The Prince Alfred Guard Chantry

Yep, I know just what you are thinking, because it’s exactly what I thought when I saw the word myself………… “What the @&%* is a Chantry”? Well let me inform you - "my Philistine friends".

Chantry chapels have their origin probably as far back as the middle ages when people with money gifted the church monies to construct and maintain a chapel within the greater edifices of the church itself specifically for the saying of mass for the welfare of their souls after death, sometimes the endowment included the employment of a full time chantry priest to say requiem masses.

By the 15th century Chantry chapels had proliferated, not least because of the fear of death and punishment after death that characterised the church during the middle ages and from where it accumulated much of its wealth. With the reformation close to two thousand chantries were concealed and the priests dismissed with a pension. Very few chantries where established during the reformation, however the chapel in St Mary’s Port Elizabeth is one of those.

The chantry in St Mary’s is described as a “military chantry” and is probably unique in Southern Africa. It dates back to 1927 and is part of a long association between Port Elizabeth’s militia and the church of St Mary. Patriotism was high in South Africa during and after both the Anglo-Boer war as well as the First World War and with a number of the Prince Alfred’s Guard having died in both conflicts it was decided that with monies available a permanent memorial for those men as well as those who had made the supreme sacrifice in former conflicts was fitting.

It was the age of memorials and people contributed generously to see a permanent structure to honour the men of the Prince Alfred Guard. When Major Bromilow – Downing approached rector Canon Mayo of St Mary’s in 1926 with the proposal of building a military chantry within the walls of St Mary’s it was met with enthusiasm. Trustees where appointed, with 820 pounds being available, plans where drawn and building commenced. On 27 November 1927 the Rt Reverend Francis Phelps, Bishop of Grahamstown dedicated the Prince Alfred’s Guard chantry in the presence of a large congregation.

Plaques as well as other memorials were collected within what became known as “the tram car in St Mary’s. With South Africa becoming a republic in the 1960’s any badges or insignia incorporating either the crown or other royal devices had to be changed. The Colours of Prince Alfred Guard with its royal emblems were handed ceremonially to St Mary’s for safekeeping and today hang in the chantry. The Umzintzani shield badge features prominently in the chantry’s furnishings and on the walls are inscribed the names of those men of the Regiment who lost their lives in the Boer war and the Second World War. The names of those men killed in the First World War have been omitted due to the fact that no South African regiment took part in that war under its own name.

The Chantry is today a reminder to those who serve in the Prince Alfred’s Guard that the Regiment has a long and proud history and still is closely associated with the people of the City as well as South Africa.

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