Like most cathedrals across the world, Grahamstown Cathedral has grown out of a much simpler building over a long period of time. The surveyor who laid out the original plan for Graham's Town in 1814, identified the site as being "a very convenient site for a church", but it was not until the arrival of the 1820 Settlers that the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, sought support from the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Bathurst, for "a British Population of upwards of 3 000 persons (including the Military) totally destitute of any place of worship whatsoever." The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) and the colonial treasury found the £4,404 15s required to pay for the construction. Plans were drawn by W. Jones of Cape Town, building began in 1824 and St George's Church opened in 1830. At that time, South Africa was served by the Bishop of Calcutta, hence there were no cathedrals in the growing colony. Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town, whose wife played a major role in designing churches, visited Grahamstown in October 1848, observing, "Church well situated, but miserable in point of architecture." John Armstrong, the first Bishop of Grahamstown described the exterior of the church as "plain and uninteresting in the extreme ... I do trust I may be spared to see a better and worthier structure reared as our cathedral." The establishment of the Diocese of Grahamstown coincided with the Gothic Revival which dominated church architecture for the rest of the century. Sir Gilbert Scott, succeeded by his son John, designed the new Cathedral. To ensure that the lighting in the building conformed to that in English cathedrals, the Gothic windows were made slightly narrower than normal. The spire, for many years the tallest building in the country, was completed in 1879 and, once a major dispute between the Dean and the Bishop was settled, the Cathedral was dedicated to St Michael and St George. The building was completed in its present form in 1952 and extensive repairs to the exterior undertaken in 1986. The stained glass windows are priceless, though valued at R20m. Most have been in position for well over 100 years and their leading has eroded, making them unstable and in need of continuing restoration. Please see details of the 2008 restoration appeal.
The windows as we see them were inserted by Revd Heavyside in the 1850s (restored in the 1980s, and in need of further restoration); these windows were considered to have a papistical appearance when they were put in
Some examples of the Cathedral's stained glass windows are shown below.
A magazine article on the Cathedral stained glass windows written by Graeme Lund is available as a pdf document