History of St Stephen’s Church in Paarl

Keeping the theme of the history of Paarl churches – lets learn a bit about another establishment that contributed greatly to Paarl’s history – St Stephens Church (next to Noord Eind Primary School)

The St Stephen’s parish was founded in 1850,and the St Stephen’s School was also established in 1854 with Fr J F Curlewis as its first teacher. A school chapel was built in 1858 and served as a place of worship and a primary school and stood on the corner of Main and School Streets in Noorder Paarl.

In 1876 the Anglican Church bought a property in Main Street in order to build a new church for the Noorder Paarl parish, and the old chapel could then be subdivided into four permanent classrooms. Besides the church building, the church had a primary school, church hall, caretaker’s cottage, rectory and graveyard. The church was the centre of the Noorder Paarl community’s religious and educational activities.

The congregation had its own rugby club called the St Stephen’s RFC – also known as the Swartbekbootjies. The team was coached by Fr LK Zeeman, and many of the players also sang in the St Stephen’s Church Choir. They wore a black rugby jersey with a white collar, black shorts and black socks with a white stripe.

The St Stephen’s Society was formed in 1882 to provide social and financial support to members living in Noorder Paarl. In order to join, applicants had to be between the ages of 18 and 45. New members also had to pay a once-off fee of 75c if they were under the age of 30 years, or R1 if they were older than 30. Weekly contributions were set at 10c per member. In return, the society supported members in terms of medical costs, funeral costs and also provided financial support when members were too ill to work. Society meetings were held in the St Stephen’s church hall in School Street.

When the Group Areas Act of 1961 was enforced in Paarl, Noorder Paarl was initially declared a “Coloured” area. “White” residents campaigned vigorously against this classification, and the area was subsequently reclassified as a “White” area. Coloureds from Noorder Paarl were relocated to New Orleans and Charleston Hill.

In 1982 the school closed down and pupils were moved to the Nieuwedrift Primary School, and school building was demolished and a new St Stephen’s church was built in New Orleans in 1981.

In 1998 the St Stephen’s congregation approached the Commission of Land Restitution in order to have the building returned to them. A few years later, the restitution application was successful and the claim was settled with the church.

Now we know where the school LK Zeeman and street Curlewis got their names…

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