Settler’s church stands, 70 years after it was put up

Locals now manage the building and ensure it remains in its original state.

Friday February 19 2016

The Church of Goodwill, Kariandusi. Its opening in 1947 coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the death of Lady Balfour’s husband. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Church of Goodwill, Kariandusi. Its opening in 1947 coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the death of Lady Balfour’s husband. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MAGDALENE WANJA
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Seven decades ago, a British woman settler built a church as a gift to God.

Lady Eleanor Balfour’s two sons had been away fighting in the Second World War.

When they returned home unharmed, she put up the church in appreciation of God’s mercies.

An imposing structure, the church was officially opened in 1947.

It stands out a key monument at Kariandusi Archaeological site in Elementaita, Nakuru County.

Its opening coincided with the 20th anniversary of the death of Lady Balfour’s husband, Lord Galbraith Cole.

For years, it has remained a key feature at the site, attracting local and international visitors.

The architecture of the church captures Kenya’s designs of the 1940s.

It evokes memories of a gone era. Though many Kenyans were not born then, it gives them a glimpse into history.

Among the visitors are former white settlers.

“Some settlers who are still alive usually fly into the country for a memorial service every year. Those who still live in Kenya also come,” Church Chairman Elijah Njoroge says.

HERITAGE SITE

A bell tower and wooden roofing tiles have withstood the vagaries of weather for years, making the church a monument worth visiting.

The magnificent colonial church makes one feel as old as the stone-walled structure. Well-kept graves are on the compound.

The graves belong to church founders who wished to be interred next to the building. They bear the owners’ names and their dates of death.

The church teak doors are arch-shaped and have heavy latches.

The windows are narrow and also arch-shaped. They let in light which illuminates the interior.

Lady Eleanor ensured that all movables in the church were imported. They are still in use.

While other structures have long been disposed of after the 38,000 hectare Kikopey farm owned by Lady Balfour was subdivided, the church is the only structure that retained its intended purpose.

Mr Peter Cheporion, a guide at Kariandusi says the building is marketed as a heritage site.

“While the government took over management of prehistoric sites, the community took over the caring of the building and ensure that it remained in its original state,” he says.

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