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Two New Churches……..1878-1879

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Designed by
James P. Johnston, Architect
of Ogdensburg


The town of Brockville saw the building of four new churches in the years between 1875 and 1879. The first one was the George St. Episcopal Methodist Church (1875) on the south-west corner of Court House Square. Then the congregation of Trinity Anglican Church (1877) built their new building at the corner of Clarissa St. & George St.


ca. 1880

1 Pine St [Brockville, ON] - Baptist Tabernacle [ca1880] improved

The First Baptist Church was under construction throughout 1878.
The new Baptist church was situated on the site of the old one. It was built of blue limestone and trimmed with white crystalized limestone. The main sanctuary designed to seat 500 persons on the main floor measured 77 x 56 feet. The spire rose to a height of 120 feet. Four large stained glass windows enhanced the sanctuary. The pastor, the Rev. R.B. Montgomery led the dedication services on Sunday, March 23, 1879.

This was followed by new church edifices, built to replace earlier buildings. These are the two modern churches pictured here. Above is the Baptist Tabernacle (1878) on the south-east corner of Court House Sq., and below is the First Presbyterian Church (1879) on the north-west corner opposite. Imagine the interest of Brockvillians in this frenzy of church construction, in an age when church attendance was an integral part of family life.
The latest approved style of religious architecture was the soaring neo-gothic shown here and the design of these two buildings was from the hand of James P. Johnston (1841-1893),a very successful architect, then practicing in Ogdensburg, N.Y. With the completion of these buildings Johnston gained a number of important residential commissions from the wealthy businessmen of Brockville including Newton Cossitt, Richard Field and Thomas Gilmour.


ca. 1880

10 Church St [Brockville, ON] - First Presbyterian Church [c1880]

The First Presbyterian Church was completed in 1879.
The new church was the third one erected on this corner near the Court House. The large sanctuary measured 100 x 110 ft. with a seating capacity of 900. The cost of construction was said to be about $35,000.


Source: These two previously unknown photos were found by the late John Kehn of Home Again Antiques, who allowed me to copy them a few years ago. They were taken by George B. Murray, and may have been the earliest professional pictures taken after construction was completed. Also note the smaller buildings on either side of the churches.



Brockville’s First Court House…….1809-1841

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built 1809-1810


Map of Village of Elizabethtown (later Brockville) 1811 (by Doug Grant)

I drew this map based on the earliest discovered map of Brockville. At that time, in 1811, the village was officially known as Elizabethtown by the government of Upper Canada.

I would like to try to tell the story of the development of the District of Johnstown Court House in Brockville from the earliest period, using what information has been discovered to date.

For many years, I believe, we have been told a mistruth by earlier compilers of Brockville history. The story has been reprinted over the years that there have been three court houses build in Brockville. This cannot be substantiated by facts and I have come to believe that what was thought to be a second building was simply a renovation and addition to the first building.

The story goes back to about 1805 when a petition was first circulated in the central part of the District of Johnstown. This document asked the government to consider moving the Courts from the village of Johnstown to a more central location. Later in December of that year, having been signed by “William Buell, Daniel Manhart and 107 others,” this petition was submitted to the government at York.

The end result was to convince those in power that moving the Court House and Gaol to a more central location “near or about Mr. Daniel Jones’s mill in front of the 1st concession of Elizabethtown” was a good idea. This decision was made in 1808 and an act was passed on March 16th of that year, in spite of counter-petitions from the residents at the Edwardsburg end of the District near the village of Johnstown who were very upset with the suggestion.

The decision being made, a high piece of land offered by William Buell was chosen in June 1808, and plans were drawn up for the new Court House.

The cost for the new Court House was to be paid by canvassing the residents of the area for subscriptions. The job of collecting the subscriptions and the contract for construction was placed in the hands of Charles Jones (1781-1840). Jones was still just a young man at this time, but had lots of Loyalist and “Family Compact” connections.

A contract has been found made between the two representatives of the District Justices of the Peace, Solomon Jones and James Breakenridge, and Charles Jones. It is dated November 9, 1808 and describes the proposed building in these words: “sixty-three feet long by forty feet wide, the foundation are to be of stone and raised four feet above the ground, the wall of the first story to be twelve feet high of brick, and of the length of two bricks in thickness, the second and third stories to be twenty feet high, and the length of one brick and a half in thickness”. Also mentioned is the fact that they will pay Jones so much of the 800 pounds for the building as he could collect from the subscribers to the project, and after that they will pay the remaining amount outstanding.

The nine District Magistrates meeting in Quarter Sessions in May 1810, and led by chairman Joel Stone, ratified the deal and placed the funds in the hands of Charles Jones.  For a nominal twenty pounds in consideration, Mr. Buell drew up a deed on May 16, 1810 to give to the Crown all the required land for a square (about four acres) and a wide road leading down to the river.

Another interesting document, dated January 13, 1809, has been found in the Archives of Ontario which describe the sub-contract for the new building. It was a contract made between Charles Jones, the general contractor, and Joseph Bryan a carpenter living in Augusta Township to perform the “carpenter and joiner work” involved in the “new brick Court House to be erected on the site in Elizabethtown” (at that time the government name for Brockville). The building was described as being “63 feet long and 40 feet broad, and in shape agreeable to the plan drawn by the said Bryan.”

Furthermore, Joseph Bryan was responsible for “framing all the timbers and joists and scantling for the support of the floors and roof, the making of all the window frames, the putting up of the cornice, boarding the roof and shingling the same, and covering the Octagon”. He was also to make “the outside doors and window sashes, and put up the columns in front”.

Charles Jones was responsible for the masonry work, stone foundations and brick walls which were to be completed by September 10th. Jones would also supply all the wood materials and nails needed by Bryan and his crew. The contract promised to pay Bryan a total of $984.00, in three instalments ending the following June, the proposed time of completion.

These two recently discovered documents provide much important details to give a description of this first Court House. It was to be a long three-storey rectangular brick building with windows on the sides, topped by a gable roof covered in shingles. In front of the entrance doorway we would see a number of columns, and it will be topped by a octagonal shaped tower. That is what has appeared in numerous drawn views up until the time it was replaced by the present Court House in 1842.


1816-Map of Brockville Court House area (by Doug Grant)
The area around the first Court House was used during the War of 1812-14 to house British troops and militia. This map shows the general placement of the various structures that were built in the Court House Square area. It is based on a plan from the period.


Old Brockville Court House ca1840

The only picture ever found of the exterior of the renovated old Court House, as it may have looked between 1824 and 1841. This drawing was one of a number of engravings of Brockville buildings in a special section of the Canadian Illustrated News on May 3, 1879.  The first Court House shown here was replaced by the present one in 1842.


part view of Brockville ca1840 by Holloway

A notable artist who lived and worked in the Brockville area in the 1840s was Frederick Holloway. In this drawing done about 1840, he was able to accurately capture the town of Brockville, with the first Court House and the first three churches on the highest points of land.


Sources: History writing is problematic. It only works well when the true facts can be discovered. Otherwise myth may creep into what is passed on. I would like to thank those people who labour in Museums and Archives where insignificant scraps of information are filed and stored. The details I have used here are possible because of what was not thrown out in the past.

Victoria Hall and East Ward Market House – Part Two

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1 King Street, Brockville

Built 1862-64



Brockville City Hall


Market Day ca1903

The Brockville Farmers Market was a busy place on Market Day. This photo dates to about 1895 and shows the original design of the East Ward Market House which was located behind Victoria Hall.


The new Concert Hall and Market House nears completion.

It might be interesting to quote here from a newspaper article written on Nov. 5, 1863 which anticipated with pleasure the future official opening of the new building:

“The new Market House in the East Ward is now all but completed, and on all hands we hear nothing but praise awarded to the capable and energetic contractors, Messrs. Steacy & Booth. On Thursday last we entered the building for the first time, and must express satisfaction at the manner in which the work has been done. The butchers’ stalls are equal, if not superior, to any we have seen either on this or the other side of the Atlantic, and we hope to see the lessees of these stalls vie with each other in the neat and cleanly appearance in which they will be kept. The stalls are ventilated by moving windows at the top, worked by cords placed in the centre of the passage. There are eight stalls on each side of the passage.”
“On the ground floor there are very fine rooms which might be let for public offices of some description. These rooms form the east and west portions of the main building, the centre being occupied by the main passage to the butcher stalls.”
“The upper storey contains “The Hall”, and a most splendid hall it is. Its size is 75 x 40. The ceiling is very beautifully executed, the centre pieces, in stucco, claiming a just need of praise. The stage is placed at the east end of the Hall, from which there is a door leading to the ante-room. There is also an orchestra on the north side of the Hall, but this is intended more to cover the arch forming the bases of the tower than for actual use.”

.FITZSIMMONS William ca1869

William Fitzsimmons, a master builder and the Mayor of Brockville in 1862 when this building was initiated. He was also appointed to be “Superintendent of Construction” by the Town Council.


By November of 1863, the Brockville Gas Light Co. had completed their installation of gas fixtures. With the building almost ready for use, the winter months were spent levelling and preparing the adjacent streets and landscaping on all sides of the new market building.

The official opening took place on the Queen’s Birthday, May 24, 1864 at 8:30 p.m. with a grand ball hosted by the Mayor and Defiance Fire Co. No.2. Music was provided by the Olds Quadrille Band. Tickets were sold for $1.50.

During the summer months of 1864 they carried out the work of fitting up the butcher stalls. For example, local carpenter and builder, William Holmes received $120 for his efforts in “fitting up 16 stalls with tables and hook rails & beams”. Blacksmith Luke Leach was paid $160 for “making hooks, bolts, fastenings, etc.” for the stalls.

The first concert to be presented in the magnificent upstairs Hall was on October 8, 1864 with a musical concert by Madam Anna Bishop.

Work on the tower of Victoria Hall was the last to be completed as construction there continued through the winter and spring of 1864-65. Tinsmith R.W. Grant presented a $34.44 bill for labour and materials for tinning the roof of the tower in November of 1865. He was also paid $106 in full for his work on August 8, 1866.

As a final interesting item, they paid cabinetmaker John McElhinny $250 on September 3, 1866 for supplying 360 wood-seat chairs for Victoria Hall.

One of the first major tenants to occupy the ground floor offices was the main Post Office who remained in that spot for more than fifteen years, until new facilities were constructed and opened by the Dominion Government on the west side of Court House Ave. in 1883-85.

Town Council starts Conversion for Town Offices

In 1882, Town Council carried out repairs and improvements to the building based on plans prepared by Brockville architect O.E. Liston. Details are not available, but it is assumed that space was converted for town offices. The contract for the work was awarded to John Loftus for $1814. In 1886, the space which up to that time had been used for wagon passage through the central shaft of the whole building was incorporated into the building and the entrance doors at each end were closed up.

In 1904 two additional floors were added to the rear wing. This completed the new massing of the building as we see it today. All of the town functions were moved here, including the Police offices and jail which were housed in the ground floor of the rear portion.


Victoria Hall rear ca1910

A view of the rear of Brockville Town Hall about 1910, following the renovation of the Market Area. The present Council Chambers are on the new third floor, as shown here.


Victoria Hall Tower gets Clock and Bell

Also in 1904, Mayor S.J. Geash and property chairman, Alderman William H. Kyle moved for installation of a clock and bell in the tower for the first time. The clock was purchased from the Seth Thomas Clock Co. Of Thomson, Conn. The bell was made by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland. Local jeweller and horologist, Frederick B. Steacy was in charge of the installation for the town.

This clock has been operating for almost 100 years with the help of dedicated clock technicians from Steacy’s and Knowlton’s Jewellers, along with various Town Hall caretakers. Over the years the necessary once a week ritual of re-winding the mechanism which raises up the weights for the clock and bell has been carried out by Richard H. Miller and Ralph McInrue from Steacy’s, and then Glen Jackson, and his son Richard of Wingfields. For the last twenty years the job has been carried out by Vic Smetona who retired from the space industry but was trained as an horologist in his younger years. Vic has carried out his share of repairs when needed and coaxed the old clock back into running order when it has faltered.


Victoria Hall photo ca1920

This photo is dated about 1920 showing how automobiles are becoming commonplace on the streets of Brockville.


Sources: I began collecting information on Victoria Hall more than thirty years ago. Some of the sources are no longer available. The minute books of the 1859-62 Brockville Town Councils, and the Town Treasurer’s Cash Book (1861-67) were previously stored in the City Hall. I would like to regognize former City Clerk, the late John Miles who allowed me to copy information into notebooks which I have kept since the 1970s.



copyright DG cards MAY 2009

Victoria Hall and East Ward Market House – Part One

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1 King Street, Brockville

Built 1862-1864


Brockville City Hall



Along with the Court House, I would place this building at the top of interesting and treasured building designs in Brockville.


Victoria Hall tower 1

The most distinctive feature of Brockville’s Victoria Hall is the 8-sided Clock and Bell Tower.


The First Market Building on this site

Although it has functioned for more than a hundred years as the Brockville Town Hall, prior to the mid-1880s, it served as the place to house indoor butchers’ stalls at the rear, and the concert hall and ballroom known as Victoria Hall on the second floor at the front. The town government offices were still located in the west end in the building at the corner of King St. W. and St. Paul St. which we now call the Brockville Arts Centre.

Victoria Hall is located in the middle of the East Ward Market Square which dates from the years 1832-33 when it was established by a special Act of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. This establishment was controversial and took months of political debate in the Parliament at York. The land from the Main Street down to the river’s edge was donated by the Hon. Charles Jones who held title to most of the land in the east central area of Brockville, and was prominent as a local and provincial conservative politician.

A small stone building was erected in the middle of the square in 1835 to provide space for local butchers to sell their meat products indoors. Masonry work was carried out by Alexander Spalding, and John Thompson and James Elliott were the carpenters.

They rented the first four butcher stalls in January 1836 to John Cowan, Joseph Cowan, John Harrison and Patrick Murray. The Board of Police charged them 3 pounds, 10 shillings for the first year. Later Charles Dickinson and Richard Baker joined them. All the other market products were offered outdoors.

A Fancy Concert Hall and a new Market House is considered in 1859

This was the situation which existed until 1859 when the town was anticipating the completion of the B&O Railway Tunnel which had to some degree changed the landscape of the middle of the market area. It was during the spring of 1859 that the Town Council led by Mayor William Fitzsimmons felt a need for larger indoor facilities for the East Ward Market. This scheme was overwhelmingly approved by the electors in a plebiscite held on May 30, 1859.

It was then decided to hire someone to draw up plans and specifications for this building. A building committee, headed by Alonzo B. Dana, councillor for the West Ward, set about to determine their requirements, and chose to give the job to a Mr. A.S. Brown, about whom we know nothing.

It was not until almost a year later that Brown’s drawings were submitted to Council for approval. Tenders for construction were called for May 22, 1860. It appears from records of Council deliberations at this time that some dissatisfaction and squabbling in Council meetings started to hamper further progress on the scheme.

Brockville Town Council in 1860 was split into two rival factions whose members zealously stuck together on most issues. Few decisions were arrived at in Council meetings, and as a result it became impossible to proceed with building the new Market Hall.

Two tenders had been received; one from William Holmes and Thomas Price for $9,797 in currency, and one from Messrs. Pidgeon and Gallena for $12,000 in Town debentures. The issue seemed to be centred on how they would pay for the building, and whether the first design allowed for enough space.

Neither tender was acceptable to the opponents of the faction led by A.B. Dana. Councillors McCullough, Poulton, Easton, R. Fitzsimmons and Mayor Wm. Fitzsimmons were determined to have their opinions decide the course of events. Time after time, Dana and his supporters, Donaldson, Manley, Brooks and Beecher found their motions defeated for lack of a majority. The debating in those council meetings of 1860 must have been heated, but we only have the dry council minutes which recorded the words and outcome of each resolution.

A New Council Elected in 1861

The question of the new East Ward Market building remained unresolved into the new year of 1861. A new mayor, Dr. Robert Edmondson, was in the chair along with four new councillors.

The previous factionalism was still present but with a significant difference. The group who had successfully killed the previous proposal had gained the upper hand, and the new mayor seemed determined to remain neutral if he could. This group, now composed of McCullough, Carron, Taylor, Poulton and Price believed that Council should go to the people to ask for permission to raise additional funds to enlarge the size of the proposed new market hall. This was done on July 1, 1861, and the electors of Brockville again voted yes to go ahead.

By August of 1861, it appears that Council agreed to proceed again with plans. The composition of the building committee was altered to allow the dominant faction to control its deliberations without opposition. It was Alonzo B. Dana himself who cleared the way for this to happen when he proposed that he and two of his colleagues be replaced on the building committee.

So, they started the lengthy procedure of obtaining new drawings. The first firm to be approached was Messrs. Fuller and Jones, Architects, the designers of the first Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. The committee received their proposed plans on September 25, 1861.

What took place then is unrecorded. Possibly the building committee was not satisfied with what they saw. Fuller & Jones eventually received $475.00 for their efforts, but their design was not used. They, in fact, had to sue the town in the courts to receive a settlement.


This early photograph taken about 1866 shows the new Victoria Hall on King Street. The nearby streetscape includes the earlier Willson House hotel in the centre and other stores on the right.



A New Architect is Engaged

Kingston architect, Henry H. Horsey was also invited to submit a design scheme for the market hall. It was at this time that the essence of the building which now stands on King St. was decided on. Not only was this project to include space for butcher’s stalls, but a large concert hall was proposed, along with office space which could be rented out.

Horsey estimated the cost of the entire building to be $26,000. It was July 25, 1862 when Town Council finally approved H.H. Horsey’s plans and moved to call tenders for its erection. The 1862 mayor, William Fitzsimmons, an experienced builder himself, was appointed to represent the town as Superintendent of Construction. By September 15th the tender of John Steacy, Jr. of Brockville, and David Booth, his partner had been accepted, and work was started without delay on the new foundations.

By October 18, 1862, the contractors had expended $3,125 in labour and materials. By November, the foundations were completed and backfilled, and the stone walls were beginning to rise. On December 24, 1862, they paid H.H. Horsey $553.70 in full for his architectural services. Construction of the new market hall continued through most of 1863. The records of the town treasurer show that insurance for $15,000 was first taken out in October of that year, but there still must have been many details to be completed even then.

To be continued……


Victoria Hall engraving ca1879

The Canadian Illustrated News, published out of Montreal, devoted two pictorial feature pages to Brockville in April and May of 1879. This was one of the drawings included and shows Victoria Hall in its early days.



copyright DG cards MAY 2009

Word Press

Benjamin Chaffey – John McMullen Houses

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30, 32 Apple Street

built about 1834



This picture comes from the collection of the Lorimer family. Shown is a pair of attached stone homes which date from about 1834. The photograph was taken in 1911 during the period of ownership from 1908-1920 of James Lorimer, the father of Hal Lorimer.

This empty lot was acquired in 1833 by Benjamin Chaffey (1806-1867) for 75 pounds from Sabina Buell (1786-1859), the unmarried daughter of William Buell Sr. The home in which she lived for over thirty years is located to the north at 36 Apple St.


Benjamin Chaffey


Builder, Contractor and Engineer

taken in the 1860s

It is very likely that Chaffey, a young building contractor, erected these houses on Apple St., and that he lived here in the 1830s and 40s while engaged in building many of the stone buildings in Brockville.

The property changed hands in the 1840s and was later acquired in 1856 by the tempestuous Irish newspaper publisher and writer, John M. McMullen (1820-1907). McMullen’s book, The History of Canada from it’s First Discovery to the Present Time, was first published in 1855 and filled a need for a Canadian history book. Subsequent editions came out in 1867 and 1892.

He also edited and published the local newspaper, The Brockville Monitor starting in 1857, but to less favourable response. McMullen and his wife Sarah Nesbitt lived here along with their 6 children. He died in 1907. In the next year it became the property of Jim Lorimer, and when he married Mae in 1910, No. 32 became their first home together.


John M. McMullen


Historian, Newspaper Publisher, and Town Councillor

Source: The Building picture is from a photograph loaned by Hal Lorimer, Anchorage Bay, west of Brockville. The two portraits are from my collection.


Word Press

The Wheelmen of Brockville

Members of the first Brockville Cycling Club



Alex. L. Murray  and  Crawford McClean

This is a studio photograph of two of the founding members of the Brockville Cycling Club posed on their new “High-Wheel Bicycles.” Alex Murray was the junior partner with his father, George B. Murray in the company, Murray & Son, photographers. Crawford McClean was the son of the late Judge Worship B. McClean, and lived at 35 Hartley St. in his father’s brick home.  Besides taking part in country tours, the racers of the local clubs were known to race around the track at the Driving Park, near Ormond St. and Central Ave. where the annual Agricultural Fair was held.

Bicycle development led to further improvements, including a high-wheel tricycle, and placing the small wheel in the front, but soon chain-drives, triangular configured frames and equal sized pneumatic-tired wheels arrived on the scene. This was when young women abandoned their bustles and corsets, and joined the bicycle revolution which forced women to adapt to more “common sense dressing.”



Young sportsmen around the world were quick to embrace the new sport of cycling in the early 1880s. Brockville was no exception. The new “High-Wheel” bicycles were being built of metal because of the advance of steel metallurgy in the late 1870s. With a large front wheel, solid-rubber tires, a high saddle and handle bars, followed by a smaller trailing wheel, it required a new kind of skill and athleticism to peddle these cycles.

Because the motive power on these cycles was a pair of peddles connected directly to the front wheel, the oversized wheel contributed to more distance traveled and speed with one rotation of the peddles.

The high-wheelers cost a small fortune to purchase. They could cost an average worker six month’s pay, but gained a great popularity among young men of means. In towns like Brockville, Lyn, Prescott, and Cardinal, small groups of bicyclists formed clubs to share their passion for riding. According to records kept by the Canadian Cycling Association, the Brockville Cycling Club was the first registered club in Canada.

The roads of the day were rough, often causing accidental falls and tumbles. Any small rut or stone could send a balanced rider over the handlebars and down to the ground in what was known as “taking a header.”

The local bicycle clubs took part in touring and racing in the 1890s, at times working toward building special cinder-paved bike trails alongside the existing roads. Periodically articles found in the local newspapers reported on efforts to raise money for these bicycle tracks such as one from Brockville to Lyn (1896), or from the “Dew Drop Inn” (on the Kingston Rd at Lyn Road) westwardly (1898).

Other Brockville wheelmen mentioned in local reports, in addition to the two in the photo, included: Capt. Ernie Bissett, Dr. Robert A. Bowie, brothers, Charles S. and Fremont B. Cossitt, Edwin Weatherhead, and Harry Going, the secretary of the club.

In May of 1897 a small item in the newspaper reported that a locally-made bicycle could be purchased at Dobbie’s Hardware Store for $60. It was the product of a young mechanic named Fred Ruetsch, who previously had worked at Stearn’s Bicycle Co. in Syracuse



Sources: Most of the bits of information about the local bicycle club has been collected by the Brockville Museum, but no detailed history of the Brockville Bicycle Club has been found yet. This photograph was one of two given to the museum 1981 by W. Stanley Adams, who owned a jewellery store on King Street.



St. Alban’s School for Boys in Brockville (1896-1949)

40-50 Crawford St.




Until about 58 years ago the presence of St. Alban’s School for Boys was an integral part of east-end Brockville. It was a private boarding school for young men patterned after the style of English public schools which emphasized traditional British values of sportsmanship, fair play and character building.

It’s history goes back to the story of it’s founder Rev. Dr. Charles J. Boulden D.D. (1857-1909). Dr. Boulden first came to Canada in 1883, a year after his graduation in 1882 from Cambridge, to be the mathematics master at Lincoln College in Sorel, Quebec. After a return to England between 1886 and 1888 when he became headmaster at Dana Hill School in Margate, he returned to Canada in 1893 to be curate at St. James Cathedral of Toronto, and then was appointed rector of Berthier, Que., across the St. Lawrence from Sorel. In 1896 he decided to started his own school in Berthier which he named St. Alban’s, after the first British martyr.

Five years later in 1901 he moved St. Alban’s to Brockville where he had acquired the former John Page property on the eastern outskirts of the town on Crawford St. which contained the large brick house built by William H. Willson in 18xx. He also arranged to rent the neighbouring property, owned by the Chaffey family which was known as “Somerset”. Both of these buildings still exist.

about 1903


The largest building at St. Albans was the Willson-Page House built by William H. Willson in 185x for his family. Before being acquired in 1900 for the school it had been the home of John Page, the chief engineer of canals for Canada. This photograph shows the staff and students in front of the building. As part of the school, it contained some classrooms and the bedchambers for the junior students. It still exists as a family home in this location on Crawford St.


In its new location St. Alban’s became exclusively a boarding school, with accommodation for a maximum of sixty boys. Classes were small allowing each a opportunity of individual attention. Enrollment was encouraged at an early age, boys of 8 or 9 being outfitted in the cap and blazer sporting the orange and black crest and staying until they completed their secondary education at sixteen or seventeen.

The school changed hands in 1906, when Dr. Boulden accepted an appointment as Headmaster to King’s College in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The property in Brockville was leased to the new senior headmaster, Rev. Francis Graham Orchard, M.A. (Camb.) (1873-1943). Rev. Orchard came direct from the position of Chaplain and Assistant Master of Bromsgrove School in England. In his tenure he worked hard to improve all aspects of the school and introduced a number of customs which became cherished traditions. In 1913 Rev. Orchard moved to Port Hope to accept the post of headmaster at Trinity College School.

The lease to St. Alban’s was then taken over by A. G. M. (”Max”) Mainwaring, M.A. [1884-1958], the senior Mathematics Master. Mainwaring had joined the staff in 1909, and had with him a capable staff of Assistant Masters, highly educated graduates of English Universities. In 1913,-0 it is known that the teaching staff included J.J. Stephens, M.A (1851-1925), E.M. Sutton, B.A., Glynne L.B. James, B.A. (1892-1917) as well as Max Mainwaring as Headmaster.

about 1913


Here is a typical group of 31 St. Alban’s students, juniors in the front and seniors in the rear. They are dressed mostly in their blazers and caps. The photograph was taken somewhere on the school grounds.


about 1913

em-sutton-glynne-james-jj-stephens-max-mainwaring-1913In 1913 the teaching masters at St. Albans were (left to right) E.M. Sutton, Gwynne L.B. James, J.J. Stephens, House Master, and A.G. Max Mainwaring, Headmaster.


The flat grounds in front were used as tennis courts in the warm weather, and for skating rinks in the winter. The school grounds contained approx.18 acres with large playing fields in the rear for running and team sports like rugby.


st-albans-small-stone-buildingsThese are the auxiliary buildings in the middle of the school grounds. On the right is the handsome chapel where short services were held each morning and evening on weekdays, and full services on Sunday, conducted by the Headmaster. This building was converted from a coach house on the former Chaffey property. The chapel windows were of stained glass and depicted in the troubadour style a number of mediaeval figures holding the implements of their professions.



The later history of St. Albans remains to be researched and written.

St. Alban’s School for Boys closed it’s doors in 1949. Principal Max Mainwaring died in 1958.


Source: The material for this story of the early days of St. Albans was pieced together from important material that was loaned to me by the son of Max Mainwaring, the late Robert G.L. “Bertie” Mainwaring. Bertie Mainwaring was very proud of the history of the property which he inherited from his father, and kept a large collection of documents and memories of the history of St. Alban’s School. He died more than 3 years ago, aged 88 on 21 September 2005. In his collection was a small but very unique photographic album, originally owned by Gynne Lewis Broadhurst James, one of the young teaching masters at the school before World War One. These small snapshots have provided some of the illustrations used here.

Gwynne James, born at Warmersley, Yorkshire, England about 1891 or 1892, came to Brockville in about 1909 or 1910 to teach at St. Alban’s. After the war broke out he returned to England in 1915 and secured a commission as a lieutenant in the Irish Guards. He was wounded in July 1916, and was for a year at his home suffering from “shell-shock”. He returned to the trenches in July 1917, and on the 18th of that month was instantly killed by the explosion of a shell. That obviously ended his career as a teacher, but his photographs somehow remained in Brockville.

James L. James, joined his brother in Brockville in 1912. He then secured a job at the Brockville branch of the Bank of Montreal. James was known as the husband of Eleanor M. (REYNOLDS) James, who some Brockvillians may remember because of her family stories.

Other photos and notes came from other various sources.


Gwynne L.B. James, taken on the porch of the Headmasters House at 50 Crawford St, while he was a teacher at St. Albans. This photograph was one of a number that were found in his personal album of snapshots, and saved by the Mainwaring family.


Copyright: January 2009, Doug Grant, Brockville.

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