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Isabella Pescod


UPDATED: 10/03/2022

10 March 1884, George Stanley murders his wife Christina in Beaconsfield.
10 March 1900, 4th Division Town Guard under Capt Irvine Grimmer formally disbanded.
10 March 1926, Richard Jackson, discoverer of the De Beers Mine, dies.
10 March 1932, Isabella Pescod dies.
10 March 1946, 42 Basuto nationals arrested after a “riot” in Greenpoint.


Isabella Pescod, the wife of the Reverend William Pescod, died from the after effects of pneumonia at their residence, 187a Dutoitspan Road, on Thursday 10 March 1932 at 21h00.

She was born in Crook, County Durham, England in 1856, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Henderson, and received her education at the town school. She then attended the Darlington Training College for Teachers for three years, gaining her teaching diploma, which then enabled her to become Principal of a school in the north of England.

Marrying the Methodist minister, the Reverend William Pescod, in England in 1888 after a four-year engagement, Isabella returned with him to Kimberley, and together they played an important role in the welfare of children, and in particular the Coloured community.

The Bean Street Methodist Church, built in that position due to its close proximity to the Malay Camp – predominantly a Coloured suburb – was her husband William’s parish. She was an untiring worker and was in charge of the Sunday School as well as in most other Church matters.

The Coloured community of Kimberley “…have reason to be particularly grateful to Mrs Pescod for, as a result of her strenuous and wise counsel, it may be said that she practically laid the foundation of coloured education in Kimberley.

She had other interests too, being a founder member and later President of the Kimberley Benevolent Society, a position she only relinquished due to ill-health and advancing years. Other than playing a prominent role in child welfare, she was also an ardent worker in the cause of temperance, and ministered to female prisoners in the Kimberley gaol.

In her death, the poor of Kimberley lost a great friend – her work was her life and hobby.

Her well attended funeral was at the Bean Street Church, and she was buried in the Coloured section of the West End cemetery, in close proximity to where Sol Plaatje would be buried later that same year. The scholars of the William Pescod School led the singing of hymns at the burial service.

A memorial service was held at the same Church the following Sunday.

Isabella left her husband William, two sons Lancelot and Jack, a daughter Dorothy and three grandchildren to mourn her passing.

Photograph of Isabella Pescod by kind permission of the McGregor Museum Kimberley.

10 March 1884, George Stanley murders his wife Christina in Beaconsfield.
10 March 1900, 4th Division Town Guard under Capt Irvine Grimmer formally disbanded.
10 March 1926, Richard Jackson, discoverer of the De Beers Mine, dies.
10 March 1932, Isabella Pescod (pictured) dies.

One of the most stalwart women in the service of the Methodist Church was Isabella Pescod, wife of Reverend William Pescod of the Bean Street Methodist Church. Like her husband, Isabella was born in Crook, England in 1856, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Henderson. Isabella was educated at the Town School of Crook and the Darlington Training College for Teachers, where she gained her teaching diploma. She then became principle of a school in the North of England.

The Pescods became engaged before William came to South Africa and it was to be four years before he would return to England to claim his bride. Strangely, he kept his engagement secret from his parishioners who were astounded, but delighted, when he came back with his helpmeet. Isabella, apart from being a teacher, was an excellent musician and was imbued with courage and energy, so that she was ideally suited to be an important contributor to the welfare of the Coloured community which she was to serve so long and faithfully.

Soon after her arrival, William and Isabella started a day school for Coloured children which they maintained until it was acquired by the Cape Education Department, but was always known as Pescod’s School. It grew steadily in numbers and soon a High School was needed. Besides her involvement in the field of education, Isabella found time for the Kimberley Benevolent Society of which she was a founder member. For a number of years she was the treasurer, and later became president, an office she held until failing health and advancing years led her to resign. When the Pescods were presented with a silver tea set after 25 years of service to the community, William wryly remarked that he had more than once wished the benevolent society far away.

William was chaplain of the Gaol and Isabella was also involved in his work there, ministering to the female prisoners. Sometimes they were accompanied by their young son Jack, a gifted musician, who played hymns on the little organ when services were conducted. The Pescods were also actively involved with the work of the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society.

The Pescod’s first child was born in October 1891 and was christened Catherine, followed by Mary in August 1892. Sadly, both little girls died very young, Catherine at 11 months on 12 September 1892 and Mary at 4 months on 1 November of the same year. They were buried in the Gladstone cemetery. The bitter blow of losing two children within weeks, the lot of so many mothers of the time, was hard to bear. But within the next few years they were blessed with another daughter, Dorothy, and two sons, Lancelot and John, known as Jack.

The Siege of Kimberley found the Pescods well prepared. William wrote to his family that, “Isabella had got a good supply of provision in, but we were at a loss to know where to put them. Isabella devised a plan. A board was cut out in the bedroom floor, which, after a good deal of difficulty, we succeeded in getting out and then preceded to put away our stores.”

The ever practical Isabella looked after the poor as well as her own family and wrote, “we have got meal, sugar, coffee and flour sent here, to help a few quiet deserving people who would never go to ask for it.” When the bombardment began, battles were fought and death was all around. William’s letters were filled with references to funerals, the great straits they were in with regard to food and fuel and lack of any news from the outside world. But Isabella remained remarkably strong and cheerful. Rationing was instituted and the Pescods received bread, mealie meal, samp and sugar daily. Isabella wrote to her family. “I mixed the mealie meal with oatmeal for porridge and it was very good. The samp we steeped all night and boiled for two or three hours, and used it instead of potatoes. A little of it boiled a while longer with a few raisins in it was almost as good as a nice pudding.” She was extremely touched by the kindness of their parishioners who insisted on sharing with them “any little thing they had and down to the half of an onion.”

Throughout this time of danger and deprivation, Isabella’s faith was remarkable. She felt that “truly the angels had charge of us”. Soon After the siege was lifted, she wrote to her family…. “Never mind, it is all past now. About 8 or 9 were only killed directly by shells in the town. IS it not a miracle after such a number of shells?”

When William retired from the ministry, the congregation presented the Pescods with a house at 187a Dutoitspan Road in recognition of their services to the Bean Street Congregation. They expressed the hope that they would spend their last years in rest and comfort.

In September 1931, Isabella contracted pneumonia and never fully recovered due to her heart being affected. She died peacefully on 10 March 1932 at the age of 76. She was laid to rest in the Coloured section of the West End Cemetery and her faithful congregation erected a memorial to her. William joined her in her resting place 13 years later.

(By Maureen Rall and extracted from her publication “Petticoat Pioneers”.)

Photograph of Isabella Pescod by kind permission of the McGregor Museum Kimberley. Thank you.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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