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Somerset West

Somerset West was established during the governorship of Sir Charles Somerset (1814 — 1826) but the first Anglican services were only held several years later, in 1838. The Rev J W Sanders was sent, by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to Stellenbosch to minister to children who had been sent out to the Cape by the Children's Friend Society. On Sunday afternoons, Sanders would ride from Stellenbosch to various outlying places and hold services, but when he returned to England in 1840 these services came to an end.

It was a few years after the arrival in 1848 of Bishop Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town, that the Anglican Church established a foothold in the Hottentots-Holland area. Bishop Gray began a visitation of the interior in August that year, spending the first night of his journey at a farm at Eerste River. 


The First Church

In 1855 a piece of ground between Victoria and Oak Streets was transferred to the See of Cape Town for ecclesiastical purposes. This land was consecrated and used as a burial ground, but it was not until 1860 that the building of a combined chapel and school commenced, roughly where the present municipal library now stands.

In 1861 The Rev James Robert Godfrey was ordained Deacon by Bishop Gray and appointed Curate-in-Charge and schoolmaster at Somerset West. The chapel was not named and it is believed that Godfrey requested the name All Saints mainly because his birthday was on 1 November!

Somerset West remained a chapelry of Stellenbosch until it became a Parochial District in 1890, incorporating Strand, Sir Lowry's Pass and Gordon's Bay.

The Second Church

By the turn of the century, the old church had fallen into disrepair. Somerset West had also grown considerably, mainly because of the extension of the railway and the establishing of the De Beers Dynamite Factory. A new church was built on the Oak Street side of the Diocesan property and in 1905 Somerset West finally became a parish. 

The Third Church

By the 1940s the church was in a very dilapidated state, needing constant repairs. It was proposed to build a new church and rectory on vacant land opposite the existing church.


By mid–1951 the church property between Oak and Victoria streets had been sold to the municipality for £12,500 and the Diocesan Trustees had agreed to authorise a loan of £10,000. This money, together with funds raised by donations and subscriptions, provided the sum necessary for the building of the new All Saints complex.

The new church was dedicated by Archbishop Geoffrey Clayton in 1953, but it was only in 1961 (when the bond had been repaid) that Archbishop Joost de Blank consecrated All Saints' Church.


The simplicity of line and sparse internal decoration of All Saints focuses attention on the High Altar. The north side of the church is composed of plain glass windows, giving a view of the lovely Garden of  Remembrance.


The sacrament is reserved in the Lady Chapel, originally named the Emmaus Chapel, from the painting of Christ's revelation of himself in the breaking of bread at Emmaus, by Edwin Powell Jones. Above the tower entrance, the columbarium is no longer in use.


At the west end is the small Chapel of the Prodigal Son, where confessions are heard in Lent and Advent. 

The Norman and Beard organ was installed in the early 1960s, replacing a harmonium and blower, situated where the font is currently.


In 1998, a new rectory was acquired in Stuart Street, Somerset West. Given All Saints long history as a training parish, we also have a curate’s house in Somerset Street, Somerset West.


In 1986, the Small Saints Pre-Primary School was established in a prefabricated building to the north of the parish hall.

On Pentecost Sunday 2022, All Saints was inaugurated as the Cathedral of the Diocese of False Bay and the first Dean was installed.

Detailed information on the history of All Saints' is available in our booklets

obtainable from the Parish Office:


The History of All Saints' Somerset West 1861-2011

A short history of St Matthew’s Church Sir Lowry’s Pass

and All Saints' Church Somerset West.

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