In 1833 King William IV signed off the emancipation of slavery in all British colonies, which included the Cape of Good Hope. On 1 August 1834 a huge celebration was held in the government gardens and on 1 December 1834 all slaves in Cape Town were freed. On the last day of slavery Rev Barnabas Shaw held an evening service, and at the stroke of midnight, and to a full Wesleyan Church, he announced: “Slavery is dead!”
All the churches helped former slaves rebuild their lives, find new homes and occupations. One of the responses of the Methodist Church was to establish a community agricultural project at Raithby near Stellenbosch. Whiteside (1906:71) writes: “In the year 1834 when slavery was abolished… there were about 39,000 slaves in Cape Town.”
In June 1834 an old wine store was purchased in Somerset West and converted into a school room and place of worship, and was officially dedicated on 28 September 1834. In 1847 the main church was enlarged and a new Chapel was built. The Rev Richard Ridgill served for many years as resident minister. Workers from surrounding farms attended services, walking for miles carrying their shoes in their hands which were put on when they arrived at the church.
The historic church at Somerset West, soon after celebrating 175 years of Christian witness had an unforeseen misfortune when in June 2010, the front of the church building collapsed.The Methodist Church at Stellenbosch was established in 1837. In 1845 the farm “Moddergat” was purchased as an experiment in farming for the Coloured people of the area. They were to remain working for the farmers but would have their own allotment at Raithby on which to grow their crops. This was not a great success as the farmers resented the arrangement. In 1851 Moddergat, also known as Brackenbury’s Valley, was renamed Raithy” after a benefactor in England. The main church on Stellenbosch Plein was built in 1870.
Methodism spread to Sir Lowry’s Pass in 1855 when land was purchased to build a church. In 1859 the Rev Henry Tindall was appointed to Overberg, Robertson. Moister in his A history of Wesleyan Missions (1869:166) writes that the Rev Henry Tindall collected a large congregation, formed a prosperous native church and opened an elegant new chapel. The chapel was built in 1863. Out stations were also formed at Lady Grey, Montague and Newmanville. A chapel was also built at McGregor in 1863. All these churches were part of the Cape District which comprised a number of circuits, the Overberg Circuit being one of them.