The History of St Mark’s Cathedral
On 23 April 1811 a portion of the District of Swellendam, East of the Gouritz River, was proclaimed a separate district and named George Town after the reigning British monarch, King George III. In the following year the Dutch Reformed Church appointed its first minister and soon after that the London Missionary Society established a mission station at Hooge Kraal (1813). The town which developed around the Mission later became known as Pacaltsdorp, so named after their long serving minister, the Reverend Charles Pacalt. In 1841 the Roman Catholic Church appointed its first priest in George and 1843 saw the completion of their church building.
George Town was one of the few villages in which the Government had placed a Colonial Chaplain to serve the English community. He was permitted to use the Dutch Church for Anglican services and in 1848 a meeting was held to discuss ways and means of establishing a church of their own, so subscription lists were opened to collect funds. In February 1848 Bishop Gray, father of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, arrived in the Cape. It was most opportune that his wife Sophy, who designed the George church, should have accompanied him on his first visitation. This gave her the singular honour of laying the foundation stone on 23 October 1849 and this little church was consecrated as St. Marks Church by Bishop Gray on 7 December 1850.
The South and North Transepts were both donated by Dr. R A St Leger: the former in memory of his first wife Annie Brett in 1934 and the latter some 20 years later in memory of his father, Frederick York St Leger. The North Transept was built simultaneously with the Chapel of St Mary, commonly known as the Lady Chapel, and these were consecrated on the 15 June 1954. The Chapel was in memory of Bishop Sidwell, the first Bishop of George, and the men from this area who fell in the two World Wars.
The first columbarium was built in the Graveyard in 1963 and the second in 1971 from stone donated by one of the parishioners. New choir stalls were installed in the Chancel in 1964 only to be moved to their present position in more recent times. Pew heating in alternate pews was installed in 1968 and the old flooring needed to be replaced with treated timber in 1984. The few remaining yellow wood pews were by then very fragile and a St Leger Memorial Bequest enabled the Church to replace them with matching meranti pews.
The actual date of the building of the Porch cannot be determined with accuracy but it would seem that the only meaningful renovations between 1861 and 1924 were in 1906 and from other evidence this would appear to be a very likely date.
The Cathedral was re-roofed in 1964 and the roof tiles above the Lady Chapel and the two Transept were replaced in 1988. The corner stone of the Chapter House was laid in September 1978.