The origins of the Clumber Church

by | Oct 6, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

In the first of a series of articles COURTENEY GEORGE BRADFIELD looks at the origins of the Clumber Church, which celebrates its 150th anniversary next month.

IN THE vale of Clumber in the Eastern Cape, 5km from Bathurst just off the Shaw Park road, lies Clumber Church.

Situated on a knoll this is the third Church to be built on this spot by the Nottingham Party and descendants of the 1820 Settlers. This knoll was given the name of Mount Mercy by the Nottingham Party in thanksgiving for their safe arrival here on a journey which had taken them over six months to complete. The wagons and carts that had transported them from “Tent Town” on the dunes of Algoa Bay to their final destination were offloaded at the base of Mount Mercy close to the Torrens River.

A service of thanksgiving was held on Mount Mercy on the day of their arrival on July 23 1820.

The Nottingham Party was one of the few parties of 1820 Settlers that consisted of the poor, as Nottingham was a cottage industry hub of lace and hosiery making. With the Industrial Revolution under way most of these family-run cottage industries had to shut down. It was also a time of the end of the Napoleonic Wars so demand for goods had slackened off and soldiers had returned from war with no prospect of employment. It was a time of massive unemployment with thousands starving.

As the applicants could not even afford the passage, the Duke of Newcastle agreed to garner financial support and raised sufficient funds to allow the 60 men, 26 women and 72 children to emigrate

The prospect therefore of the promise of a piece of land in a foreign country looked appealing and hundreds applied. As the applicants could not even afford the passage, the Duke of Newcastle agreed to garner financial support and raised sufficient funds to allow the 60 men, 26 women and 72 children to emigrate.

From records we are able to determine that the departure was rather hurried. John Bradfield’s application was dated October and by mid-January the family was aboard the Albury in Liverpool. The party gathered in Nottingham from where the men walked over the Pennine Moors under Sergeant Dennison to Liverpool while the women and children travelled by coach and cart. By January 17 they were aboard the Albury as they were trying to reconcile the records of those who had applied versus those who were already aboard.

Conditions were cramped with married couples lying four and even six to a bed. The single men were given a blanket and had to lie where they could on the bare boards.

It was bitterly cold in England with vessels on the Thames unable to move from being iced in. The plans to depart before the end of January were thwarted by a cold front which had swept in and delayed departure till February 13. The Albury struck severe weather off the coast of Wales and the hatches had to be battened down much to the consternation of those below. Conditions were cramped with married couples lying four and even six to a bed. The single men were given a blanket and had to lie where they could on the bare boards.

On May 1 1820 the Albury arrived in Simons Town but the Settlers were not able to disembark. Their cramped conditions were made even worse when three parties from the vessel Zoroaster numbering 142 people joined the Albury on their last leg to Algoa Bay.

They arrived there on May 15 together with the vessel Aurora carrying 344 persons, the Brilliant carrying 144 and the Weymouth carrying 478. They had to ride at anchor and await their turn to be pulled to shore.

Once disembarked they were housed in tents on the sea shore awaiting their turn for the ox wagons and carts to take them onto their final destination. Some 2 000 tents provided accommodation for this massive influx of people. The Nottingham Party waited there for 48 days before finally leaving on July 15 1820.

SPIRITUAL LEADER: William Pike, a Methodist, administered spiritual comfort from the moment the Nottingham Party boarded the Albury and was the final leader of the group that settled in Clumber

The convoy of wagons used the coastal route from Addo Heights passing Congo’s Kraal and Graafwater to Jagers Drift on the Bushmans River. After Theopolis Mission Station they forded the Kowie River near the mouth and turned inland to Bathurst and to their final destination which they named Clumber after the seat of the Duke of Newcastle, Clumber Park.

The head of the Nottingham Party, Dr Calton, died in Algoa Bay. His successor, Thomas Draper, left Clumber not long after arrival, so the leadership passed to William Pike, a Methodist, who administered spiritual comfort from the moment the Party boarded the Albury.

The author gives acknowledgements to all his sources on the website http://clumberchurch.simdif.com/

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