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Stanley Wakeling as remembered by sons Hugh and Rob

The Wakeling family at the Rectory in about 1961. Hugh at the back and Rob in the front, both next to their father

By way of introduction, Revd Ernest Lasbrey and his wife had served as Rector of the Parish since 1915. In 1947, they went to England for some long leave and returned in October. As reported in ‘The Church on the Hill’ by K Vos:

“At his first Council meeting after his return the Rector announced that there was every possibility of a clergyman coming from England about the middle of the following year…”

And so it was that the Revd Stanley and Mary Wakeling arrived in Wynberg in July 1948, initially to serve as Curate at St John’s. At the time they had three sons and lived in Glebe Cottage. Revd Lasbrey retired in 1950 to ‘Rocklands’ in Simonstown.


Hugh and Rob wrote two separate letters in early 2024, sharing their memories and greetings, which have been lightly edited to avoid repetition and enable the narrative to flow. Some of what they shared about outreach and the wider ministry of Revd Wakeling will be covered in another blog posting. Hugh is 12 years older than Rob and has the first word.

Hugh tells of their arrival and early years:

Stanley and Mary Wakeling

Lab, as Ernest Lasbrey was commonly called, remained in office for a year or two after we arrived, and made sure that Stanley Wakeling took on other duties such as teaching one morning a week at Western Province Preparatory School, and running the Kenilworth Scout Troop. Stanley was taken to Hermanus to the annual scout camp at which he would become the Commandant.

In due course Stanley was taken along to the Church Annual General Meeting, when Lab proposed that Stanley should become Rector. Stanley was rather taken aback by this situation, as he had travelled out from England, on the understanding that he was going to be Rector. Fortunately, the AGM appointed him Rector, but Stanley was somewhat aware that a subsequent AGM could decide to terminate his contract.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Geoffrey Clayton, was asked whether he would institute Stanley as Rector. He agreed to do so, and the Governor General of South Africa, who lived in the Parish, also agreed to come.

The Archbishop had never actually met the Governor General, and was looking forward to meeting him. When he arrived Stanley welcomed the Governor General and escorted him to a seat in the Church. After the service invited guests headed for a reception at Glebe Cottage, which was where we were still living. The Archbishop turned up, but the Governor General’s driver lost his bearings, and could not find Glebe Cottage, so in the end he took him straight home. The Archbishop was not pleased!

Once Stanley was appointed Rector, the other clergy in the parish decided to leave, as they had failed to secure the post of Rector, and Stanley was left running all five Churches, with a group of Lay Readers to assist. At the time it was generally agreed that other South African clergy were unacceptable to the parish, Stanley gradually recruited clergy from England to come and assist in running the parish, such as Rev Peter Akehurst. Although the parish was very short of clergy when Stanley was appointed Rector, by the time he left, there were clergy appointed and in charge of each of the Churches in the parish (apart from perhaps Kenwyn).

After much discussion it was agreed to build a new Rectory in the grounds of Glebe Cottage, to house the growing Wakeling family.

Editor’s note: Christine Milligan in ‘100 Years of God’s Grace, Christ Church, Kenilworth’ remembers, “they had three sons, a daughter and then another three sons and had nappies on the wash line without a break for years!”


About this time Miss Elaine Horne died and left a significant legacy, with two objectives. One was to provide a Holy Table and Communion Rail, in the side aisle of St John’s Church, where small services of Holy Communion could be held. She was dismayed about how little the Rector was paid, so she also left a fund from which the Rector’s income could be supplemented.

Rob adds to the story: 
“After my parents moved into the Rectory, they had two more sons, including me, in 1954 and 1956. I was brought up in the Rectory until I was 14 years old.
My Christian faith began at St John’s Church and in the Rectory where I used to sing choruses about the joy of being loved by Jesus. “Wide, wide as the ocean” and “Yesterday, today, for ever, Jesus is the same.” For a few years I was a choirboy, with Mr Edward Brett as organist and choirmaster. We chanted the canticles and the Psalm for Morning and Evening Prayer. Once a month there was Parish Communion at 9.30 am. On the other Sundays there was Sunday School at 9.30 am.
On Good Friday evenings there were ecumenical services in St John’s in English and Afrikaans. There was a sermon in each language. One year, Michael Cassidy preached the English sermon. Usually the Afrikaans sermon was preached by the Dominee at the Wynberg Dutch Reformed Church.

The choir in 1964 with Edward Brett, choirmaster and organist

Hugh summarises some points :

Two of Stanley’s curates the Rev Bruce Evans and the Rev Philip Le Feuvre (pictured above in the choir) went on to become Bishops in the Church of the Province.

A few years on Mick Milligan was appointed to run a Sunday School at St John’s, and by all accounts did very well. The younger members of the Wakeling family attended it.

When Stanley first arrived, there were no other buildings in the grounds of St John’s Church. There were no toilets. No rooms where you could hold Sunday School classes. By the time he left there were good facilities across the drive in the Church grounds.

Perhaps the thing that Stanley should be remembered for is that he kept St John’s Church open to all people of all races during the Apartheid years. He was not one to get involved with politics, but he quietly got on with the task. I suspect that some people attended St John’s because it was open to people of all races.

For the story of when Stanley and Mary left St John’s Wynberg and returned to the UK, refer to my brother Rob, who was around when it happened. By then I had been living in Johannesburg for a couple of years, and I moved back to the UK some time before they did.

Rob remembers the leave-taking, but returned later in 1982:
The family moved to England in March 1969. I remember it well! There was a big farewell party in the Rectory Garden. Many people came to the docks to see us off at 4pm on Wednesday 5th March 1969. It took 12 days on the Pendennis Castle passenger liner from Cape Town to Southampton. That was the first and last time I slept on a ship at sea.
My wife Mary and I were members of St John's from 1982 to 1985 when Rev John Freeth was the Parish Rector and Rev Graham Fenton was the Associate Rector at St John's Church. We lived here with our sons Tim (born in 1982 in Lesotho) and Sam (born in 1984 in Mowbray). 
I am now retired and live in Buxton, Derbyshire, England. I visited the Wynberg parish in September 2003 and in September 2011 but have not been back since then. I still have friends in the parish. I was very involved in the Hermanus Camp!  You may know Rev Gordon Crowther who moved to Lee Abbey Devon from Church of the Holy Spirit, Kirstenhof in March 2020. We are Associate Community members at Lee Abbey.
Rob and Mary Wakeling with their son Matt, visit Cape Town in 2011
I hope to hear from people in the Parish. I am praying for your ministry. There is much more that I could write about the Church and the Parish from my memories of the 1960s and 1980s.
Have a good anniversary year!

A word of appreciation is due to Colleen Saunders, for sharing our Heritage Appeal with Hugh and Rob in the UK. Colleen said her maternal grandmother, Minnie Thebus, looked after the Wakeling children when they were small. Colleen's parents were married at St John's, and her mother was baptised and confirmed here. She is at St Luke’s, but her mother and her family were long-standing members of Emmanuel and St John's.


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