Architecture

19th-Century Churches in Hamilton: Barton Stone United Church and St Paul's Anglican Church, Glanford

The differences between Stone Church and St Paul's reflect differences between Presbyterian and Anglican worship in the mid-19th century.

By Malcolm Thurlby
Published February 26, 2007

Last year, in three articles in Raise the Hammer (April 21, May 5, September 20), I introduced readers to several churches in Hamilton in the context of the Gothic Revival and other styles used for ecclesiastical architecture in the 19th century.

Of the Gothic churches examined so far, we have considered only those that were constructed under the influence of Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-52), the Cambridge Camden Society (renamed Ecclesiological Society in 1846), and the Oxford Society for Promoting the Study of Gothic Architecture, when architects were inspired by the close observation of medieval Gothic originals.

Earlier in the 19th century in Ontario another version of Gothic was used for church architecture although, as we shall see, it differed significantly from medieval Gothic.

Fig. 1. Barton Stone United (formerly Presbyterian)Church, exterior from SE.
Fig. 1. Barton Stone United (formerly Presbyterian)Church, exterior from SE.

Barton Stone United (formerly Presbyterian) Church, 21 Stone Church Road West at Upper James Street, was built between 1845 and 1847 (Fig. 1). It is a good example of the early phase of the Gothic Revival in Ontario. The original church has a simple rectangular, box-like plan; the hall at the west end of the church is a 1973 addition.

As the name of the church indicates, it is built of stone, coursed rubble for the sides and back, squared stone for the façade. The only specifically Gothic feature is the pointed arch for the original main doorway that faces east towards Upper James Street, although there are paired pointed sub-frames in the rectangular windows in the side walls. The low pitch of the roof ultimately reflects the temple façades of Greco-Roman antiquity.

The interior is plain with a flat, plastered ceiling (Fig. 2); the pulpit platform and the arced seating for the congregation have been reversed and now face the former entrance.

Fig. 2. Barton Stone United (formerly Presbyterian)Church, interior to E.
Fig. 2. Barton Stone United (formerly Presbyterian)Church, interior to E.

St Paul's Anglican Church, Glanford (2869 Upper James Street, Mount Hope), represents something very different from Barton Stone United Church. In 1850 a meeting was held for the purpose of planning the erection of a Church of England at Glanford. On January 28th, 1851, a Building Committee was struck and on February 6th, 1851, a site on Lot 6, Concession 4, Glanford, was measured for the church. On September 30th, 1851, an agreement was drawn up between the Building Committee, and Robert Blair and John Simple for the construction of St Paul's church.

Fig. 3. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from E.
Fig. 3. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from E.

Stone cost two shillings and six pence per perch (16.5 feet), brick was eleven shillings and three pence per thousand, and plastering sixpence per square yard. The contractors agreed to finish the building of the church within two calendar months. For each and every day after the two months had expired and the work was uncompleted, the contractors were to forfeit the sum of one pound per day. The Building Committee on their part also agreed to forfeit one pound per day that the contractors were kept idle for lack of material.

These were no small forfeits, the equivalent of eight perches of stone, while one pound two shillings and six pence would have bought 2,000 bricks. It is not recorded when the building was completed but it was dedicated 7 May 1858 by the Bishop of Toronto.

Fig. 4. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from NE.
Fig. 4. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from NE.

St Paul's is built of red brick and has a more complex plan than Barton Stone Church (Figs 3-9). It comprises a chancel at the east end to house the high altar and the stalls for the choir (Figs 3 & 4). To the north of the chancel is the vestry in which the vestments are kept and put on (Fig. 4). To the west of the chancel is the nave for the congregation. It is both wider and taller than the chancel. The chancel and nave are both covered with steeply pitched roofs.

The congregation now enters the church through the south tower but an old photograph preserved at the church shows that originally there was a south porch (Figs 5 & 6). At the western corners of the nave there are buttresses that project at a 45-degree angle (Fig. 7). Pointed arches are used throughout.

Fig. 5. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from SW.
Fig. 5. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from SW.

There is a single window in the north wall of the vestry (Fig. 4). Taller, paired windows, known as lancets, are used in the side walls of the nave (Figs 4 & 5), while triple, graduated lancets are used in the east wall of the chancel and the west wall of the nave (Figs 3 & 7). Also in the nave west wall there is a small, vesica-shaped window above the middle lancet (Fig. 7).

Inside, the floor of the chancel is raised two steps above the nave, and the two spaces are connected through a wide pointed arch (Fig. 8). Originally, the high altar was elevated at the east end of the chancel – the step is still there but the altar is now placed closer to the congregation. The nave preserves its original timber roof supports, albeit with a later coat of paint (Figs 8 & 9). There are short wall posts with arched braces, scissor beams and rafters.

Fig. 6. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from SW, old photograph.
Fig. 6. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from SW, old photograph.

Above the intersection of the scissor beams there is a king post that gives support to the centre of the collar beam that joins the tops of the two scissor beams. The ceiling panels in the nave and chancel are not original. The octagonal font is located at the west end of the nave and is dated 1856 by inscription (Fig. 10). The nave seating is integral with the church as are the choir stalls in the chancel, although the choir stalls were rearranged as a result of liturgical reform (Figs 8, 11 & 12).

Quite apart from the contrast in masonry between Barton Stone Church and St Paul's, Glanford, there are many other differences in the design of the two buildings. The separate articulation of chancel, nave, vestry and porch at St Paul's is far removed from the simple rectangular plan of Stone Church. The pitch of the roofs of the chancel and nave – and formerly the porch – at St Paul's is much steeper than at Stone Church.

The windows in the two churches are entirely different. Inside, the triple banks of curved seats in Stone Church contrast with straight benches to either side of the central aisle in the nave of St Paul's. And, there are no exposed roof beams at Stone Church in contrast to the nave of St Paul's. How are the differences to be explained?

Fig. 7. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from W.
Fig. 7. Glanford, St Paul, exterior from W.

The design of Stone Church has nothing to do with the principles of medieval Gothic church design. It is Gothic simply by virtue of the use of pointed arches. Otherwise, it is derived from an English 18th-century classicizing tradition established by the architect James Gibbs, 1682-1754. Gibbs's work was made popular in North America with the publication of his Book of Architecture in 1728.

In Canada, St Paul's Anglican Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1749, was based closely on Gibbs's church of St Peter's, Vere Street, London, 1721-22. Similarly, Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Quebec City, 1800-1804, recalls Gibbs's St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, 1721-1726. The use of cut stone for the façade as opposed to rubble for the other walls of Stone Church is a trait often found in the classicizing tradition in North America, in civic, domestic and commercial buildings as well as in churches.

Fig. 8. Glanford, St Paul, interior to E
Fig. 8. Glanford, St Paul, interior to E

Gibbs's churches and their derivatives are often referred to in a derogatory manner as 'preaching boxes' by later advocates of the revival of medieval Gothic design. Be that as it may, the Presbyterians of Stone Church wanted a space to provide focus on the word from the pulpit and the 'preaching box' did that admirably.

The choice of Gothic for Stone Church may also be traced back to the 18th century. The origins are to be found in England with Horace Walpole (1717-1797), creator of the Gothic 'castle', Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, 1749, and author of the Gothic novel, Castle of Otranto (1764). He wrote:

"One must have taste to be sensible to the beauties of Grecian architecture; one only wants passions to feel Gothic. In St Peter's [Rome] one is convinced that it was built by great princes...In Westminster Abbey, one thinks not of the builder; the religion of the place makes its first impression...and though stripped of its altars and shrines, it is nearer converting one to popery than all the regular pageantry of Roman domes."

The English antiquary, John Carter (1748-1817), is also a key figure for the promotion of Gothic. He contrasted the Gothic of Westminster Abbey with the 17th-century classicism of St Paul's Cathedral, London, and asked, "Which has the greater effect on the mind...which pile of building conveys the more devout ideas; which fills the senses with the greatest attention of the heaven above us; which leads us more to contemplate on the life to come?"

For Carter there was no doubt that it was Westminster Abbey. He added, "St Paul's can never impart those sensations; it has the opposite effect."

Fig. 9. Glanford, St Paul, interior to W.
Fig. 9. Glanford, St Paul, interior to W.

In England, the Church Building Act of 1818 provided money for the construction of new churches in urban centres. The Act was not specific on the matter of style for the churches but some architects suggested that Gothic was less expensive than a classical alternative. Of the 214 churches that resulted from the 1818 Act, 174 were Gothic. While the quality of these churches varied considerably, the sheer weight of numbers could only further raise interest in the revival of the Gothic style for ecclesiastical architecture.

Aside from this English impetus, American Gothic analogues are significant. Here the Gibbsian tradition was modified to Gothic with the use of pointed arches in the second Trinity Church, New York, 1788-1790. Most significantly, on Trinity Church, New Haven, CT, 1817, the architect, Ithiel Town (1784-1844), reported that "the Gothic style of architecture has been chosen and adhered to in the erection of this Church, as being in some respects more appropriate, and better suited to the solemn purposes of religious worship."

In Ontario, general parallels for Gothicized-Gibbsian churches are at St Mary's Anglican, Picton, 1823, and Old St Thomas's Anglican in St Thomas, 1824. Closer in date to Stone Church the Methodists built Paris Plains, 1840. And the tradition continued in small Methodist and Presbyterian churches as at St Paul's Presbyterian, Nelson, 1867 (on the south side of Highway #5 just east of Highway #407).

Fig. 10. Glanford, St Paul, font.
Fig. 10. Glanford, St Paul, font.

The differences between Stone Church and St Paul's reflect differences between Presbyterian and Anglican worship in the mid-19th century. In particular, the design of St Paul's adopts many of the High Anglican Church principles of the Cambridge Camden (Ecclesiological) Society as expressed in the quarterly journal, The Ecclesiologist, first published in 1841, and a pamphlets like A Few Words to Church Builders.

It was emphasized that the church should be oriented, that there be a separate nave and chancel, and that the chancel "should be raised at least two steps at the Chancel arch." It was argued that "This division, essential in the interior, is not always to be traced in the exterior. It is far better indeed, generally speaking, that it should be marked in both; and to this end the breadth of the Chancel should be a little less than that of the Nave; a difference of four or five feet will be quite sufficient. The height of the Chancel is usually less, in the same proportion."

The recommendation was that the vestry "may be thrown out, as was often done, on the north or south side of the Chancel." On the matter of style it was recorded that "[n]othing...can be better suited to a small chapel than Early English." In other words models should be sought in English Gothic architecture between about 1170 and 1280, in which lancet windows were used singly, in pairs and triplets as at St Paul's. For the east wall of the chancel "[t]hree lancets are the most usually adopted; these, it need not be said, symbolise the HOLY TRINITY."

Fig. 11. Glanford, St Paul, nave, bench end.
Fig. 11. Glanford, St Paul, nave, bench end.

On the pitch of the roof a low trajectory was specifically rejected by the Ecclesiological Society in the eighth edition of A Few Words Churchwardens on Churches and Church Ornaments, published in 1851, in which a steeper pitch was advocated. This view was earlier expressed forcefully by Augustus Welby Pugin in his book entitled True Principles of Pointed Architecture, published in 1841. Pugin said: "Our northern climate requires an acute pitch of roof to prevent the accumulation of snow and to resist weather.

The Greeks, whose climate is the reverse of ours, had their roofs and pediments exceedingly flat; nor could they be raised to our proper pitch without violating the character of their architecture. Both Pugin and the Ecclesiological Society insisted on the truthful exposure of timber in roofs.

The Ecclesiological Society was adamant about "the absolute necessity of getting rid, at any sacrifice, of those monstrous innovations, pews, or, to spell the word according to the most ancient spelling, pues." The objection to pews, or box pews as they are more generally known, was not simply on grounds of style. It carried an important social agenda. Box pews were rented, and cost reflected the location of the seat in the church.

Fig. 12. Glanford, St Paul, choir stalls.
Fig. 12. Glanford, St Paul, choir stalls.

The more affluent members of society could afford seats at the front of the church while the poor were relegated to the back. Open seating on the medieval model would be free. It seems most likely that the choir stalls and the nave benches at Glanford are integral with the design of the church. How different they are to the box pews at Old St Thomas, St Thomas (Figs 8, 11 & 13).

On the font, the Ecclesiologists stated that "[t]he shape of the basin may be either square, circular, or octagonal; the greater number of examples in each style are octagonal; an octagon being a very ancient symbol of Regeneration." They continue, "The position of the Font MUST BE IN THE NAVE, AND NEAR A DOOR; this cannot be too much insisted on: it thus typifies the admission of a child into the Church by Holy Baptism." St Paul's font conforms to these principles of form and place (Figs 9 & 10).

The records of St Paul's, Glanford, do not name the architect of the church, but a little sleuthing reveals his identity. The article on St Peter's, Barton, in the Anglican weekly publication, The Church, December 22, 1853, records that St Peter's was designed by Frank Wills (1822-1857) "a gentleman who, we have every reason to believe, is imbued with the religious spirit of his noble profession, as every church architect ought to be."

Fig. 13. St Thomas, Old St Thomas, Anglican church, interior, 1824.
Fig. 13. St Thomas, Old St Thomas, Anglican church, interior, 1824.

We are also told that "The architectural correctness of this pretty edifice is due to the good taste of the late incumbent, the Rev. R.N. Merritt." This is important because the article went on to record that St Paul's, Glanford, was "erected through Mr. Merritt's exertions." The obvious inference is that Frank Wills designed St Paul's. It would have been difficult, if not impossible to find another architect at that time to provide such ecclesiologically correct Gothic.

Wills was trained in the office of John Hayward in Exeter, and subsequently became Hayward's chief assistant. Hayward's church of St Andrew's, Exwick (1841-42) (Fig. 14) was described in the 1843 Ecclesiologist as "the best specimen of a modern church we have yet seen." Like St Paul's, Glanford, it has a separate nave and chancel, a south porch and steeply pitched roofs. Most specifically, at St Andrew's buttresses are only used at the angles of the nave where they are set diagonally; there are no buttresses on the side walls.

This prescription is repeated at St Paul's, with the exception of the buttresses at the eastern corners of the nave. On the appointment of John Medley, canon of Exeter Cathedral, as Bishop of New Brunswick in 1845, Frank Wills moved to Fredericton where the cathedral and the chapel of St Anne were built to his designs. St Anne's shares features with St Paul's including the disposition of the nave, chancel and vestry, and the lancet windows (Figs 3, 4 and 15). In 1848, Wills established a practice in New York where he was a founding member of the New York Ecclesiological Society.

Fig. 14. Exwick, Devon, St Andrew, exterior from S, John Hayward, 1841-2
Fig. 14. Exwick, Devon, St Andrew, exterior from S, John Hayward, 1841-2

Like their English counterparts, the New York Ecclesiologists promoted the "correct" use of the Gothic style for church architecture. As we would expect, Wills preached the ideas of the Eccclesiological Society and the True Principles of Augustus Welby Pugin, "the great English architect," as Wills called him.

In this context, the use of red brick at St Paul's requires some explanation. In A Few Words to Church Builders (1841), we are told that: "Brick ought on no account to be used..." Yet in an article published in The Ecclesiologist in 1850, the architect, George Edmund Street, advocated the use of brick. In the same year, Frank Wills stated: "The red color of the bricks in general use is the great objection to them; if they cannot be obtained of a more quiet tone, and if painting be required to preserve them, the bright tint can be modified without concealing the nature of the walling."

It is likely that the use of brick at St Paul's was stipulated by the Building Committee. Be that as it may, red brick had been used by Pugin for a number of his churches, including St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, 1839, St Wilfrid's, Hulme, Manchester, 1839, and St Augustine's, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, 1841 (Fig. 16). Subsequently, Wills used red brick for Christ Episcopal Church, Napoleonville, Louisiana, 1853, and Christ Church, Oberlin, Ohio, 1856-1859.

Fig. 15. Fredericton, NB, St Anne's Chapel, exterior from NE, Frank Wills, 1846-7.
Fig. 15. Fredericton, NB, St Anne's Chapel, exterior from NE, Frank Wills, 1846-7.

Barton Stone Church is a significant example of the first phase of Gothic revival architecture in Ontario in which 18th-century classicizing principles, established by the English architect, James Gibbs, were adapted to the pointed style as deemed appropriate for religious architecture. The equation of Gothic and Christian continued in the design of St Paul's, Glanford, but here the terms of reference have become more clearly defined.

It is a fine expression of the truthful use of materials or what Wills called "reality" in architecture: "Let us away then with everything like sham in our churches; if we be too poor to adorn God's house with goodly cedar and gold, let us be too honest and proud to pollute it with vulgar trash: if we cannot have pillars of marble and walls of polished stone, let us be afraid to offer as a sacrifice to God the specious representation of these costly things. If we cannot give what is costly, we can at least give what is real."

St Paul's is most complete example of the careful recreation of the principles of medieval Gothic church design to survive from the early 1850s in Ontario. Moreover, it is the only surviving church in the Province designed by Frank Wills, who has been called "the most important Gothic Revival architect of his generation in North America". As such, it is not only a local treasure but a heritage monument of national importance.

Fig. 16. Kenilworth, Warwickshire, St Augustine, exterior from SE, A.W. Pugin, 1841.
Fig. 16. Kenilworth, Warwickshire, St Augustine, exterior from SE, A.W. Pugin, 1841.

Professor Malcolm Thurlby. PhD, FRHist.S, FSA, teaches art and architectural history at York University, Toronto. His research focuses on Romanesque and Gothic architecture and sculpture in Europe, and 19th- and early 20th-century architecture in Canada. He concurs with John Medley (1804-92), Bishop of Fredericton and champion of the Gothic Revival in New Brunswick, that "some knowledge of Church Architecture ought, surely, to be a part of every liberal education."

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By David (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2007 at 18:30:33

Thanks so much for this, Malcolm! We live very close to Barton Stone United Church, and not much farther from some of the other churches you treat above. I know that Stone Church is made of stone, but I had assumed that it was named after someone named Barton Stone. That said, the only Barton Stone I know of was a founder of the restorationist churches in the US. I can't imagine anyone naming a Presbyterian church after someone who left Presbyterianism.

By the way there is another stone building - a house - on West Fifth Street between Rymal and Stone Church Roads that looks to date from the same period. Do you know anything about its history?

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By David (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2007 at 20:49:27

Thanks so much for this, Malcolm! We live very close to Barton Stone United Church, and not much farther from some of the other churches you treat above. I know that Stone Church is made of stone, but I had assumed that it was named after someone named Barton Stone. That said, the only Barton Stone I know of was a founder of the restorationist churches in the US. I can't imagine anyone naming a Presbyterian church after someone who left Presbyterianism.

By the way there is another stone building - a house - on West Fifth Street between Rymal and Stone Church Roads that looks to date from the same period. Do you know anything about its history?

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By Rick (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2011 at 22:08:02

Our church, built in 1835 and has an interior similar to ones shown above that had two aisles which separated the pews into three sections. The middle section is the widest with the middle pews separated in the middle as if two pews were butted against each other. I know that the men were separated from the women but why wasn't the church designed to have a middle aisle separating the men from the women with aisles on the outside? Could it be that the two outside sections separated unmarried men from from unmarried women with married families sitting in the wider middle still separated but closer together?

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