Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, Strooidak
Petrus JORDAAN: Contractor
33°44'45.38" S 18°57'45.19" E
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This church was preceded by the Huguenot Church in Simondium and the first DR Church in Paarl. In 1799 the need arose for a larger church and Rev Robert Aling appointed architect LM THIBAULT who designed a kruiskerk with wings measuring 30 x 11m. The wide wings required long yellowwood roof beams that were too expensive. Thibault suggested that supporting interior columns be installed to support shorter timber beams, but these would obscure the views of the pulpit so his design was rejected.
In the meantime the kerkraad [church council] had appointed GC Kuchler, military engineer and former head of the Cape Artillery, to prepare a new design. When Thibault learnt of this he sued for architect's fees and was eventually awarded 200 rixdollars plus legal fees.
Kuchler's design is based on a Greek cross floor plan with the wings resembling that of a thatched and gabled farmhouse though slightly wider and thus also taller. It has a very similar floor plan to the DR Church in Stellenbosch (1717). Gables have alternate convex and S-curves topped with a semi-circular cap – all four gable outlines are similar but for the inscription Sol Justiliae Illustra Nos (Light of justice enlighten us) on the main gable (the same inscription appeared on the Paarl Gymnasium school) and the date '1801' on the south gable which was completed first.
The gable facades have subtle pilasters on their corners, simple circular occuli and arched windows with plastered eyebrows. Doors are framed by pilasters and rusticated arches with keystones. The main entrance door has 8 panels and a spoked fanlight.
The interior is simple and stripped of decoration with a flat arched cross-vaulted ceiling. The entire eastern wing used to be the vestry, separated from the church by a wall with the pulpit in its centre. With the addition of a new vestry this wing became part of the main church space. With completion only the western wing (entrance) had a gallery. The existing organ is a 1977 replacement.
The church was completed by June 1803 but the brick floor still had to be laid. With completion the meulenaar Bart Louw moved the pulpit from the old church to the new, and it was inaugurated on 28 April 1805.
Later additions included: the iron entrance gates by Jan Warnick (1808), the bell tower (1811), two galleries and ceiling (1824), a new stinkwood pulpit (1838) – the first pulpit was given to the Wellington congregation, a new vestry to back of the eastern wing (1852), new pews (1878) and a new eastern gallery housing the organ (1882).
The bell itself consists of, from top to bottom, a decorative floral band, the inscription 'CLAES NOORDEN ET IAN ALBERT DE GRAVE ME FECE RUNT ASTELODAMI . A MDCCXIIII', a decorative band of leaves, and another inscription 'H:W:G:B: HEERE GEORG MATTIAS, HEERE TER FENNESTANGEETE. ALBERTUS MEERING PASTOOR. GERHARD ALYNCK VOOGHT ROBBERT ALYNK ALBERT KONINK. IOHAN LUIEKEN KERKEN RADEN'. Each section is separated by horizontal moulding wires.
The church is set within a large churchyard with Cypress and Oak trees containing some gabled tombs and other elaborate tombstones and sculptures with the oldest dating from 1720.
1. Fransen, H. 2004. The Old Buildings of the Cape. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.
(Paul VAN DER MERWE, 2015)
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