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The Early British Families of Paarl

published in Familia vol. 28, no. 4, 1991, p. 198-203

Many books rightly deal with the history of the Dutch and Huguenots of Paarl. They contain almost not a single word about the British. Yet families from the British Isles were here from an early date and played a valuable part in the life of the community. Two of them moreover, (Barker and Curlewis, see below) were important enough to merit articles in The Dictionary of South African Biography and the Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa and in E. Rosenthal's Southern African Dictionary of National Biography. Clergy were soon on the scene and did noble work in ministering to their compatriots and to their non-European converts. George Barker served here in a branch of the London Missionary Society 1839-1856 and then stayed on till his death five years later. The son of a farmer, he did useful work teaching agriculture to his Hottentots. There are copies of his letters with Paarl's historical society, the Drakenstein Heemkring. And his diary of an earlier period (1815-1828) remains with a descendant.

Barker built the Zion Chapel in Zion Street and opened it on 4 August 1842, a large building which seats 500 but cost only £320 as the congregation gave their labour free of charge. Eventually, however, they were driven out by the Group Areas Act and it is now leased to the Dutch Reformed Church. It became a National Monument on 22 November 1990.

Barker had a large family, of whom three sons and six daughters reached adulthood. Sarah the eldest girl married G.A. Munro of Grahamstown. Elizabeth (1816-1904) stayed unwed. Anne (1818-1886) married another L M S missionary James Read (1811-1894) in 1841. Jane (1825-1924) married D.T. Hockly of Cradock (1826-1897) in 1849. Mary Anne (1827-1903) married the Dutch minister Johannes Budly. And Harriet married the D R C theologian J.H. du Plessis (1826-1891).

Barker taught in the mission school and his daughter Anne started a Ladies Seminary for European girls and young boys. Jane and Mary Anne later took over and finally Elizabeth. The school had at least two distinguished alumni. J.H. de Villiers, later Chief Justice of South Africa, was born in Paarl in 1842 and learned here till he went on to South African College ten years later. And F.C. Kolbe who became a monsignor in the Catholic Church studied here in his Paarl sojourn of 1856-1862. He was the son of F.W. Kolbe who took over from Barker in 1856 and is recorded as having a congregation of 600 two years later.

The Barkers were Congregationalists and a still standing church for their European members was erected in Auret Street, quite close to the Zion Chapel, in 1903. At first the Catholics were few in number and depended on priests from Cape Town to celebrate their masses from time to time. Their present church of St. Augustine in Van der Lingen Street was designed by (Sir) Herbert Baker and opened in 1910. Most of the earlier Catholics were buried by the Anglican clergy of Holy Trinity and appear in their registers.

The first Anglican services were held in the Government Free School in 1850 by James Inglis who had been appointed the Master of the school in 1843 on a salary of £130 a year plus £30 for house rent. The present parish hall of Holy Trinity was built in 1856, probably to the design of Sophy Gray, the wife of the Bishop of Cape

Town. It was used as a day school on weekdays, for services and Sunday school on Sundays and for parish meetings from time to time. The present church, now at 220 Main Street, was built to the north of it in 1883. Mrs Gray had died in 1870 but this may have been one of her designs.

Inglis had been born in Scotland in 1803 and was ordained deacon on 23 December 1849. He also started work among the non-Europeans in Noorder Paarl. He had several children by his wife Anne but she and all of them except one had died by 1886. The survivor, his daughter Mary Elizabeth, married George Lawrence who became rector of Durbanville and Inglis died in their rectory on 18 April 1886. In the nineties one J.Inglis M A, presumably a grandson, was assistant teacher at the English Church School and also the secretary of Paarl Public Library.

At first the congregation were too poor to meet any part of the minister's stipend but he received £90 a year from diocesan funds. Rectors of some rural parishes had to do much travelling and some received as much as £80 a year to maintain two riding horses. Holy Trinity and later the second Paarl parish did have a few out stations but these were fairly near and each rector got only an annual £20 to maintain "half a horse".

By 1856 Holy Trinity had four Europeans and 198 others. Two years later the numbers had greatly changed. Most of the non-Europeans had moved to the Noorder Paarl congregation and only 30 remained while the whites had risen to 70. By 1890 the numbers had risen to 350 and they contributed £174 to church funds. There were 283 children on the books of the weekday school under a single teacher. The average daily attendance was only 81 but surely he/she was still overworked? The Sunday school was much better staffed with the 56 children having no less than four teachers.

The founder of the mission church was James Frederick Curlewis. Born on 30 October 1833, he came to Paarl as a catechist in about 1852. He was ordained deacon in 1859 and remained here for the rest of his life till his death in an accident on 12 August 1901.

Curlewis had married Mary Murray, the widow of William Robert Shaw Wilson, who died in Paarl on 29 June 1899. Four sons and a daughter were living at the time of his death. All of them probably had their early education at Holy Trinity School and the boys went on to Bishop's in Cape Town. John Stephen (Paarl 31 March 1863 - Pretoria 24 August 1940) was the most distinguished, living to be Chief Justice of the Union of South Africa in 1936. John Frederick Inglis Curlewis was a land surveyor and died on 14 January 1944. And George Edward, born on 8 March 1867, was a manager in the Standard Bank and died on 6 February 1954.

Curlewis' first school-chapel was built by 1858 but by 1869 he had 178 parishioners and the chapel was too small. St. Stephen's Church was therefore built, in Paarl granite, in 1877 and this in its turn was replaced by a new church, the work of the Cape Town architect J.C. Parker, in 1896. Noorder Paarl was at first under Inglis at Holy Trinity but later became a parish on its own. Most of the services were held in Dutch, the home language of its coloured worshippers. In recent years they had to move out under the Group Areas Act. The church has become a hall for the Dutch Reformed Church and a new church has been erected at New Orleans across the Berg River.

Among the leading families at Holy Trinity were the Hitchcocks who also contributed to the town's musical life. Henry Thomas, their earliest member, was born in 1789 and died in Paarl on 2 March 1836. His nephew Thomas Joel (born in Worcester, England in May 1803, died at Klein Drakenstein 3 March 1886) opened his Musical Depository in Cape Town in 1828, advertising himself as an organ builder and pianoforte manufacturer. Perhaps his greatest work was the erection of.the organ in St. George's Church (later the Cathedral) in 1834-1841, with parts imported from Britain.

Hitchcock was married three times, in each case to a Dutch lady. He wed Johanna Christina Rykie Zulch (17 April 1814-28 October 1850) on 14 February 1832. His next marriage, on 11 June 1851, was to Helena Dorothea Meyer. And his final wife was Elizabeth Maria, daughter of Johannes Jorgens Scholz of Klapmuts and his wife Anna Aletta Elizabeth (nee Muller).

Hitchcock had no less that 17 children. Several of them followed musical professions, among them Thomas John, a piano tuner of Paarl, who was born in 1842 and died in Fraserburg on 6 June 1876. The family must have had plenty to do, keeping the town's organs and citizens' pianos in good order.

Paarl was noted for its wagon builders and at least one of these was British, George David Wilson who was in the trade by 1858 and did well enough to be able to send his two sons to Diocesan College. But faster means of transport were on the way and the railway from Cape Town reached Paarl in 1863. Several of the British railwaymen settled here with their families and are buried in the graveyards.

A man who has left a graphic record of his Paarl days is James Gribble who had opened a photographic shop at 54 Hanover Street in Cape Town in 1869. He moved to Paarl twenty years later and set up his "Art Studio" in Market Square, working there until 1894. Two of his elaborate carte-de-visite trade cards are referenced in Africana Notes and News of June 1973. A copy of his photograph of West Jones the Bishop of Cape Town is in the vestry at Holy Trinity. And Paarl's historical society, the Drakenstein Heemkring has many of his photos and no less than 26 000 of his glass negatives. Born in 1863, he did not die till 1943 after being secretary to the Paarl Farmer's Association for forty years.

Some Paarl British are listed in the Cape Almanacs. Many have death notices in the Cape Archives and their burials are in Holy Trinity's registers. All these and other written sources are likely to survive. But another valuable source is gravestones and these are an endangered species. Some become weather-worn, they break up or become illegible. There is much vandalism. Whole graveyards are torn up and the stones destroyed. Paarl historians told me the only old Dutch graves were the few round the two oldest churches. They felt there must have been at least one other old cemetery but such had been destroyed before their time. And there has been a sizeable Jewish community since early days. They must have had graves but none of those in the present Jewish cemetery in Hospital Street are earlier than 1898.

So it has seemed a wise precaution to record the surviving early British stones before they too are gone. (For brevity those below are only of people who lived entirely or mainly before the year 1900). Some of the information below is from sources other than the epitaphs.


So-called by H.E. Hockley in his article on Barker in the DSAB but apparently not by anyone in Paarl now. Most people I asked had never heard of this place, only two knew where it was or had ever been to it. I found it at length in the forest at the foot of Paarl Mountain, not far above the top of Bosnian Street, and found it only through the kindness of a gentleman who took me there. It is not far above the Zion Chapel and all those buried here were members of the chapel. There is no graveyard area and no enclosing wall. The tombs are simply dotted about among the trees and the rocks of Paarl granite.

George Barker, Wimbish, Essex (east of Saffron Walden) 1789 - Paarl 9 May 1861. Son of Nathaniel and Sarah, m 1. in England Sarah Williams (1790 - Theopolis, Eastern Cape December 1836). m 2. Paarl 2 April 1844 Hilletje Smuts (below). Slate slab in large granite tomb. Erected by Paarl friends.

Hilletje Barker. Wife of George. 1797 - 2 April 1864. Daughter of Jacobus Johannes Smuts (1775-1834) and Aletta Geertruida (nee Versfeld). Died in Paarl homeof P G Russ. Slate.

Elizabeth Barker. Daughter of George. Theopolis 13 October 1816-26 September 1904. Died at "Magnolia", Sea Point, home of Dr J. du Plessis (1868-1925), son of her sister Harriet.

Georgina Isabella Walker. Eldest daughter of Rev. F. Walker. 19 May 1850 - 30 March 1868. Slate. Erected at cost of her young friends in Paarl.

Henry White. Son of Henry and Sarah of Blackheath, Kent. London 4 January 1851 -15 May 1869, of pulmonary tuberculosis. Stone, with carved lily at the head.

H W May. A rock has fallen over the remainder of the slab which no doubt gives further details.


On Berg River Boulevard. Next to D R C cemetery (which contains no British graves). All monuments below are in Carrara marble unless otherwise stated. Nearly all these persons are in Holy Trinity's burial registers.

Mary Jane Ward. 1846 -19 March 1860. And her mother Anne 1826 - 21 May 1861 on same slate slab.

Angelina Neal. November 1845 -11 April 1860. Slate.

Jane Ghislin. Daughter of Eleanor Filby (below). Widow of William Augustus Ghislin (1820 - November 1842). He buried from Holy Trinity but no tomb here. His mother Melia Ghislin May 1779 - November 1865 was also buried from that church but has no tomb. Slate cross.

John Henry Filby. Son of Henry and Jane. Bromley, Kent August 1868 - 27 May 1902. Engine driver on Cape Government Railways. Died in Railway Camp, Touwsrivier. m. Dora. He again is in Holy Trinity's register but has no tomb.

The Filbys and Ghislins lived mostly in Somerset West and could have been buried there or near-by in the Anglican cemetery in Stellenbosch. So must have had some Paarl connections to be brought all this way.

James Conroy. Roscommon, Ireland 15 December 1817 -10 October 1874. Chief Constable of Paarl. Lived near Lady Grey Bridge over Berg River. Slate.

Johanna Caroline Conroy. Wife of James. 1832 - Cape Town 13 March 1894.

David Geduld. 3 January 1832 - 10 May 1880. And his wife Caroline Susanna 9 September 1835 - 25 March 1889. Slate.

Joseph Benjamin Herbert. Shrewsbury 5 August 1827 -11 March 1881. A baker. Marble.

He m 1. 25 May 1853 Harriet Ann Cassidy, only eighteen but already a bonnet maker and already a widow. She 2 March 1835 -10 February 1858. The marriage was the first in Holy Trinity's register and took place in the Government Schoolroom before the church was built. She also was buried from Holy Trinity but has no tomb here. Herbert m 2. Sara Maria who survived him.

Helena Sperling. Born Jacobs. Cape Town 4 April 1814 - 4 November 1893. Marble tomb by Robert Cane and Sons (of 80 Strand Street, Cape Town and Church Street, Wynberg).

James Gribble. Born near Cape Town 27 January 1863 - Paarl 23 January 1943. His photographic work is described above.

Kate Leger Gribble. First wife of James. 23 March 1866 - 31 July 1930.

Rose Gribble. Second wife of James. 26 November 1874 - died near Windsor,

England 10 September 1939.

Another James Gribble, son of James. 28 April 1891 -10 March 1895.

All four above are recorded on the same marble cross.

Mary Ann McGhie. Paarl 1 July 1825 - 24 December 1895. Born Philip.

John McGhie. Son of Mary Ann. 1850 - March 1928.

Catherine Nellie McGhie. Wife of John, d 11 July 1911.

All above three on same tomb.

Diana McGhie. 1866 - Muldersvlei (next village south of Paarl) 29 August 1894. Sister of John. In church burial register but no tomb here.

Elizabeth Harriet Green. Born Hazell. Wife of Henry Green (Bampton, Oxon, west of Oxford 1851 - 1903. Store keeper, Paarl.) Maidstone, Kent October 1855 - 29 February 1902. Cross.

George Gooch. 883 - 7 December 1902. By C.D. Wells (of Darling Street, Cape Town).

Elizabeth Mary Ann Parker. Born Cherry. First wife of James William Parker, 1849 - 1912, station master at Paarl. 24 January 1852 - 21 October 1903. By Bohlmann Brothers. (They were from Hanover and were the leading monumental masons of Paarl in their day. Their yard was in Breda Street.) Thomas Richard Proudfoot, Port Elizabeth 3 January 1842 - 9 January 1900, Son of Thomas Richard and Dorothy. Married Ellen Jan Tregaskis. By W.T. Attwood (of Main Road, Mowbray).

Musgrove John Tomkin. Ashford, Kent January 1858 - 15 May 1904. Messenger of magistrate's court. Died at his house in Patriot Street.

Benjamin Herbert Dale. 29 January 1880 - 22 October 1904. Cross.

Water M. Pilkington. Son of Harry below. 9 September 1862 - 28 October 1904.

Harry Pilkington. Son of George William of Westmeath, Ireland and Mary. Mowbray 24 December 1852 - 6 January 1907. (Merchant in Cape Town and farmer at The Chase, Klein Drakenstein). m Sea Point 17 November 1875 Mary Agnes Bowe of Sea Point, aged 19. Father and son on same tomb.

Minnie King. 11 November 1874 -11 October 1905. Born Dearn. Wife of Sergeant H.King.

Ida Wolfe. Wife of Robert Inglewood, District Surgeon of Paarl. 1870 - 20 December 1907. Cross.

Joseph Calvert. Mirfield, West Riding of Yorkshire 30 December 1860 - 8 August 1911.

Henry Jenkins. Bath 12 June 1834 - 11 August 1912.

Annie Jenkins. Wife of Henry. 1830 - 27 November 1920. Both on same tomb, by Bohlmann Brothers.

Elizabeth Sherard Thorgill. Born King. Manchester 1849 - 6 December 1916. Tomb of Paarl granite.

-R.R. Langham-Carter

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