Sophy Grey Churches

I love small churches. Especially on quiet mornings. The atmosphere of sacredness, early morning sun through stained glass windows and beautiful woodwork, peace and  quiet. In the Western Cape, South Africa, I noticed a similarity and uniqueness in Anglican churches. I discovered a surprizing thing. All these  churches were designed by a Victorian lady, an amateur architect , Sophy Gray. In Victorian times no ladies were allowed in the professions. Yet lady Grey did an excelent job as an architect.

St George's in Knysna

Claremont church
Claremont church


Sophy(5 January 1814 – 27 April 1871), was a church administrator, artist, architect, horsewoman and the wife of Cape Town bishop Robert Gray. Born in Yorkshire, the 5th daughter of county squire Richard Wharton Myddleton of Durham and Yorkshire, she died at Bishopscourt, Cape Town on 27 April 1871 and was buried in the graveyard of St Saviour’s in Claremont. She accompanied bishop Robert Gray on his travels, where he started congregations in South Africa and she skilfully designed the churches for these new communities. Sophy Gray had brought along architectural plans of churches that could be adapted to the design of churches and schools for the new Anglican parishes that were to be established throughout South Africa. Both Sophy and her husband favoured the neo-Gothic style of church architecture. Even so, Sophy felt that church designs should not stick slavishly to the Early English Period, but should show some diversity.


All Saints church, Bredasdorp
All Saints church, Breda’sdorp

Churches were built from stone from the parish. Seldom was the churches plastered. Gothic arches with stained glass windows was often imported from   England. Woodwork was done by local artisans.


Claremont, where lady Grey is burried.
Claremont, where lady Grey is buried.
Windows in Knysna church
Windows in Knysna church

These beautiful buildings can be found in almost every small town and is well worth a visit.

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