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History of Allan Webb Hall

The Houses in our Hall are named after famous Bristish Cathedral Cities

The roots of the Hall go right back into the history of Grahamstown - in fact to 1883, when a group of five young women in their early twenties responded to the call of Allan Becher Webb, Bishop of Grahamstown, to leave England and undertake work in his diocese, (following a trend he had started when he was the first Bishop of Bloemfontein, being the second Anglican Bishop in the Free State, as detailed here). Amongst them was Annie Cecilia Ramsbottom Isherwood, a girl of twenty. It was agreed that she would start an order of sisters to be known as the Community of the Resurrection and she was clothed as a novice in 1884. She was known as Mother Cecile CR (pronounced Cecil).

The story of the Sisters is one of enormous courage, determination and endurance as they set about opening St Peter's School, the Good Shepherd Mission School, a boarding house for the children of railway workers and an orphanage (up till then destitute and orphaned children lived in the prisons). Life was difficult and often there was no money or food, some lost their health and some died but they all held fast to the vision of their call. Mother Cecile CR herself died at forty three of cancer exacerbated by overwork. (You can read more about Mother Cecile CR here.)

In 1894 the Community founded the Grahamstown Training College, an institution which played a valuable part in the development of education in southern Africa, so much so that it was considered a "national loss" when it was forced to close down in 1975.

Rhodes University bought the property and in 1977 Canterbury Hall, comprised of Canterbury House and Winchester House, was born. In 1979 Salisbury House and Truro House were added and the Hall became known as Allan Webb Hall.

The dining hall, built in 1909 in memory of Mother Cecile CR, is certainly the most beautiful on Campus. It is a magnificent baronial - styled hall designed by the company of Herbert Baker and Massey.

We are justly proud of our history and our Hall. We have a great heritage.




Born in Calcutta on 6 October 1839. His father was the Presidency Surgeon.

He was educated at Rugby and then at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Subsequently he became tutor of his college and Vice-Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College.

He was married in 1867 and three years later was invited to undertake the charge of the diocese of Bloemfontein and the recently discovered diamond fields.

In 1883 he was called to Grahamstown and within a year of arriving set out for England with the specific idea of bringing women to Grahamstown for mission work, particularly amongst the children.

In 1898 he resigned due to the ill health of his wife.

Well respected for the immense work and writings he had achieved, he was called to be Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, England in 1901 until he died in 1907.

Magnificent stained glass windows were erected in Salisbury Cathedral in his memory.



(Pronounced Cecil)

Annie Cecilia Ramsbottom Isherwood was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England in 1862. Her parents were well-to-do and she was educated privately. Her parents died at an early age and she was brought up by relatives in London where she attended St Peter's Church, Eaton Square.

She was twenty one when Bishop Webb came to preach in St Peter's on the text "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision". It was at this service she felt called to join him and his team in Grahamstown. Once the work of the volunteers had been established, Bishop Webb asked Cecile if she would be prepared to start an order of sisters. She agreed and was clothed as a novice in 1884. Sadly her brother and sister refused to have anything more to do with her at this point.

One co-worker said of her: "she was so fresh, so simple and natural and seemed unconscious of the love and joy which flowed out from her and made everything glad around her". Cecile herself once said: "The life of the Sister must be the way of the cross, self-surrender and self sacrifice. We are not Sisters of the Resurrection to escape trials, but to enable us to go forward to triumph over them victoriously".

A young man wrote after her death: "Her greatest attraction was that nothing was too bad for her. She entered into every bit of one's life, and one could tell her anything, sorrow, joys, faults, and she sympathized with everything and always saw the amusing side of everything too with that dear twinkle in her eye. There never was nor will be anyone quite like her again".

In 1905, she was in great pain and seriously ill with cancer. It was decided that she should return to England for rest and perhaps an operation. Unable to rest, she again attended meetings to raise funds for the College and its chapel. During one of these meetings she collapsed and had to undergo the operation. She did not survive more than a few days and died on 20 February 1906.

A telegram was sent to the small Community in Grahamstown: "Mother rests, her peace our comfort".

Her last words were: "Oh! don't let the sparkle go out of the place".


The arrival of this, the second Mother of the Community, could not have been better timed. The Community then consisted of three Sisters who had recently been bereft at the early death of one of the novices - Sister Joan Margaret CR. For a time the sense of loss was so great that it was feared the Community would come to an end. Florence's arrival gave them all great hope and she was a stalwart to Mother Cecile CR and the Community during Mother's illness and eventual death.

Born on 31 October 1855 at Newport Manor, Lincoln, England, Florence Annie Norton at the age of thirty offered herself for mission work in Central Africa. Refusing her application on reasons of poor health, the doctors advised a year of rest and quiet. This she did and in 1887 was able to write to Bishop Webb "I have no binding home ties (my Father and Mother are both dead). I have independent means so that I should not have to ask for help for travelling or for maintenance. I should like to offer myself and my means unconditionally but cannot do so on account of my health which is not very strong, and I could not pledge myself to any great amount of work; indeed at first it might only be very little that I could do. I must tell you plainly that the doctors I have consulted are not in favour of me going abroad but I am not an invalid or used to invalid ways and have always lived plainly. I have no shining talents and very little experience in work".

Known by many as the "Mighty Atom", this 5ft. lady served as Mother of the Community for 25 years and lived to the age of ninety five. One Priest Associate wrote of her at the time of her death: "She was so little to be so great, so tiny to hold so much love, so small of stature to have grown to such heights of goodness."

It was during her years that much of the building and extension work was done.


Mother Edith CR lived until 99 years of age and lived as a Sister in the Community for 73 of those years, being Mother Superior for the period 1930-1945. During her period of office she showed a spirit of adventure and a great desire to help people of every race and colour. She sent Sisters to a remote Mission Station in the then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) where they started a hospital and a clinic for lepers, and founded a primary school for African girls, in very primitive surrounding, as well as founding the Orphanage.

It was in Mother Edith's first year as Superior that Founder's Day was inaugurated at the Training College, on the Saturday nearest to Mother Cecile's birthday (November 14th). She was also responsible for encouraging the composition of the College Hymns.

Mother Edith kept faithfully to all her religious duties almost to the end, and though increasingly helpless, she said her Offices and interceded daily for a great many people; she forgot no-one and her active mind retained a keen interest in the affairs of the Community and of the Church of the Province of South Africa. On the day of her death she asked for her Communion and after the Blessed Sacrament had been brought to her she relapsed into unconsciousness and passed to her rest a few hours later.


Dorothy Mary Cole came out to South Africa from England in 1925. She is remembered for her red-gold hair and amazing control of a fiery temperament which is usually associated with it - surely God's gift of grace. Before becoming Superior of the Community in 1945 she worked as a secretary first in the School of Music and later for the Technical College. She was also House Sister in the College Hostels for Bangor, Lincoln, Canterbury and the Grotto (what is now Salisbury). She was such a good and holy Mother Superior that the Community elected her for a second term of office. Mother Dorothea's special qualities of character were: her charm and graciousness; her unfailing courtesy towards everyone; her loving, motherly personality, especially towards her elderly and infirm Sisters, and the children of the Home for Coloured Children; her love and reverence towards all God's creatures, great and small (it is recorded that she would not even harm a mosquito!); her capacity for looking and finding what was best in the characters of others, then with trust and encouragement, urging them to respond to the challenge of doing better. She also had the gift of being able to delegate, and her loyal support of those whom she placed in positions of responsibility was a source of strength to them.


Mother Joanna Mary CR was born Janye Vazeille Boddy, third child of the Vicar of Pittington in 1893. Her mother was in some way connected with Catherine Booth, wife of the famous General of the Salvation Army, and the name Vazeille came from her). After being expelled from the China Inland Mission she served in France during the first World War and the injuries sustained during her time there as a Missionary plagued her for the rest of her life. Her father was responsible for introducing her to Smith Wigglesworth, one of the early leaders of the Pentecostal movement. He visited Jayne and laid hands upon her and from then on she had the gift of tongues. She seldom spoke of this experience except sometimes to her Novices after she became Novice Mistress in the Community, and it was not until the Charismatic Revival in Grahamstown in the early 1970's that it really became known.

After training as a teacher at Durham University and caring for her mother until her death in 1928, Janye Boddy travelled to Grahamstown and was admitted to the Novitiate in 1932, making her First Profession as Sister Joanna Mary CR in 1934. She spent many of her years teaching in many schools and parishes around Southern Africa. She was soon recalled Grahamstown to become Mother Superior, a position she held for a relatively short period, mainly due to her increasing bad health, however she continued to serve as a link between the earlier Charismatic Revival in England in her youth and the one being led by Bishop Bill Burnett in Grahamstown in the early 1970's.


Eleanor Wilson was the only child of her parents, Benjamin and Emily Mary Wilson (nee Hodgson) of Darlington, Yorkshire. Soon after their marriage the Wilsons came to South Africa, and settled in Port Elizabeth, where Eleanor was born. When she was only three years old, the family moved to East London and eventually settled in St Saviour’s Parish, where the Community had already established the House of the Good Shepherd. So from an early age Eleanor came in contact with the Community which she was eventually to join. The family quickly became involved in the worship and life of St Saviour’s. Her parents became frail and both suffered from heart trouble, and needed much nursing care. Eleanor cared for both, whilst working as a Book-keeper locally, until their deaths in 1942 and 1947. In April 1948, she came to Grahamstown, and was admitted as a Postulant on Whitsunday, May 15th 1948.

As her professional skills were clerical, she was a much valued Secretary to the Principal of the Training College and a House Sister at Bangor. When Sister Joanne Mary was elected as Superior in January 1959 she appointed Sister Mary Eleanor as her Assistant, which Office she held until she succeeded Mother Joanna as Superior of the Community. She resigned this Office in January 1982, after a period of sixteen years and went to the London House of St Peter’s Bourne where her gifts of ministry, both spiritual and social, came to their real flowering. She was also artistically gifted, and expressed this gift not only with paint and brush, but also in many forms of dainty handwork. Everything she did was done with meticulous care – whether the household accounts, or dainty sprays of flowers worked in tatting or quilting.

Sister Mary Eleanor was a woman of strong character, very disciplined and a person of deep prayer, and had a great love for the Lord. She possessed a warm, loving personality, and gave of herself unstintingly to the needs of others. It was this loving warm-heartedness which so many people spoke about at the time of her death. She hoped to end her days in England, and her wish was granted. It is fitting that her Ashes lie in the Garden of Remembrance at All Saints Church, Whetstone, very near the house of St Peter’s Bourne, which she so dearly loved.


Mother Valerie was born in the Province of Cordoba, Argentine. Bother her parents were English, and her childhood was spent on a large cattle ranch in Argentina. She was an excellent horsewoman. She was educated at St Hilda’s College on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and upon completion of her education worked as a Bilingual English/Spanish Secretary in Buenos Aires, Madrid and Rhodesia. She was made a Novice of the Community in 1962 and in 1964 she joined the Grahamstown Training College Staff as House Sister of Canterbury House.

In January 1982 she was elected as the seventh Superior of the Community of the Resurrection of Our Lord. She was a woman of strong character and was also far sighted in practical matters. It was during her superiorship that the Community Chapel was finally established in St Luke’s (the Infirmary) thus making it possible for all Sisters from the different Houses, and the elderly and infirm from St Luke’s, to meet together for daily Offices and the Eucharist.

She had a deep sense of her responsibilities as Superior and never spared herself in keeping in touch with the various Houses in Grahamstown and in spending time with the sick for whose comfort she always had a deep concern. Sister had a great love for all animals, and her little dog Zola gave her much joy and pleasure right to the end of her life. Sister was artistic and particularly good at caricatures, amusing herself at Synod Gatherings during long debates drawing interesting characters who were present there. She died suddenly and peacefully on the evening of May 25th whilst her brother Humphrey and Sister Anne were attending Mass in the local Roman Catholic Church, after a long illness, bravely borne.


Nonie Mary Newey grew up on a farm in the Ciskei, educated mostly at home and entered Grahamstown Training College at the age of 233. She joined the Community in 1949 and had her first teaching post at the Good Shepherd School in Grahamstown and in 1952 joined Rhodes and graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts. Sister Nonie spent several years doing pastoral work in Grahamstown and Rhodesia eventually returning in 1960 to the Grahamstown Training College as a lecturer. She became principal of the Training College but due to her increasing deafness had to retire early.

Sister Nonie spent some years studying at St Paul’s Theological College (now the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown) and running the Retreat Centre through most of 1980’s until she was elected Superior in 1991. In 1993 she was made a Deacon and in 1994 ordained as a Priest and was able to take services in the College Chapel and until very recently was able to help regularly with the weekday services at the various Anglican Churches within Grahamstown. (Sister Nonie was known as Sister Virginia whilst Principal of the Training College but subsequently reclaimed her baptismal name). Sister Nonie lives with the Community in Grahamstown to this day.


Mother Carol is the current and ninth such Mother Superior of the Community of the Resurrection of Our Lord in Grahamstown. Though the Community has become much smaller than what it once was – their members still hold true to their original aims and the Life within the Community is very much alive and well.


As has been described above, the Community was founded in 1884 by Bishop Allan Becher Webb and Cecile Isherwood to undertake pastoral and educational work in Grahamstown. These two types of work, and later Social Welfare work, have predominated in the Community’s undertakings throughout its history. The regular life of monastic Offices and personal prayer and intercession has always been maintained, both in the Mother House (Grahamstown) and all branch houses, wherever situated. It is still maintained in Grahamstown, the only centre where the Community life continues, our numbers being now much reduced, with a high proportion of elderly and infirm members.

Two Retreat Centres established by this Community have been taken over by other Communities: St Peter’s Bourne in north London; and Hillandale, near Grahamstown, which has been taken over by the Order of the Holy Cross, an Anglican Benedictine community for men, based in the USA.

Two schools, staffed entirely by lay teachers, remain under the management of the Grahamstown Community, the Bethlehem Pre-School being the Community’s Centenary Project.

Last Modified: Wed, 03 May 2017 12:35:37 SAST