Modderpoort, Free State


Railway junction and village on the Bloemfontein-Bethlehem railway, 135 km east of Blocmfontein in the Ladybrand district. It is the junction for the branch line to Ladybrand (10 km). Prehistoric rock paintings in the neighbourhood have been proclaimed a historical monument. The municipality of Ladybrand supplies electricity to the South African Railways and private consumers.

Modderpoort ā€“ Saint Augustine [Extracted from a documentation by Inge WESSELS and extended]

Modderpoort owes its origin to an idea in the mind of Bishop Twells, who became the first Bishop of this Diocese in 1863. It was his wish that both a brotherhood and a sisterhood should be put to work in the new diocese. Twells bought the two farms of Modderpoort and Modderpoort Spruit for 352 Pound (R700) from a man called Green. The Society of St. Augustine was born in July 1867 when Canon Beckett and six men left England to go to work in this remote and isolated part of the Free State. The farms were first occupied in 1869 by Canon Henry Beckett, the Superior of the Society of St Augustine and four brothers who lived in the now famous cave which is currently a consecrated Anglican Church. They made their temporary home in a cave. They enlarged the existing area to a 3.6 x 4.2 m structure by building up a wall of stones. This space was used as a chapel and small sleeping space, till it was later refurbished as a pilgrimage chapel by Fr. Adrian Martin in 1945. The Priory Church is alongside the original Priory building which is still in use today.

The Augustinian canons later built the Priory Church of St. Augustine to replace the original church building. It is a model of the late C19 Gothic Revival, with proper choir stalls and a magnificent bell outside which was erected by Taylor of Loughborough.

Cannon Beckett was responsible for planting the many trees especially the Eucalyptus, Pine and Oak trees which still enclose the space.

In 1902 the Society of the Sacred Mission took over the missionary work from the Society of St Augustine who had very few active members left. By 1928, the SSM had established a Training College for black teachers as well as a High School. Both the Training College and High School were closed in 1955 due to the restrictions introduced by the Bantu Education Act of 1953 and the Apartheid government.

In 1988 the Provincial Chapter of the SSM took the decision to close the province of South Africa and so to withdraw from Modderpoort. Fr Charles Lange was appointed Warden by Bishop Patrick Glover in 1999 and following his vision the Diocese began to upgrade the now dilapidated facilities.

The scattering of buildings bears witness to the many works of varying kinds that have been done at Modderpoort over the years. Modderpoort was a place where students might receive training for Holy Orders and it was a school of learning.

For many years since its closure, St Augustineā€™s has been operating as a Conference Centre with Bed & Breakfast facilities. Past students include a former Premier of the Free State, Mme Winkie Direko, politicians, a doctor, Anglican and non Anglican clergy.

The legend of Mantsopa has resulted in the farm becoming a main tourist attraction for the Free State.

The Priory and Chapel originally built by the Society of St Augustine are also tourist attractions.

The old postcard, a detail of which is shown on this page showing five of the original missionaries, was sent by Janice Botes who edits the philatelic magazine THEMNEWS.

Contact St Augustine's B&B and Conference Centre
Tel: (+27) 51 924 3318/ (+27) 76 522 4687
Email: Johan or Information

List of references:

Oberholster, JJ. 1972. The historical monuments of South Africa. Cape Town: Rembrandt Van Rijn Foundation for Culture at the request of the National Monuments Council. pp 219

List of structures:

Basuto Wars Fortifications: n.d..
Cave Chapel: n.d..
Education Centre: n.d..
Graveyard: n.d..
Hostel Accommodation: n.d..
Jacob Douglas Memorial Chapel: n.d..
Mantsopa Grave: n.d..
Old Gaol: n.d..
Old Priory Church: n.d..
Post Office: n.d..
Priory: n.d..
Priory Church of St Augustine: 1902.
Railway Station: n.d..
Rock Art Shelters and Stone-Age sites: n.d..
Seminary: 1939.
St Augustines: n.d..
St Joseph's Winter Chapel: n.d..
St Monica's ā€“ once the residence of Bishop Chandler: n.d..
St Raphael's Cottage Hospital: n.d..
Training School for Infant and Kindergarten Teachers: n.d..