Claremont church seeks help with a grave matter

Damaged headstones and deteriorating gravesites at St Saviour’s Church cemetery.

The historic cemetery at St Saviours’ Anglican Church in Claremont is crumbling, and the church has appealed for help to repair and maintain it.

The headstones are damaged and the areas around the graves have deteriorated, says Cameron Scott, the church’s retired warden, who has been a parishioner since 1948.

Reverend Chesnay Frantz says his wish list for the 167-year-old church includes a borehole, landscaping and tree-trimming experts.

Bishop Robert Gray and his wife, Sophia Gray, played a pivotal role in building the church, which was established in 1854.

According to Mr Scott, the graveyard has some prominent residents – people who played a prominent role in the Anglican parish as well as the history of Cape Town.

The first rector of St Saviours’, Bishop Gray, and his wife, Sophia were buried there in 1872 and 1871, respectively. The first premier of the Cape Colony, John Charles Molteno, was buried at the church in 1886; the founder of the Progressive Party, Harry Lawrence, who was Minister of Justice under Jan Smuts, was buried in 1973; and Bishop Sydney Lavis, was buried in 1965. He was the rector of the St Paul’s Anglican Church in Bree Street, and the suburb of Bishop Lavis was named after him.

“We are hoping relatives of these people, even if they are located all over the world, can assist in maintaining this old cemetery,” says Mr Scott.

The cemetery was closed to burials in 1973 and these days only ashes are interred there.

Mr Scott says there is a company that assists once a month with the gardening, but the graveyard needs more attention.

Reverend Frantz says improving the cemetery is a costly exercise, especially since Covid-19 has reduced the church’s revenue. “While we are managing the current state of the cemetery, we are wanting to take it up a level, and the next level just seems to challenge our current financial situation.”

Email or call 021 671 8171 or 021 6718994 for more information.

Retired warden of St Saviours, Cameron Scott standing at the gravesite of Bishop Robert Gray and his wife Sophia Gray, who were the founding members of the church.
Deteriorating landscaping where the burial site for interment of ashes are located.