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Stewart Memorial Tower
Alice, Eastern Cape

Orlando MIDDLETON: Architect

Date:1908
Type:Monument
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
32°46'59.84" S 26°51'54.79" E Alt: 639m

(Langham-Carter 1985)

Located on a hill above Fort Hare University.

The Dictionary of South African Biography records that James Stewart
"....made a study of the Xhosa language and became proficient in it ... He was one of the first Scotsmen of high academic training to give himself to mission work, and thereby he set the pattern for others. Strong in intellect, with a swift and comprehending grasp of men and affairs, he often showed a great tenderness and largeness of heart. Milner once called him 'the greatest human in South Africa'."

[DSAB I, pp. 771-2.]

The Stewart Memorial Tower is sited on the crest of Sandili's Kop, a conical, flat topped hill to the east of the Alice campus of the University of Fort Hare. The prominent, elevated site has made the Tower a significant landmark in the Town of Alice and the surrounding landscape.

The approach up to the Tower is via a rough vehicle track which terminates in a large oval grassed parking area on the west side of the hill, prior to ascending a short stepped pathway up to the Tower. The path leads the visitor up an onto an axial approach towards the north-west face of the Tower.

Sited on the axial approach is the grave of James Stewart and his wife, Mina Stewart, cut into the bedrock of the hill. The low walls of the grave are capped by a large granite grave stone, the two sloping faces of which have commemorative inscriptions. The metal inserts forming the inscriptions are not lead, but a ferrous metal, with the attendant rusting and staining of the stone surface.

The rectangular area around the grave is defined with eight short, rough-hewn granite obelisks, between which are low granite kerbs. The original chains linking the obelisks have since been removed.

Inscription on north-eastern face of the grave stone:

IN SACRED MEMORY OF

JAMES STEWART, D.D., M.D., F.R.G.S.,

BORN AT EDINBURGH 14th FEBRUARY 1831, DIED AT LOVEDALE 21st DECEMBER 1905.

SOMG - X - ADA

FOUNDER OF BLYTHSWOOD 1875, LIVINGSTONIA 1876, AND KIBWEZE 1892

BUILDER OF LOVEDALE 1867 - 1905

PROMOTER AT ALL TIMES OF THE GREATER CHRISTIANITY OF DIVINE CHARITY,

THE UPLIFTING OF HUMANITY.

Inscription on the south-western face of grave stone:

SACRED TO THE MEMORY

OF

MINA STEPHEN

"NOWAKA"

27 APRIL 1848 - 21 OCTOBER 1928

WIFE OF JAMES STEWART, MISSIONARY AT LOVEDALE,

AND FRIEND TO THE BANTU FOR OVER 60 YEARS.

"SHE OPENETH HER MOUTH WITH WISDOM AND IN

HER TONGUE IS THE LAW OF KINDNESS."

(Inscription time worn and vandalised and is indistinct in parts)

When James Stewart's wife passed away in 1928 and was buried in his grave, a Scottish firm of monumental masons - J & G Mossman of Glasgow - made a combined grave stone of a grey flecked granite with two sloping faces to replace the original flat grave stone slab. J & G Mossman recorded their details on the south side of the granite slab.

The Memorial Tower is square in plan with rounded corners. The Tower sits on a projecting plinth and the significant height of the Tower is accentuated by a slight inward taper. The Tower is terminated by a 'capital' which in turn is capped by a simple Celtic cross. The Tower is constructed of hammer dressed free-stone with certain portions dressed to an even face, all of which suggests very fine craftsmanship.

At the base of the north-west elevation - on the axial approach - is a large memorial stone, smoothly dressed, minimally decorated with a small celtic cross and simply inscribed with the words:

JAMES STEWART
MISSIONARY

The memorial stone is placed within a shallow recess capped by a flat arch with tall, narrow voussoirs, flanked by curved stone reveals and with a sloping stone cill. The bottom of the memorial stone is coincident with the top of the plinth. The memorial stone has unfortunately suffered the indignity of some minor graffiti in recent years.

The 'capital' of the Tower is a complex geometrical and spatial arrangement, forming a 'shelter' at the apex and allowing visual penetration through the Tower at this level. The 'capital' comprises of the following five basic elements:

BASE
The base of the 'capital' is expressed as a smoothly dressed moulded projection beyond the face of the Tower on each of the four elevations. Each rounded segmental projection is supported on a moulded stone bracket divided into three simply curved convex surfaces. The base forms a planar surface on which the columns are supported.

COLUMNS
Four rectangular corner columns are set out on the diagonal axes of the Tower, which line up approximately to the four cardinal points. The columns each have rounded external faces coincident with the rounded corners of the Tower below.

ARCHES
Four broad segmental arches are supported by the four corner columns. Each arch has an expressed keystone. The corners of the internal square faces of each of the four columns coincide with the mid lines of the adjacent arches.

TOP COURSE
The top course is expressed as a smoothly dressed, moulded projection beyond the face of the Tower on each of the four elevations. The external face is bisected on each facade by the keystone of the segmental arch below. The upper surface of the top course is further elaborated with four domed cap-stones which suitably terminate the continuous rounded corners of the Tower;

CELTIC CROSS
A large granite Celtic Cross is mounted centrally on top of the Tower, albeit stripped of all surface decoration and reduced to a simple silhouette. A lightning conductor is fixed adjacent to the cross.

Postscript:
The passage of time has caused the erosion of significant areas of the mortar pointing, particularly at the upper levels of the Tower. It would be prudent to restore this pointing to prevent moisture penetration into the Tower and the consequent damage to the fabric and structure. The lightning conductor has been removed or stolen at the lower level and it would be recommended that this be reinstated.

[William MARTINSON, December 2010]

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

Shepherd, RHW. 1971. LOVEDALE SOUTH AFRICA 1824 - 1955. : Lovedale Press. pg 68
Wells, James. 1909. Stewart of Lovedale: The Life of James Stewart D.D., M.D., Hon. F.R.G.S.. London: Hodder & Stroughton. pg 398