Voortrekker church gets its pews back after 149 years

2011-06-15 00:00

TWO vintage pews have found their way home after 149 years.

The Church of the Vow, which is part of Msunduzi/Voortrekker Museum in Langalibalele Street, received the two wooden benches as a donation from the Dutch Reformed Church in Ladysmith. The pews originally belonged to the historic church, but were sold in 1862 when a new place of worship was built.

The Voortrekker church has been in existence since 1840.

The benches have never been retouched and are still in good condition even though some of the brown paint has peeled off.

Elrica Olivier, research officer of the Msunduzi/Voortrekker Museum, said, “These benches are historic and they are very significant as we’ll be celebrating 100 years in December 2012.”

In March Olivier gave a talk at the museum to visitors from Ladysmith and mentioned the benches. Afterwards an elderly woman told her the benches were in her church.

Olivier had been asking about the whereabouts of the benches for a year.

A parishioner of the Dutch Reformed Church in Ladysmith, Renée Human (76), told the museum about the benches.

She told The Witness that the church thought it would be a “good idea” to return the pews to the Church of the Vow.

“For a while we used them in our small hall for Sunday school. Then we later used them in our social worker’s waiting room.”

Human said she is happy about the decision because the benches are a “cultural treasure”.

A marketing and public relations intern with the Msunduzi/Voortrekker Museum, Sane Dhlamini, said, “There are a lot of things that we receive from the public because we want to preserve the history for the future generation.”

The Church of the Vow houses exhibitions dealing with the history of the church, the vow the Voortrekkers made before the Battle of Blood River on December 16, 1838, and the lifestyle of the Voortrekkers.

The museum staff are appealing to Pietermaritzburg residents to visit the centre and learn more about their history.

“We get more visitors from overseas than locals,” said Dhlamini.

The museum entrance fee is R8 for adults, R5 for pensioners and R2 for children and is open from Monday to Saturday.

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