Arms of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George Anglican Compass Rose

Cathedral of St Michael and St George


Wrought Iron in the Grahamstown Cathedral

By Mr Clive Whitford

Great West Door
The Great West Door

Can mundane things like door hinges have any historical or artistic significance? The Cathedral is full of surprises. There are 17 doors in the building - taking double doors as one. Each has hefty hinges made of hand beaten iron strong enough to hold the teak doors. Ugly? Definitely not!

Door to the Chapter House
The Door to the Chapter House

When the tower was built in 1879 the local blacksmith Clifton Hoyle, grandfather of our own Canon James Hoyle, was commissioned to make the hinges. It plain for all to see that Clifton Hoyle was more than a worker in iron, he was an artist with iron as his medium. Over the next 20 years he, latterly with the assistance of his son Herbert (James’ uncle), produced and executed no fewer than 14 different designs for the 17 Cathedral doors in his forge at the end of the lane next to the Grahamstown Public Library. The designs, or should I say works of art, range from the intricate to the plain according to their location and each is a joy to behold. Stop and admire and compare with other hinges.

All will be familiar with the hinges on the Great West Door. They are the first, large and chunky and simple but anything more intricate would have been out of place at the base of the tower and spire. But look further.

Door to the Muniments Room
The Door to the Muniments Room

My favourites are the hinges of the doors from the nave to the chapter house and the nave to muniments room. They both face the congregation and at a glance appear identical. They are not, they match. Hoyle was not a wedding cake artist!

Doors to the Lady Chapel
Doors to the Lady Chapel

To identify the subtle differences can be perplexing. There is also a joker in the pack. One door has a design which is not incongruous but certainly different from the general trend of the others. Perhaps it was son Herbert expressing his own artistic talent! Which of the 14 designs do you consider the most beautiful? Where are the duplicates? Some detection work is required to answer that question.

Door to the Chapter House from Outside
Door to the Chapter House from Outside

Herbert Hoyle continued the family business in the same location until the 1960s. His only innovation was that he called himself not a blacksmith but a General Engineer and an electric motor replaced the steam engine to provide power for the tools.