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.
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.
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.
In 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..
These 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.