Click to view map
First Church of the
A National Monument
Already in 1895 when the community of the little settlement of Kroondal - 8km South-East of Rustenburg - consisted of only seven households, a start was made with the building of a church.
The designer and builder of the church was Karl HEYNE, a recent immigrant from Germany. The community was to supply the materials for the foundations of the structure, manufacture the bricks and supply all unskilled and semi-skilled labour.
Fieldstones for the foundations were gathered in the surrounding veld and carted to the building site. Brick-fields were opened up near to the building site and tens of thousands of bricks were formed and fired in a number of kilns. The necessary aggregate was hauled from the nearby Hexriver ford.
The local chronist/historian recorded that 'the foundation stone to the church was laid in June 1895'. This is to be taken literally in that it was the start of the work in the foundations. There is no inscribed cornerstone in existence.
The flat fieldstones for the foundations were laid carefully in a bonded fashion to ensure safe bearing for the weight of the massive two-brick walls of the superstructure – they are about half a metre thick.
The work progressed well and on Sunday, 24th of June 1896 the church was consecrated. Only thereafter the congregation was established.
In essence Karl Heyne, the designer and builder of the church had been charged with the provision of a building to hold an assembly for divine service and that it should have the appearance of a church. He succeeded well in this task.
On plan a longish rectangle presents itself. At one end the long side walls are angled inwards, thereby creating an apse for the liturgical space where the altar was to have its place.
The external aspect is that of a country church of the times. In the declaration of the church as a National Monument it is described as a ‘quaint eclectic church’. There are the high walls with the pointed narrow windows, the steep roof and the tall tower. The walls start up from a high dado and end in a moulded frieze. The eaves overhang is enclosed elaborately with fascia, soffit and cornice. Karl Heyne managed to add further embellishments without overdoing things.
While a small country church usually would have its entrance from the tower end, Heyne set a centre gable into the long side wall facing the street, thus creating an eye-catching portal. Entrance is gained through a set of double doors with pointed fanlight above. Some plaster niches enliven the high gable wall.
The interior of the church was furnished only gradually. The altar and the pulpit were made and donated by a craftsman from Rustenburg. A limited number of pews - later to be complemented - were put together by young men of the congregation under the guidance of a tradesman.
Only in 1912 a proper timber floor was laid and subsequently a gallery erected at the back of the church. The stairs situated in the tower are a master-piece of joinery.
In 1918 a vestry was built onto the apse end of the church, and in 1935 a pressed metal ceiling replaced the originally installed bead-board one.
When the church had become too small for the growing congregation a new one was built and taken into use in 1962.
The old church then gradually fell into disrepair. When in 1969 the 'Nasionale Kultuurhistoriese en Opelugmuseum' unexpectedly approached the congregation with the view of obtaining the old church building and re-erect it in an open air museum at the Fountains Valley in Pretoria, the congregation reacted favourably to the proposal and in the following year donated the building to the museum.
However, as time passed by and nothing happened in that respect, the building was deteriorating further. By 1977 a group of concerned persons had started a move to restore the church. To this end they first had to repossess the building. In October 1979 the Open Air Museum formally handed the building back to the congregation.
Now the journey on the long road to the successful restoration could start. First of all sufficient funds had to be collected. Then all the difficulties and vicissitudes of the restoration work had to be met. Much effort was put into the work by members of the congregation.
It took several years to complete the task. Then on Sunday, October the 30th 1982, the restored church was inaugurated. Dr. Anton Rupert who all along had given his support to the project unveiled the commemorative plaque at the entrance.
In the meantime the National Monuments Council had under date of the 29th of February 1980 accorded monument status to the church building.
A special feature that makes this monument unique is that it now houses the extensive village library which primarily lends out books. But it also contains a reference section which holds documents of local historical interest.
(Konrad Voges, November 2016)
(S vd Stel Bul 12 Apr 1966)
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.
Writings about this entry