King Street: St James' Church

The first Church of St. James, at York, was a plain structure of wood,

placed some yards back from the road. Its gables faced east and west,

and its solitary door was at its western end, and was approached from

Church Street. Its dimensions were 50 by 40 feet. The sides of the

building were pierced by two rows of ordinary windows, four above and

four below. Altogether it was, in its outward appearance, simply, as a

emporary American "Geographical View of the Province of Upper

Canada," now before us, describes it, a "meeting-house for


The work just referred to, which was written by a Mr. M. Smith, before

the war of 1812, thus depicts York: "This village," it says, "is laid

out after the form of Philadelphia, the streets crossing each other at

right angles; though the ground on which it stands is not suitable for

building. This at present," the notice subjoins, "is the seat of

Government, and the residence of a number of English gentlemen. It

contains some fine buildings, though they stand scattering, among which

are a Court-house, Council-house, a large brick building, in which the

King's store for the place is kept, and a meeting-house for

Episcopalians; one printing and other offices."

The reservation of land in which the primitive St. James' Church stood,

long remained plentifully covered with the original forest. In a

wood-cut from a sketch taken early in the present century, prefixed to

the "Annals of the Diocese of Toronto," the building is represented as

being in the midst of a great grove, and stumps of various sizes are

visible in the foreground.

Up to 1803 the Anglican congregation had assembled for Divine Worship in

the Parliament Building; and prior to the appointment of the Rev. Mr.

Stuart, or in his absence, a layman, Mr. Cooper, afterwards the

well-known wharfinger, used to read the service. In March, 1799, there

was about to be a Day of General Thanksgiving. The mode proposed for its

solemn observance at York was announced as follows in the Gazette and

Oracle of March 9: "Notice is hereby given that Prayers will be read in

the North Government Building in this Town, on Tuesday, the 12th

instant, being the day appointed for a General Thanksgiving throughout

the Province to Almighty God for the late important victories over the

enemies of Great Britain. Service to begin half after eleven o'clock."

We give a contemporary account of the proceedings at an important

meeting of the subscribers to the fund for the erection of the first St.

James' Church at York, in 1803. It is from the Oracle and Gazette of

January 22, in that year.

"At a Meeting of the subscribers to a fund for erecting a Church in the

Town of York, holden at the Government Buildings, on Saturday the 8th

day of January instant, the Hon. Chief Justice [Elmsley] in the Chair.

Resolved unanimously: That each subscriber shall pay the amount of his

subscription by three instalments: the first being one moiety in one

month from this day; the second being a moiety of the residue in two

months; and the remainders in three months: That Mr. William Allan and

Mr. Duncan Cameron shall be Treasurers, and shall receive the amount of

the said subscriptions; and that they be jointly and severally

answerable for all moneys paid into their hands upon the receipt of

either of them: That His Honour the Chief Justice, the Honourable P.

Russell, the Honourable Captain McGill, the Reverend Mr. Stuart, Dr.

Macaulay, Mr. Chewett, and the two Treasurers, be a Committee of the

subscribers, with full power and authority to apply the moneys arising

from subscriptions, to the purpose contemplated: Provided, nevertheless,

that if any material difference of opinion should arise among them,

resort shall be had to a meeting of the subscribers to decide. That the

Church be built of stone, brick, or framed timber, as the Committee may

judge most expedient, due regard being had to the superior advantages of

a stone or brick building, if not counterbalanced by the additional

expense: That eight hundred pounds of lawful money, be the extent upon

which the Committee shall calculate their plan; but in the first

instance, they shall not expend beyond the sum of six hundred pounds (if

the amount of the sums subscribed and paid into the hands of the

Treasurers, together with the moneys which may be allowed by the British

Government, amount to so much), leaving so much of the work as can most

conveniently be dispensed with, to be completed by the remaining two

hundred pounds: Provided, however, that the said six hundred pounds be

laid out in such manner that Divine Worship can be performed with

decency in the Church: That the Committee do request the opinion of Mr.

Berczy, respecting the probable expenses which will attend the

undertaking, and respecting the materials to be preferred; due regard

being had to the amount of the fund, as aforesaid; and that after

obtaining his opinion, they do advertise their readiness to receive

proposals conformable thereto. N.B. The propriety of receiving

contributions in labour or materials is suggested to the Committee. A.

MacDonell, Secretary to the Meeting."

In the Gazette and Oracle of June 4, 1803, D. Cameron and W. Allan are

inviting tenders for the supply of certain materials required for

"building a Church in this Town."

"Advertisement. Wanted. A quantity of Pine Boards and Scantling, Stones

and Lime, for building a Church in this Town. Any person inclined to

furnish any of these articles will please to give in their proposals at

the lowest prices, to the subscribers, to be laid before the Committee.

D. Cameron, W. Allan. York, 1st June, 1803."

It would seem that in July the determination was to build the Church of


"On Wednesday last, the 6th instant," says the Oracle and Gazette,

July 9th, 1803, "a meeting of the subscribers to the fund for erecting a

Church in this Town was held at the Government Buildings, on which

occasion it was unanimously resolved: That the said Church should be

built of Stone. That one hundred toises of Stone should accordingly be

contracted for without delay. That a quantity of two-inch pine plank,

not exceeding 6,000 feet, should also be laid in; and a reasonable

quantity of Oak studs, and Oak plank, for the window-frames and

sashes.--A future meeting we understand," the Oracle adds, "will be

held in the course of the season, at which, when the different Estimates

and Proposals have been examined, and the extent which the fund will

reach, has been ascertained, something decisive will be settled."

The idea of building in stone appears to have been subsequently

relinquished; and a Church-edifice in wood was decided on. We are

informed that the Commandant of the Garrison, Col. Sheaffe, ordered his

men to assist in raising the frame.

In 1810, a portion of the church-plot was enclosed, at an expense of L1

5s. for rails, of which five hundred were required for the purpose. At

the same time the ground in front of the west-end, where was the

entrance, was cleared of stumps, at an expense of L3 15s. In that year

the cost for heating the building, and charges connected with the Holy

Communion, amounted to L1 7s. 6d., Halifax currency.

In 1813, Dr. Strachan succeeded Dr. Stuart as incumbent of the church;

and in 1818 he induced the congregation to effect some alterations in

the structure. From an advertisement in an early Gazette of the year

1818, it will be seen that the ecclesiastical ideas in the ascendant

when the enlargement of the original building was first discussed, were

much more in harmony with ancient English Church usages, than those

which finally prevailed when the work was really done. With whomsoever

originating, the design at first was to extend the building eastward,

not southward; to have placed the Belfry at the west end, not at the

south; the Pulpit was to have been placed on the north side of the

Church; a South Porch was to have been erected. The advertisement

referred to reads as follows:--"Advertisement. Plans and Estimates for

enlarging and repairing the Church will be received by the subscribers

before the 20th of March, on which day a decision will be made, and the

Contractor whose proposals shall be approved of, must commence the work

as the season will permit. The intention is: 1st. To lengthen the Church

forty feet towards the east, with a circular end; thirty of which to

form part of the body of the Church, and the remaining ten an Altar,

with a small vestry-room on the one side, and a Government Pew on the

other. 2nd. To remove the Pulpit to the north side, and to erect two

Galleries, one opposite to it, and another on the west end. 3rd. To

alter the Pews to suit the situation of the Pulpit, and to paint and

number the same throughout the Church. 4th. To raise a Belfry on the

west end, and make a handsome entrance on the south side of the Church,

and to paint the whole building on the outside. Thomas Ridout, J. B.

Robinson, Churchwardens. William Allan. Feb. 18, 1818."

The intentions here detailed were not carried into effect. On the north

and south sides of the old building additional space was enclosed, which

brought the axis of the Church and its roof into a north and south

direction. An entrance was opened at the southern end, towards King

Street, and over the gable in this direction was built a square tower

bearing a circular bell-turret, surmounted by a small tin-covered spire.

The whole edifice, as thus enlarged and improved, was painted of a light

blue colour, with the exception of the frames round the windows and

doors, and the casings at the angles, imitating blocks of stone,

alternately long and short, which were all painted white.

The original western door was not closed up. Its use, almost

exclusively, was now, on Sundays and other occasions of Divine Worship,

to admit the Troops, whose benches extended along by the wall on that

side the whole length of the church.--The upper windows on all the four

sides were now made circular-headed. On the east side there was a

difference. The altar-window of the original building remained, only

transformed into a kind of triplet, the central compartment rising above

the other two, and made circular headed. On the north and south of this

east window were two tiers of lights, as on the western side.

In the bell-turret was a bell of sufficient weight sensibly to jar the

whole building at every one of its semi-revolutions.

In the interior, a central aisle, or open passage, led from the door to

the southern end of the church, where, on the floor, was situated a pew

of state for the Lieutenant-Governor: small square pillars at its four

corners sustained a flat canopy over it, immediately under the ceiling

of the gallery; and below this distinctive tester or covering, suspended

against the wall, were the royal arms, emblazoned on a black tablet of

board or canvas.

Half-way up the central aisle, on the right side, was an open space, in

which were planted the pulpit, reading-desk and clerk's pew, in the old

orthodox fashion, rising by gradations one above the other, the whole

overshadowed by a rather handsome sounding-board, sustained partially by

a rod from the roof. Behind this mountainous structure was the altar,

lighted copiously by the original east window. Two narrow side-aisles,

running parallel with the central one, gave access to corresponding rows

of pews, each having a numeral painted on its door. Two passages, for

the same purpose ran westward from the space in front of the pulpit. To

the right and left of the Lieutenant-Governor's seat, and filling up

(with the exception of two square corner pews) the rest of the northern

end of the church, were two oblong pews; the one on the west

appropriated to the officers of the garrison; the other, on the east, to

the members of the Legislature.

Round the north, west, and south sides of the interior, ran a gallery,

divided, like the area below, into pews. This structure was sustained by

a row of pillars of turned wood, and from it to the roof above rose

another row of similar supports. The ceiling over the parts exterior to

the gallery was divided into four shallow semi-circular vaults, which

met at a central point. The pews everywhere were painted of a buff or

yellowish hue, with the exception of the rims at the top, which were

black. The pulpit and its appurtenances were white. The rims just

referred to, at the tops of the pews, throughout the whole church,

exhibited, at regular intervals, small gimlet-holes: in these were

inserted annually, at Christmas-tide, small sprigs of hemlock-spruce.

The interior, when thus dressed, wore a cheerful, refreshing look, in

keeping with the festival commemorated.

Within this interior used to assemble, periodically, the little world of

York: occasionally, a goodly proportion of the little world of all Upper


To limit ourselves to our own recollections: here, with great

regularity, every Sunday, was to be seen, passing to and from the place

of honour assigned him, Sir Peregrine Maitland,--a tall, grave officer,

always in military undress; his countenance ever wearing a mingled

expression of sadness and benevolence, like that which one may observe

on the face of the predecessor of Louis Philippe, Charles the Tenth,

whose current portrait recalls, not badly, the whole head and figure of

this early Governor of Upper Canada.

In an outline representation which we accidentally possessed, of a

panorama of the battle of Waterloo, on exhibition in London, the 1st

Foot Guards were conspicuously to be seen led on by "Major-General Sir

Peregrine Maitland." It was a matter of no small curiosity to the boyish

mind, and something that helped to rouse an interest in history

generally, to be assured that the living personage here, every week,

before the eye, was the commander represented in the panorama; one who

had actually passed through the tremendous excitement of the real scene.

With persons of wider knowledge, Sir Peregrine was invested with

further associations. Besides being the royal representative in these

parts, he was the son-in-law of Charles Gordon Lennox, fourth Duke of

Richmond, a name that stirred chivalrous feelings in early Canadians of

both Provinces; for the Duke had come to Canada as Governor-in-Chief,

with a grand reputation acquired as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland; and

great benefits were expected, and probably would have been realized from

his administration, had it been of long continuance. But he had been

suddenly removed by an excruciating death. Whilst on a tour of

inspection in the Upper Province, he had been fatally attacked with

hydrophobia, occasioned by the bite of a pet fox. The injury had been

received at Sorel; its terrible effects were fatally experienced at a

place near the Ottawa, since named Richmond.

Some of the prestige of the deceased Duke continued to adhere to Sir

Peregrine Maitland, for he had married the Duke's daughter, a graceful

and elegant woman, who was always at his side, here and at Stamford

Cottage across the Lake. She bore a name not unfamiliar in the domestic

annals of George the Third, who once, it is said, was enamoured of a

beautiful Lady Sarah Lennox, grandmother, as we suppose, or some other

near relative, of the Lady Sarah here before us at York. Moreover,

conversationalists whispered about (in confidence) something supposed to

be unknown to the general public--that the match between Sir Peregrine

and Lady Sarah had been effected in spite of the Duke. The report was

that there had been an elopement; and it was naturally supposed that the

party of the sterner sex had been the most active agent in the affair.

To say the truth, however, in this instance, it was the lady who

precipitated matters. The affair occurred at Paris, soon after the

Waterloo campaign. The Duke's final determination against Sir

Peregrine's proposals having been announced, the daughter suddenly

withdrew from the father's roof, and fled to the lodgings of Sir

Peregrine, who instantly retired to other quarters. The upshot of the

whole thing, at once romantic and unromantic, included a marriage and a

reconciliation; and eventually a Lieutenant-Governorship for the

son-in-law under the Governorship-in-Chief of the father, both

despatched together to undertake the discharge of vice-regal functions

in a distant colony. At the time of his marriage with Lady Sarah Lennox,

Sir Peregrine had been for some ten years a widower. On his staff here

at York was a son by his first wife, also named Peregrine, a subaltern

in the army.

After the death of the Duke of Richmond, Sir Peregrine became

administrator, for a time, of the general government of British North

America. The movements of the representative of the Crown were attended

with some state in those days. Even a passage across from York to

Stamford, or from Stamford to York, was announced by a royal salute at

the garrison.

Of a visit to Lower Canada in 1824, when, in addition to the usual

suite, there were in the party several young Englishmen of distinction,

tourists at that early period, on this continent, we have the following

notice in the Canadian Review for December of that year. After

mentioning the arrival at the Mansion House Hotel in Montreal, the

Review proceeds: "In the morning His Excellency breakfasted with Sir

Francis Burton, at the Government House, whom he afterwards accompanied

to Quebec in the Swiftsure steamboat. Sir Peregrine is accompanied," the

Review reports, "by Lord Arthur Lennox, Mr. Maitland, Colonels Foster,

Lightfoot, Coffin and Talbot; with the Hon. E. G. Stanley [from 1851 to

1869, Earl of Derby], grandson of Earl Derby, M.P. for Stockbridge, John

E. Denison, Esq. [subsequently Speaker of the House of Commons], M.P.

for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and James S. Wortley, Esq. [afterwards Lord

Wharncliffe], M.P. for Bossiney in Cornwall. The three latter

gentlemen," the magazine adds, "are now upon a tour in this country from

England; and we are happy to learn that they have expressed themselves

as being highly gratified with all that they have hitherto seen in


It will be of interest to know that the name of Sir Peregrine Maitland

is pleasantly preserved by means of Maitland Scholarships in a Grammar

School for natives at Madras; and by a Maitland Prize in the University

of Cambridge. The circumstances of the institution of these memorials

are these as originally announced: "The friends of Lieutenant-General

Sir Peregrine Maitland, K.C.B., late Commander in Chief of the Forces in

South India, being desirous of testifying their respect and esteem for

his character and principles, and for his disinterested zeal in the

cause of Christian Truth in the East, have raised a fund for the

institution of a prize in one of the Universities, and for the

establishment of two native scholarships at Bishop Corrie's Grammar

School at Madras; such prize and scholarships to be associated with the

name of Sir Peregrine Maitland. In pursuance of the foregoing scheme,

the sum of L1,000 has been given to the University of Cambridge for the

purpose of instituting a prize to be called "Sir Peregrine Maitland's

Prize," for an English essay on some subject connected with the

propagation of the Gospel, through missionary exertions in India and

other parts of the heathen world." This Prize, which is kept up by the

interest accruing every three years, has been awarded at Cambridge

regularly since 1845.

The successor to Sir Peregrine Maitland in the Government of Upper

Canada was another distinguished military officer, Sir John Colborne.

With ourselves, the first impression of his form and figure is

especially associated with the interior in which we are supposing the

reader to be now standing. We remember his first passing up the central

aisle of St James's Church. He had arrived early, in an unostentatious

way; and on coming within the building he quietly inquired of the first

person whom he saw, sitting in a seat near the door: Which was the

Governor's pew? The gentleman addressed happened to be Mr. Bernard

Turquand, who, quickly recognizing the inquirer, stood up and extended

his right arm and open hand in the direction of the canopied pew over

which was suspended the tablet bearing the Royal Arms. Sir John, and

some of his family after him, then passed on to the place indicated.

At school, in an edition of Goldsmith then in use, the name of "Major

Colborne" in connection with the account of Sir John Moore's death at

Corunna had already been observed; and it was with us lads a matter of

intense interest to learn that the new Governor was the same person.

The scene which was epitomized in the school-book, is given at greater

length in Gleig's Lives of Eminent British Military Commanders. The

following are some particulars from Colonel Anderson's narrative in that

work: "I met the General," Colonel Anderson says, "on the evening of the

16th, bringing in, in a blanket and sashes. He knew me immediately,

though it was almost dark, squeezed me by the hand and said 'Anderson,

don't leave me.' At intervals he added 'Anderson, you know that I have

always wished to die in this way. I hope the people of England will be

satisfied. I hope my country will do me justice. You will see my friends

as soon as you can. Tell them everything. I have made my will, and have

remembered my servants. Colborne has my will and all my papers.' Major

Colborne now came into the room. He spoke most kindly to him; and then

said to me, 'Anderson, remember you go to ----, and tell him it is my

request, and that I expect, he will give Major Colborne a

lieutenant-colonelcy.' He thanked the surgeons for their trouble. He

pressed my hand close to his body, and in a few minutes died without a


He had been struck by a cannon ball. The shot, we are told, had

completely crushed his shoulder; the arm was hanging by a piece of skin,

and the ribs over the heart, besides been broken, were literally

stripped of flesh. Yet, the narrative adds, "he sat upon the field

collected and unrepining, as if no ball had struck him, and as if he

were placed where he was for the mere purpose of reposing for a brief

space from the fatigue of hard riding."

Sir John Colborne himself afterwards at Ciudad Rodrigo came within a

hair's-breadth of a similar fate. His right shoulder was shattered by a

cannon shot. The escape of the right arm from amputation on the field at

the hands of some prompt military surgeon on that occasion, was a

marvel. The limb was saved, though greatly disabled. The want of

symmetry in Sir John Colborne's tall and graceful form, permanently

occasioned by this injury, was conspicuous to the eye. We happened to be

present in the Council Chamber at Quebec, in 1838, at the moment when

this noble-looking soldier literally vacated the vice-regal chair, and

installed his successor Lord Durham in it, after administering to him

the oaths. The exchange was not for the better, in a scenic point of

view, although the features of Lord Durham, as his well-known portrait

shews, were very fine, suggestive of the poet or artist.

Of late years a monument has been erected on Mount Wise at Plymouth, in

honour of the illustrious military chief and pre-eminently excellent

man, whose memory has just been recalled to us. It is a statue of

bronze, by Adams, a little larger than life; and the likeness is

admirably preserved. (When seen on horseback at parades or reviews

soldiers always averred that he greatly resembled "the Duke." Dr. Henry,

in "Trifles from my Portfolio" (ii. 111.) thus wrote of him in 1833:

"When we first dined at Government House, we were struck by the strong

resemblance he bore to the Duke of Wellington; and there is also," Dr.

Henry continues, "a great similarity in mind and disposition, as well as

in the lineaments of the face. In one particular they harmonize

perfectly--namely, great simplicity of character, and an utter dislike

to shew ostentation.")

On the four sides of the granite pedestal of the statue on Mount Wise,

are to be read the following inscriptions: in front: John Colborne,

Baron Seaton. Born MDCCLXXVIII. Died MDCCCLXIII. On the right side:

Canada. Ionian Islands. On the left side: Peninsula. Waterloo. On the

remaining side: In memory of the distinguished career and stainless

character of Field Marshal Lord Seaton, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.H. This

Monument is erected by his friends and comrades.

Accompanying the family of Sir John Colborne to their place in the

Church at York was to be seen every Sunday, for some time, a

shy-mannered, black-eyed, Italian-featured Mr. Jeune, tutor to the

Governor's sons. This was afterwards the eminent Dr. Jeune, Master of

Pembroke College at Oxford, a great promoter of reform in that

University, and Bishop of Lincoln. Sir John himself was a man of

scholarly tastes; a great student of history, and a practical modern

European linguist.

Through a casual circumstance, it is said that full praise was not

publicly given, at the time, to the regiment commanded by Sir John

Colborne, the 52nd, for the particular service rendered by it at the

battle of Waterloo. By the independent direction of their leader, the

52nd made a sudden flank movement at the crisis of the fight and

initiated the final discomfiture of which the Guards got the sole

praise. At the close of the day, when the Duke of Wellington was rapidly

constructing his despatch, Colonel Colborne was inquired for by him, and

could not, for the moment, be found. The information, evidently desired,

was thus not to be had; and the document was completed and sent off

without a special mention of the 52nd's deed of "derring do."

During the life-time of the great Duke there was much reticence among

the military authorities in regard to the Battle of Waterloo from the

fact that the Duke himself did not encourage discussion on the subject.

All was well that had ended well, appeared to have been his doctrine. He

once checked an incipient dispute in regard to the great event of the

18th of June between two friends, in his presence, by the command,

half-jocose, half-earnest: "You leave the Battle of Waterloo alone!" He

gave L60 for a private letter written by himself to a friend on the eve

of the battle, and was heard to say, as he threw the document into the

fire, "What a fool was I, when I wrote that!"

Since the death of the Duke, an officer of the 52nd, subsequently in

Holy Orders,--the Rev. William Leeke--has devoted two volumes to the

history of "the 52nd or Lord Seaton's Regiment;" in which its movements

on the field of Waterloo are fully detailed. And Colonel Chesney in his

"Waterloo Lectures; a Study of the Campaign of 1815" has set the great

battle in a new light, and has demolished several English and French

traditions in relation to it, bringing out into great prominence the

services rendered by Blucher and the Prussians.

The Duke's personal sensitiveness to criticism was shewn on another

occasion: when Colonel Gurwood suddenly died, he, through the police,

took possession of the Colonel's papers, and especially of a Manuscript

of Table Talk and other ana, designed for publication, and which, had

it not been on the instant ruthlessly destroyed, would have been as

interesting probably as Boswell's.

On Lord Seaton's departure from Canada, he was successively Lord High

Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and Commander-in-Chief in Ireland.

He then retired to his own estate in the West of England, where he had a

beautiful seat, in the midst of the calm, rural, inland scenery of

Devonshire, not far from Plympton, and on the slope descending southward

from the summits of Dartmoor. The name of the house is Beechwood, from

the numerous clean, bold, magnificent beech trees that adorn its

grounds, and give character to the neighbourhood generally. In the

adjoining village of Sparkwell he erected a handsome school-house and


On his decease at Torquay in 1863 his remains were deposited in the

Church at Newton Ferrers, the ancient family burying-place of the


Mrs. Jameson's words in her "Winter studies and Summer Rambles," express

briefly but truly, the report which all that remember him, would give,

of this distinguished and ever memorable Governor of Canada. "Sir John

Colborne," she says incidentally, in the Introduction to the work just

named, "whose mind appeared to me cast in the antique mould of

chivalrous honour; and whom I never heard mentioned in either Province

but with respect and veneration." Dr. Henry in "Trifles from my

Portfolio," once before referred to, uses similar language. "I believe,"

he says, "there never was a soldier of more perfect moral character than

Sir John Colborne--a Bayard without gasconade, as well as sans peur et

sans reproche." The title "Seaton," we may add, was taken from the name

of an ancient seaport town of Devon, the Moridunum of the Roman period.