Republic. The chancel screen, also designed by JO SCOTT, was carried out by local craftsmen; it is of teak with a beam and four upright posts with trefoil filling and a cross on top. The font of stone and marble from England has a brass cover and the stained glass filling for the windows was the work of an English artist, C. Powell of London.
On Scott's return to Britain, W WHITE-COOPER was appointed supervising architect for the work from 1889 until about 1892 when the building was finally completed.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
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