Some Brief History
St. James' Church celebrated its 150th anniversary as a Parish in 1990.
The present building was dedicated by Benjamin Cronyn, Bishop of Huron
in 1870. It is the third church to be built on this site. The first organ
was installed in 1874, rebuilt in 1902, and several times since...
most recently in 2006. In 2010, the original 11 bells were removed from
the tower for tuning. When they were reinstalled, four new ones were added
bringing the total to 15 bells. The largest weighs 955 kilos (2100 lbs)
and is called Big Joe. The blue carpet in the sanctuary is actually a
section from that of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in
Westminster Abbey, 1953.
A Complete and Colourful St. James' History
The first services in this area
were held in the Shakespeare Inn...
The first incumbent in the Huron Tract was Reverend Robert Francis Campbell;
he passed through this area in the 1830's presumably on his way to and from
Goderich where he became the Rector. This parish of Stratford was founded by
Canon William Bettridge who was Rector of Woodstock in 1840: at that time
Stratford was known as "Little Thames". Canon Bettridge, who had been Town
Mayor of Brussels during the Battle of Waterloo, had arrived in Canada in
1834 with Admiral Van-Sittart and his family. He travelled throughout the
district on horseback seeking out settlers who were without the ministrations
of the Church. The first services in this area were held in the Shakespeare
Inn of which William Sargent was the innkeeper. In 1843 the Bishop of Toronto
sent to this parish the Reverend William Hickey, who was the first resident
incumbent, and he held services in a log school house where the Public Library
now stands. This first church on the present site was built in 1849; it was of
frame construction and was in use for about five years, and was then sold as
a private dwelling. Dr. "Tiger" Dunlop was the first contributor and donated
five pounds. Mrs Sargent, wife of the innkeeper, raised a lot of money for this
church and also for the subsequent one.
In 1855 a second building was erected of red brick and has been described as
an "architectural monstrosity". The walls were high, the roof almost flat
and the entire structure seems to have trembled in high winds; this building
was demolished in 1867 and no picture of it is available. Between 1867-1870
services were held in the Town Hall. In the latter year the third church on
this site, the present structure, was completed. The corner stone (containing
newspapers of the day and a farmers' almanac and coins) was laid on November
23rd 1868, by the Bishop of Toronto, Right Reverend Neil Bethune, D.D.,
assisted by the Bishop of Huron, Right Reverend Benjamin Cronyn, D.D.
Architecturally the present structure is of early decorated Gothic and was
designed by Mssrs. Gundy & Langley of Toronto. Outside dimensions are
130' by 51', while inside dimensions are 92' by 47'. Architects' fees and
materials cost approximately $14,000. Although contracts were let for the
actual construction, the Church Building Committee purchased all materials.
Several of the founding families of the Parish assisted in the hauling of
stones, lumber etc. for the Church at one dollar a load. On March 20, 1870,
this building was opened for the first time for Divine Service, when
the Bishop of Huron preached.
The following is a list of major improvements and additions listed in chronological
order of completion:
Furnaces replaced stoves for interior heating and the balcony was built.
First pipe organ installed (probably operated by water).
Gas lighting was introduced. Rectory (108 Mornington Street) was built.
Parish Hall was built.
The Bell Tower was completed and the chime and tower clock were installed.
Gallery in Upper Hall and lower rooms in Parish Hall added.
Extensions were made to Parish Hall, and the Hall was connected to the Church.
Electric lighting was installed.
Reredos (screen covering wall at back of altar) was erected.
Construction of Annex to Parish Hall containing Church offices and meeting rooms.
Development of the crypt of the Church for the Sunday School, installation of
new heating equipment, the enlargement of the Narthex and erection of the
carved oak screen. The carved oak doors were presented by the Parish Guild in
memory of departed members.
God's Holy Acre
... early parishioners of St. James', and some others
were interred within its shadows...
According to early custom the land surrounding a church was used as a cemetery,
and so the early parishioners of St. James' and some others, were interred within
its shadows. A Mrs. John Sharman was the first person interred, but the date of
her funeral and the exact location of her grave are unknown. From 1854 to 1855
only members of the United Church of England and Ireland could be interred here.
From 1855 to 1859 non-members were accepted for burial on the payment of a one
pound fee, but the burial service of the Church had to be used. From 1859 to 1871
only members of the Anglican Church were accepted for burial. The last burial took
place in 1871 and was of a Jane Ballough, wife of Charles Lee.
Avondale cemetary was opened in 1871. In 1885 the Right Reverend M.S. Baldwin, D.D.,
Bishop of Huron, dedicated part of the cemetary for use by members of St. James'.
Ashes are presently being scattered in this acre.
The Choir and Music
... so terrible was their melody that the wild fowl on Victoria Lake
took flight in dismay ...
There was a choir associated with the Parish from its earliest days and it was accompanied
by an orchestra before an organ was installed. The instruments in the orchestra were the
flute, big horn and clarinet. One historian referring to this orchestra wrote: "When the
trio had risen crescendo style in their finest symphonies to the most sublime point of
excellence, so terrible was their melody that the wild fowl on Victoria Lake took flight
in dismay never resting their weary wings till a secluded spot was reached in the Ellice
swamp." The present organ was rebuilt in 1902 when it was also electrified. In 1958 the
console was moved from a position North of the main aisle to its present position in the
chancel. It was completely restored in 1991 by Doddington and Doddington.
... this bell weighs 2100 lbs...
In 1906 the Battershall bequest of $500.00 towards the purchase of a chime of bells,
to be claimed within five years, started the agitation for the completion of the tower.
The tower was built and the chime of bells installed during 1909 and were dedicated by
Archbishop David Williams. The chime consists of eleven bells, the tone of the largest
being E and this bell weighs 2100 lbs. The tones of the others are F#, G#, A, A#, B, C#,
D, D#, E, F#. Each bell was donated in the memory of a different person: number two
bell to the memory of Queen Victoria. Number eleven bell was donated by the choir of the
Stained Glass Windows
All the windows in the nave of the church are of stained glass and were presented
by parishioners as family memorials.
The following is a list of presentations located in the Chancel
Choir Organ 1902
Presented by the Reverend David and Mrs. Williams in memory of their sons Marsden Llewelyn and Gilles Aubrey.
Presented in the memory of Mrs. D.H. Lizars by her children and grandchildren.
Presented by members of the congregation in memory of Canon Patterson.
Presented in memory of Jonathan and Elizabeth Scarth, husband and wife.
Presented in memory of Mrs. Mark Wade.
Presented by the Reverend W. T. and Mrs. Cluff in memory of their daughter Laura Anne.
Glastonbury Chair 1939
Presented by the congregation to commemorate the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Stratford on June 6th, 1939.
Sanctuary Lamp 1961
Presented by Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Anderson in memory of Mr. Anderson's mother, Mrs. M.V. Anderson. Coupled with his gift was one of the floodlights to illuminate the exterior of the church, and these were given in memory of Mr. J.R. Anderson's father.
Altar of St George 1990
Presented in memory of Henry C. and Louise Yeandle.
St James' Coat of Arms 1990
In loving memory of George Coat Frances and Anna Nornabell.
Chapel Wall Hanging 1993
"THE VISITATION", created and crafted by E. Laurie Richardson and donated by Miss Ellen Metcalfe in thanksgiving for the ministry, spirit and faithfulness of the people of St. James'.