Stoep Stories No 7

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Wednesday, 7th May 2014

 Stoep Stories - Tales from the Karoo.
Published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society 


By Teddy Whitlock

The bells of Graaff – Reinet, many of them now silent showpieces, recalling the past, have many a story to tell.

Probably the best known bells, that have called the congregation to worship for more than a century, are those of the NG Grootkerk. The two bells in the tower of this church, built in 1886, were installed soon after its completion. The bells one with a higher pitch than the other summon the congregation as tradition will have it to the words, “kom kerk –toe, bring ‘n pennie saam”.  The manual ringing of these weighty bells is no easy task as the sexton of the church will confirm. The larger bell with the lower tone, provides the strike for the clock.

The heavy bell in the belfry of St James Anglican Church is almost as old, having been installed in 1894. It is recorded that John Oliver Reeve and his business partners the Anglican Church with ”a ring of bells” which possibly consisted of three bells. The bells were later recast in London to create the single large bell.

A church bell which is no longer sounded is the Angelus bell that hangs in a metal bellcote adjacent to the Roman Catholic Church in Bourke Street. The date of erection of the bell and its origin are unknown. In years gone by when there was a convent run by the Dominican Sisters, the bell was rung regularly to call the faithful to prayer.

The oldest Graaff – Reinet bell is the bell of the former Oefeningshuis, which is now the Hester Rupert Art Museum. Originally it stood on Church Street, but with the restoration of the building in 1966 it was moved to a new iron standard erected next to the original main entrance to the church at the rear of the building as viewed from Church Street. The origin of this bell is uncertain it has been suggested that it could possibly have been the bell of the bell of the first DR church that was built at the lower end of Church Street and which was destroyed by fire in 1799 before its completion.