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The Victorian era designed Dutch Reformed Church of Jansenville

Each Karoo town has a different charm and atmosphere just like each one has an unique historic Dutch Reformed Church. The town of Jansenville is in no way any different.

The Dutch Reformed Church in Jansenville is unusual in that the bell tower is separate from the church. The church is of typical Victorian-era design, complete with decorative plaster quoins on the corners of the exterior walls. The building was designed by prolific ecclesiastical architect Carl Otto Hager, whose plans were later revised by A.H. Reid of Port Elizabeth.

The cornerstone of the church was laid on 16 August 1884 and the building was consecrated on 20 June 1885. The wood carving around the pulpit, although simple in design, was carefully crafted. The different woods used create an appealing contrast of colours. The first organ used in the church can still be seen next to the pulpit, however, this was replaced with the grand pipe organ still in use to this day. I was there on a Sunday morning while the church service was on so I couldn’t slip in for a look to see the gold-leaf motifs decorating the organ pipes. Nor the beautiful patchwork tapestry Cross that hangs beneath the organ which was painstakingly stitched by members of the congregation.

The church has a beautiful silver plate jug, chalice, and offertory tray, with individual glasses while the famous Bible, kept under glass, is rumored to be the oldest or one of the oldest Dutch Bibles in the country. The Fourie family history in South Africa is written up on the facing page.

Interestingly the church was the first of a total of seven congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church that was founded in 1855 and is therefore the 61st oldest congregation in the entire Church and the 13th oldest congregation in the Synod of Eastern Cape. The Murraysburg Reformed Church and the Dutch Reformed Church in Aberdeen, also both in the Presbytery of Graaff-Reinet, were also founded in the year 1855.

The town of Jansenville owes its origin to the efforts of Rev. Alexander Smith, who was the second pastor of the mother congregation Uitenhage (founded in 1817) for 40 years from 1823 to 1863 (a year before his death). He saw to it that the Presbytery of Albania established a separate congregation here on 4 February 1855 , after the need was felt in 1848 already. The new congregation is a daughter congregation of Uitenhage, but both Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East ceded parts to Jansenville at the time. Rev. Smith was not only the father of the Jansenville congregation, but also acted as a consultant until 1862 during the long vacancy of about 19 years since the secession when the congregation was without a shepherd.