Jeppestown & Belgravia Pt.3 (St. Mary’s-the-less)

In the 1890 map one can see the original layout before the railway line, Belgravia to the east and other surrounding areas like City & Suburban and Wolhunter. Commissioner Street is still called Natal road and there is a little stream and lake called Natal spruit.

Johannesburg 1890 map

Johannesburg 1890 map

The 1896 map shows the growth that took place in just 6 years.

Jeppestown Map 1896

Jeppestown Map 1896

St. Mary’s-the-less 1889

St. Mary-the-less blue plaque

St. Mary’s-the-less blue plaque

This is considered the oldest original (mostly) surviving building in Johannesburg. Its competition is a shop in Doornfontein with 1887 above the door but has no building plans or early ownership records to prove its case. the other is the Bree Street Police Station evidently from around 1887.

St. Mary-the-less 2011

St. Mary’s-the-less 2011

From the centenary booklet dated 1989: ‘St. Mary’s was the first Anglican church to be built in Johannesburg. It is the oldest surviving building in the city as far as we know and certainly the oldest church still in use’ It was designed by Arthur and Walter Reid and can seat about 120 people.

St. Mary-the-less interior

St. Mary’s-the-less interior

The organ was commissioned from the British firm Morgan & Smith in August 1908 at a cost of 525 Pounds. It was overhauled in 1979 at a cost of R7000 and is considered one of the finest in Johannesburg.

St. Mary-the-less window

St. Mary’s-the-less back window

St. Mary-the-less interior

St. Mary’s-the-less interior

The foundation stone was laid on the 10th September 1899 by Mrs. John Darragh (Wife of the famous Reverend). There is no record of services being held before Holy Week 1891.

Walls were buttressed in 1896 and additions done in 1904 (porch and vestry) and 1908 (organ chamber).

Donations list

Donations list

Fritha Hennessy sent me a picture of Albert Lee whose name appears on the above donations list. He was the brother of Mary Lee who was Fritha’s great-grandmother. Albert was a sub deacon (or a minister of some sort) at the church from 1914 to 1918, when he died in the Flu epidemic.  The parishioners donated the statue of Mary in his memory after his death.
Albert Edward Lee

Albert Edward Lee

The first church bell lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after the ship (Alnwick Castle) it was returning on from being recast was sunk by a German torpedo during WW1. On the inside of the new bell is inscribed, ‘St Mary’s Jeppestown, Recast 1917, Sunk on Alnwick Castle 19 March 1917, Replaced by insurance January 1918’

St. Mary's-the-less bell

St. Mary’s-the-less bell

Initially know as St Mary’s Church Jeppe, it bowed and took the lower status (the-less) after St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in 1929.

There is another church in Johannesburg know as St. Mary’s on the Limpopo. It changed its name in 1982 from the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin in recognition of the Braamfontein spruit which runs under the church on its way to the Limpopo. It’s a little church tucked away between a block of flats and Brenthurst Clinic on the corner of Empire Road and Clarendon Place. I’ll cover this church in future Parktown posts.

St. Mary-the-less interior

St. Mary-the-less interior

Although not religious myself, I couldn’t help but feel humbled by the grace, ambiance and history of this little old church. It has seen most of Johannesburg’s history and still stands despite all the change and progress.

Arrow shows position of church

Arrow shows position of church 2012

The arrow shows the church-top hidden behind buildings and warehouses. The picture was taken from the rooftop of one of the Maboneng buildings during a Sunday afternoon DJ set in 2012.

St. Mary-the-less drawn by Abe Bailey

St. Mary-the-less drawn by Abe Bailey

This entry was published on July 6, 2013 at 12:42 am. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “Jeppestown & Belgravia Pt.3 (St. Mary’s-the-less)

  1. Abel on said:

    would be interesting to get a bit of history on Jules street,its afterall jeppestowns most famous street,and a street I grew up in.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks Abel!
      Fair point. Having grown up in Kensington I’ve always thought of Jules street as being in Malvern, especially the top end where the driving was (Speedys?). I’ll add whatever I can find to the post once I’m done with Braamfontein

  2. Colin on said:

    I lived on the corner of Main and Grace Streets, Belgravia Court. There was a large building backing onto Grace Street known as ‘Bradlan Court’ that I read somewhere known as St Mary’s. Bradlan Court was bordered by Main, Op de bergen, Marshall and Grace Streets. Any information?

  3. Hello Colin, it’s 2016 and I I know the area well, Belgravia Court is still there, dilapidated, but Op de Bergen is on the opposite side of Main Street, across Commissioner Street going down into Ellis Park. There are buildings in between, lots of flats. I couldn’t find Bradlan Court – it might have been re-named. Anne

  4. Valiant on said:

    Hello Colin, Mark, Anne. I’d upload a modern-day Street View picture of the building you’re speaking of if I knew how to. She’s a grand old dame and probably looks as fabulous as how you remember her. It’s now known as St James Prep School and is bordered by Main, Berg, Marshall and Grace Streets. Their website is – trust that it helps to answer your query. Valiant.

  5. Alex Hill on said:

    Hi Marc. I have only undertaken a cursory reading of your links, today. This is most fascinating and appreciated; good job on this! I have read the books of Menache/David & Oosthuysen and have visited many of the churches they showcase. I see there are quite a lot more to visit, without leaving Joburg! I look forward to a detailed read! All the best with your research…Alex

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      THanks Alex! I purchased Phillip’s book earlier this year, but have not had time to go through them in detail. I can see several out-of-town trips on the horizon in 2018…

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