Our Hilton Anglican congregation was consecrated in 1904 when a series of special mission services were held in the Hilton Road Hall. In February 1906 Judge T R Bennett, the owner of the Quarry, donated land for the Church. A Vestry meeting was held in April 1906 and it was decided to build a Church costing not more than £1200 and seating not less than 220 people. The architectural firm of Messrs. Baker, Masey and Sloper of Johannesburg was approached and Mr Herbert Baker attended a meeting at St Anne’s on 22 May 1906 and presented his plans for the Church. The estimated cost was £1160 which could be reduced to £1110 by calling for tenders. A decision was taken on 25 July 1906 to build in red brick rather than hollow concrete blocks. Work began in December 1906. Advertisements in the Natal Witness and Times of Natal announced that Bishop Frederick Samuel Baines would lay the foundation stone on 6 December 1906. Before building began the committee decided the costs would be too high, and approached Mr Baker. His solution was to reduce the overall length of the walls, building 5 instead of 6 buttresses. The building was completed by the end of April 1907 and it was dedicated by Bishop Baines on 9 May 1907, Ascension Day, hence the name “Church of the Ascension”.
The Natal Witness reported the event:
Many people from the settlements in the neighbourhood took part in the ceremony, going to Hilton by road and rail. About a dozen clergy were present to assist the Bishop. The service was of an ordinary character, but the congregation was large. The altar was beautifully decorated, but the Church itself looked somewhat plain. His Lordship preached a most impressiveservice, which was received with every mark of attention.
St Anne’s Diocesan College and Hilton College had close associations with the Church of the Ascension. St Anne’s girls made up half the congregation, their choir sang at services and at one time the Headmistress who was ex-officio on the Parish council also ran the Sunday School.
Building development continued over the years, funded by parishioners:
1913 The vicarage was built on land again donated by Judge Bennett
1923 Memorial Pulpit given by the Sunday School in memory of the fallen in 1914-1918 war. Their names are recorded on a brass plaque. A similar plaque records the names of those who died in 1939-1945 war.
1924 The reredos and a new altar made by Mr C Rein of Pietermaritzburg
1925-1926 The stained glass windows in the Sanctuary – given by Mr H Winder in memory of his wife Blanche
1950 The Vestry was finally built
1951 The original Cathedral-type chairs were replaced by the present pews at a cost of £684.2s.6d. Borer had been discovered in 1948.
1959 Garden of Remembrance established
1964 New Rectory built
1967 Cathedral glass replaced the original jubilee glass in windows
1969 New slate roof replaced original iron – cost R2760
1971 Hall, kitchen and new vestry were built
1980 New offices, library and paved courtyard built
1996 Second new roof replacing slate with metal sheeting at a cost of R30000
1998-2001 Stained glass windows installed by various donors
1999 Pipe organ installed
The congregation currently includes several hundred families, people of all ages, most of whom live in Hilton, but some living in surrounding areas of Pietermaritzburg, Merrivale and Cedara. Both traditional and contemporary styles of Anglican worship are used at Ascension. Many of its members are active in the community, reflecting our desire to be of service to God’s world in the name of our Lord, Jesus. This includes an association with the congregations of the UMNGENI Region, only a few of which have full-time clergy, and many of which are rural and have only a monthly service.
Recent Rectors included Vernon Lund in the 1970s and early 1980s, Ian Cowley into the mid-1990s (Ian subsequently moved to the Diocese of Salisbury in the United Kingdom), and Stuart Mennigke from then until 2002. He was followed by Nic Denny-Dimitriou, who began ministry at Church of the Ascension in June 2002. He remained for 11 and a half years until December 2013. Nic and his family moved from Hilton to Cyprus, where he now serves as the Chaplain of Paphos in the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. Paul Mosdell assumed this position from January 2014 – December 2020, and he now worships in the Eastern Cape. The current Acting Rector is Nobuhle Hlatshwayo.