Prior to the construction of our present church, Holy Mass was celebrated on Sundays at Sacred Heart Convent, a small building on North Road, in North End, which served as a school during the week, being staffed by the Assumption Sisters. For many years the Catholics of North End had been collecting for a convent and church and soon they had hoped to see the fruits of their labours. The convent and the church had been designed by Messrs. Jones & McWilliams at the request of His Lordship, Bishop Hugh MacSherry.
His Lordship, Bishop MacSherry, laid two foundation stones on the Feast of All Saints, 1934 at Sydenham, North End. Having blessed and laid the foundation stone of a new convent and school for the Sisters of the Assumption, whose Mother House was at Grahamstown; on the same plot he then laid a foundation stone of a new Church to be dedicated to God under the title of ST. PATRICK.
Under each foundation stone was placed a glass jar containing the usual documents, current coins and copies of the Southern Cross, the Catholic News and local papers. Included with these is a piece of St. Patrick’s Altar stone, from Saul, County Down, Ireland, where a local tradition says “St. Patrick founded his first Church”. His Lordship delivered an impressive discourse, in which he paid tribute to the educational work of the Assumption Sisters and also explained the ceremony of the foundation stones. The functions were attended by the local clergy, Fathers Murphy, Wynne, O’Shea from Uitenhage, the Assumption Sisters and a large number of the local Catholics.
Though having no actual connection with the convent, the church had been designed in a similar style, forming one large composition, with a circular bell- tower terminating the upper corner of the main frontage in Somers Road. The Catinary arch is used throughout, the nave, the body of the Church, being a series of arches eleven feet apart, supporting the roof. It should be explained that the catinary arch, as the name implies, is derived from the curves formed by a chain hanging between two points. The shape is almost elliptical, and apart from having affine and dignified form, a catinary arch requires no buttresses, all thrust being carried to the ground instead of sideways and outwards. This arch is employed to a great extent by the Arabs in Syria and Palestine, having originated in Hittite times.
The famous arch at Clesiphon in the Syrian desert is constructed on the same principle, and has been standing since 500 A.D
In the original design of the interior, there was to be a star-shaped opening in the dome of the Apse, immediately over the High Altar. Throughout the day a shaft of sunlight would shine down to the Chancel (Sanctuary) forming the chief source of illumination at this point. The Church was designed to seat 500 people.
On Sunday, March 22nd, St. Patrick’s Church was opened by His Lordship, the Right Revered Bishop Hugh MacSherry at 10:00 a.m. The Bishop was attended by the Very Reverend Father Ganley S.J., Rector of St. Aidans College, Grahamstown as chaplain, and was preceded by the Cross bearer and acolytes and the Reverend Father E.J. Wynne, Priest-in-charge of this new Church, erected to the memory of the late Bishop Strobino and dedicated under the name of St. Patrick Apostle of Ireland, entered at the main entrance of the Church to the strains of the “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus” sung by the choirs of the Sisters of the Assumption Convent, North End.
After the Gospel, the sermon appropriate to the occasion was preached by His Lordship, Bishop MacSherry, who took for his text – “I have heard Thy prayer and I have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice. My eyes shall also be open and my ears attentive to the prayer of him that shall pray in this place. For I have chosen and sanctified this place that my name be there forever” 7th Chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles, Verses 12, 15 and 16.
At the conclusion of the Mass the choir sang the hymn “Hail Glorious St. Patrick” and the organist afterwards played – “All Praise to St. Patrick” as a voluntary.
In the Bishop’s sermon he prefaced by congratulating the Catholics of North End on the completion of the church which they had looked forward to for many years. In the conclusion of his homily, His Lordship exhorted all present to be thankful for the privilege of having their own church in North End and to pray that Almighty God would bless and prosper their work for the salvation of souls in this part of His vineyard. In his sermon, the Bishop thanked the architects, Messrs Jones & McWilliams, on their design and for their carrying through of the church to its completion. He also complimented the contractors, Messrs Raap & Powell, on the successful completion of their work, including the benches. They too, added the Bishop, were deeply indebted to Mr N. Ischaia for the gift of the beautiful Altar, and to Mr A.E. Sam and family for the gift of the Baptismal Font, and also to many others for help in equipping the church.
Another appropriate and eloquent sermon was preached that same evening at St. Patrick’s by the Reverend Hugh Boyle, D.D., and among those present after celebrations were the Reverend Fathers C. Murphy and Mick McFadden of Uitenhage.
In the Eastern Province Herald dated Tuesday, March 21st, the new church is described. It begins:
“When complete, the nave of St. Patrick’s church will be exactly 100 feet long, with a sanctuary extending the vista another 26 feet. The height of the nave is 37 feet, so that it will be understood that the proportions of the interior are extremely impressive. The temporary wall at the end of the nave* is coloured sky blue, forming a restful background to the fine Carrara marble Altar presented to the church by Mr N. Ischaia in memory of his parents and relatives. This beautiful marble Altar is the work of the Pennacchini Brothers. The pulpit was made and presented by Mr J. O’Connor of Kensington.
“The south end of the building incorporates a gallery for the choir, above which is a large circular window with a radiating formal pattern in sky blue, turquoise and amethyst.
“The lighting of the church has been very carefully worked out; nowhere is there any direct glare in the eyes of the congregation, while at night the interior is floodlit from concealed lamps
“The ventilation is also a special feature and will afford a proper circulation of air natural means, even on the hottest day.
“Finally, the exterior of St. Patrick’s is as unusual as the interior: The tower, surmounted by a copper dome, is visible from a considerable distance, being 72 feet high overall. With the adjoining convent designed in harmonious style, St. Patrick’s completes a fine block of dignified buildings, and is a considerable asset to the amenities of the surrounding.”
*A temporary wall was erected at the time due to the shortage of funds available when the church was built. To date the temporary wall has remained as the permanent wall.
(N.B. The Convent was opened on Assumption Day, 1935.)