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

40-50 Crawford St.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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st-albans-tennis-court

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.

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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.

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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.

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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-james

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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About Doug Grant

I am a local history buff who lives in the terrific city of Brockville on the north side of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario. I intend this Blog Site to share a lot of historical information which I have been collecting for the last 35 or so years. I was educated in Scarborough, Ontario and Toronto. I graduated as an Architectural Technologist from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in 1966. My first career was as an Architectural Technologist/Draftsman in Toronto between 1966 and 1972. I decided to go into teaching in 1972, and attended the Ontario College of Education in Toronto. I was then qualified to teach Architectural Drafting in the Ontario school system and obtained a position to do this in the town of Prescott, Ontario. I taught all my career at South Grenville District High School in Prescott until my retirement in June 2000. I have continued to develop one of my main interests and hobbies in Canadian History and specificly the History of Brockville since moving to live in Brockville, Ontario in 1972. Some of the material that I intend to use on this site was originally published in the Brockville newspaper, "The Recorder and Times" under my copyright. In addition I want to use a number of historical photographs that I have collected over the years. Would love to hear from anyone with similar interests to mine.

20 responses »

  1. Chris MacNaughton

    Hi Doug – My father, J.P (Percy)MacNaughton and my uncle Malcolm MacNaughton (they operated the Central Canada Coal Company from 1945 until they sold to Mr. Reynolds in 1977) had both attended St. Alban’s as boarding students.

    The boys always referred Mr. Mainwaring as “Slim Mainwaring”, but the masters and Bertie likely did not know that.

    The St. Alban’s boys also routinely attended St. Peter’s Church on Sundays and sat en bloc in the South (litergical south that was on the west side of the building) Trancept.

    That was the part turned into the St. Alban’s Chapel about 40 years ago.

    I have a photo of the actual St. Alban’s school chapel that my dad took as well as a couple of other shots. If you would like them for the collection I can digitize and e-mail or print and mail, whichever you prefer.

    I can also supply a couple of photos of my good friend Eleanor (Reynolds) James. I loved her dearly having known her from the time I was a very small child. My Dad would tell about the days when Eleanor kept a boat and was often out on the river.

    Her son made a career as an Anglican prison chaplain.

    It was good to have a reason to think about St.Alban’s, Bertie Mainwaring (delightful man) and Eleanor James.

    Just another note about Eleanor – she was a devoted member of the St.Peter’s congregation, and when I was living in Brockville after college for a year in 71-72 I always sat with Eleanor in her pew on the left aisle. (second pew behind the light standard).

    In her capacious handbag Eleanor always kept a loop of stout butcher’s twine – maybe about 12 inches in circumference. If a child in the congregation began to fuss, Eleanor would rummage for the twine loop, and pass it to the next pew along in the direction of the child.

    Everyone knew what to do with the twine. On and on it was passed from pew to pew ultimately to the hands of the child.

    We knew when it got there. The fussing stopped. Kids can play endlessly and quietly with butcher’s twine.

    LOVE your website,
    cheers,
    Chris MacNaughton
    Grimsby, ON

    Reply
  2. I found some old hand written papers from my grandmother in the family bible. Her name was Sydna Frances Harris and she was raised by Lilyan Harris Page wife of Dr. Thomas Page. His father was John Page and she states that when she starts to have memories we were living in the Page house, a little place of thirty or so rooms, which later became and still is a boys private school. I have no idea when these notes were written, but I would love any information regarding the Page’s history. Thank you. Pam McGuigan

    Reply
    • Lilyan is my great-grandmother. She moved to Victoria, BC about 1913, and died there in 1935.
      Dr. Thomas Page died in 1901 near Brockville.

      They had one son, my grandfather Alex, who lived in Victoria until his death in 1960.

      I currently reside in Lacombe, Alberta. Interesting that Rev. Webster Henry Fanning Harris (Lilyan’s brother) lived near here, first in Stettler, and then in Red Deer prior to leaving in 1916 to be a chaplin in France. He was wounded Sept 1916 and died from his wounds May 1917.

      Reply
  3. Leonard M. Myers

    I am looking for results of the birth of Hugh Kelley in Brocksville,ont. Canada in 1850. where do i look , its my understanding that he was a orphan, and when he was 14 in 1865 he joined the 13th Maryland infantry in Baltmore,Maryland. We have his discharge from his unit, served from 2-2-1865 until 5-30-1865 in said unit. He is buried in the Carnegie ,Oklahoma cemetery with his wife Lydia ,1858 Springfield,Il. They had 4 sons and 2 daughters and were sooners in Oklahoma territory. If anyone can let me know where to go for more on this person, write me at my email; mike

    Reply
  4. Clive Mainwaring

    I enjoyed reading this page as it brought back many memories of when I visited Bertie and his family at their home. I had never met him before but had been in contact with him and his brother John through Genealogy. In the summer of ’96 I had been offered a temporary job in Canada. So in that year I travelled from England, UK to Montreal and for the final leg of my journey I caught the train to Brockville. It was absolutely pouring down with rain, thunder and lightening, and all I knew was that Bertie would be there to greet me. Sure enough a voice shouted from behind me, we shook hands went to The St. Albans house. We had a great weekend meeting all the family and swapping genealogy information.

    Reply
  5. Dear Doug, My father and my uncle went to St.Alban’s around the 1920’s.
    I was wondering if there might be any pictures or yearbooks of that decade.
    My father’s name was James and my uncle was Alex. Would be interested
    in having a look. Thanks. Tom Loomis

    Reply
  6. Hi Doug,
    A very interesting piece about St Alban’s School. One of my relatives worked at the School in the early 1920’s as a nurse, her name was Vesta Grace Mackie. I understand that she married one of the masters at the school, a Walter Robert Evans Williams who came from Wales in about September 1923. The marriage took place on 25/8/1924 at Frontenac, Ontario.
    If anyone has any additional information that they could provide I would be very grateful

    Thanks

    Derek Bird
    Colchester, Essex, United Kindom

    Reply
  7. Does anyone know where the archives for this school are located?. My father was a student there in the 1930s and I would love to be able access any documentation about him.

    Reply
  8. Hi Doug! I’m a student looking for information about a young man from Brockville. His name is George Joseph Wilkins and he served in the 1st Canadian Heavy Battery 1915 and he was killed in the feild June 15th, 1917. His parents were George and Frances Wilkins who moved to Canada from England. Do you know anything about this family? Or if George still has family living in Brockville? I saw your blog and wondered if perhaps George might have went to the St. Alban’s school.

    Reply
    • Michelle:

      I have looked up in the 1913 Vernons Brockville Directory for the name ‘Wilkins’.

      The family is listed as — Wilkins, Geo., works at the Smart Manufacturing Co, house at 16 Victoria Ave.

      The son, George is not listed perhaps because he was just a teenager at the time.

      You could use Google Street View to see the house online if you are not able to view it in person.

      Here is a suggestion. If you live in Brockville the resources of the Leeds and Grenville Genealogical Society who are located in the basement of the Brockville Museum at 5 Henry St. might be helpful to dig up more information about this family.

      Good luck on your project.

      Doug Grant
      Brockville

      dmgrant (at) storm (dot) ca

      Reply
      • Hi Doug, Thanks for your help! Unfortunately I’m not in Ontario but I will definitely look up the house on MapQuest. I’ll keep digging to see if I can find some information about why his family moved here from England. Perhaps something through Smart manufacturing Co. Thanks again! Much appreciated!!

  9. Funny, I live in this building now. I’m renting rooms from the family who owns it. I’ve ventured into one of the attics and found some of the text books used back when it was a school, as well as some of the tuition cheques and other loose papers. There were some newspapers tucked away from the 30s and 40s, too. It’s a very interesting house.

    Reply
    • Wow!!! Maybe some of that old paperwork should be passed on to the Brockville Museum. It must be very interesting. I see the house is for sale now; I hope the buyer is one who respects history very much and can bring back its former glory.

      Reply
  10. Michael Holland

    Good day,
    The picture of the 1913 students interests me as I believe my grandfather was a student at this time. He would have been 10 years old. Today I wear around my aneck a sterling silver Rugger VIII medallion dated 1914.are there any records I could research to learn more about his years at St. Albans. Thank you.

    Reply
  11. I am a huge hockey fan and was visiting an antique store in Perth, Ontario last summer. I noticed a historical picture hanging on one of the vendor’s wall. I instantly fell in love with the picture. It was a photo of the 1912 St. Alban’s Junior Hockey Team. It’s taken a while to find any info on the picture but finally was able to connect Brockville and Mr. Mainwaring. I’ve attached a scan of the picture for your viewing.

    Reply
    • Can’t see your photograph of the hockey team anywhere here. — Doug Grant

      Reply
      • I don’t think I can show the pic with my profile. I put the link when I posted the comment below my email and name. I can email a copy of the pic to you if you like.

        The names of the 1912 St. Alban’s Junior Hockey Team players were:

        S. Mactier
        H. Smith
        F. Boreham
        N. Fraser (Capt)
        M. Sketon (Goalie)
        W. Wurtele
        J. Hale
        A.G.M. Mainwaring, Esq

        Unfortunately the picture has water stains but still very much viewable.

    • Hi Andy
      I am fascinated by your post regarding the 1912 hockey team photo. Will you be willing to e-mail a copy of it to me? I have a photo from 1914 (I believe that is the date) of my grandfather in his hockey gear. I know he went to a private school but am not certain of which one. I suspect it may have been St. Albans, as his family lived in the Prescott area. Perhaps I can match his jersey to the ones in your photo.
      Many thanks,
      Karen

      Reply
  12. Jasper Green Pennington

    Hello Douglas, During my short stay in Brockville before returning to the USA to finish college and graduate school, I played the organ at St. Peter’s, wrote some book reviews for the United Counties Packet and I believe met you over an interest in Highland dancing. I am gathering copies of the Packet for the Brockville Historical Museum as well as items from St. Peter’s. I enjoy your historical writings. The Reverend Jasper Green Pennington, Ypsilanti, Michigan. 2 January 2019

    Reply

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