The Building

 Our Church – Bricks and Mortar

The church was built in 1877-1878, dedicated in 1878, and consecrated in 1905. The architect was William Tutin Thomas, a member of the parish and a man of some repute who designed other Montreal churches (St. George’s, Place du Canada) and private mansions (Mount St. Stephen and the Saughnessy House, now part of the Canadian Centre for Architecture). He is thought to have used earlier sketches by Toronto architect Frank Darling. The Rector-Founder of the parish, the Rev. Edmund Wood, probably was the major source of ideas, and he had, in a return trip home to Britain in 1868, studied the churches being built there, particularly in the East End of London.The style of the church is best described as ‘slum Gothic’, a style developed for the poor Ritualist parishes of London by architects such as James Brooks. Indeed, the church which most closely resembled ours in design and inspiration was St. Saviour’s, Hoxton, built by Brooks in 1866 and destroyed during the Blitz. Such churches were also called ‘minster churches’ because of their simple conventual plan and their inclusion in an ensemble comprising a school and a parish house. Slum Gothic churches are characterised by a one-line roof, often surmounted by a fleche or bell-cote; a clear, tall space, terminated with an apse; a wide nave, narrow aisles, a lofty roof. The style is mainly Early Pointed (13th c.). Brooks’ churches were said to be sensible, restrained, planned for ‘an advanced ritual’, and definitively ‘muscular’ or ‘big-boned’; they are a ‘supreme example of the Aesthetic of the Sublime in Victorian church architecture’. Other epithets which may be applied to the building include: a high church (designed for the use of the full Prayer-Book liturgy), a Gothic Revival church (based on its structure and motifs), an ecclesiologically-correct church (it follows the prescriptions of the Cambridge Ecclesiological Society), a muscular church (due to the simplicity of the design and the robustness of the decoration), and a ritualist church (it is planned for an elaborate ritual).




The church is a linear building, with a one-line roof originally of slate, but since 1955 of red-painted metal. A small bell tower rises over the sanctuary. The high walls are of local grey-stone, with no decoration except around the windows. The eastern apse is polygonal, and the apse-sanctuary is lit by 13 high lancet windows. There is no transept. The church comprises 6 bays, the first of which is used for the quire. Each bay is illuminated on each side by 2 lancet clerestory windows and a triangular window in the aisle. A simple porch with two doors leads to the church on the south side in the fourth bay. A semi-detached baptistry was added to the east of the porch in 1892. The west end abuts to St. John’s School, now the Parish Hall and Rectory and contains three high lancet windows.




The interior offers a wide-open space of perfect proportions, designed on the ‘golden section’. At the east end, the aspe is pentagonal and forms a small sanctuary which encloses the high altar and is closed by the communion railing. Before the rail, there is a large ‘space for communicants’, as originally required for Prayer-Book worship. The first bay contains rows of choir stalls (and until recently the organ) and was used for the choir. A large stone rood-screen between the first two bays separates the sanctuary-quire from the nave and carries a large wooden crucifix flanked by wood statues of St. Mary and St. John. The nave is wide and high, and the aisles narrow and low. A side chapel dedicated to St. Anne occupies the north aisle of the first bay, and a memorial altar to the Rector-Founder has been erected in the north aisle of the fourth bay. A choir loft was erected on the west wall in 1982 to contain the new Hellmuth Wolff organ.




The main altar consists of a slab of marble over a wooden table elevated by four steps above the sanctuary floor. An oak gradine, an oak tabernacle, and a set of brass foliated cross and candlesticks (from John Hardman’s in Birmingham) are the main decorations. The reredos, added in 1911, is a large oak panel sculpted with perpendicular gothic motifs and encloses an Ascension scene drawn by J. R. Bird in 1905. It is covered by a wood tester supported by Tudoresque fan-vaulting. On the wall, on each side of the altar and set in oak niches are lime-wood statues of St. Augustine and St. Jerome. The sanctuary floor is covered with marble and is decorated with coloured encaustic tiles of Medieval design. The lower walls are unadorned except for a marble dado. The upper walls are covered by oak panelling, a cove molding, and elaborated sculpted oak arcading. All the woodwork was designed and nearly all of it done by the Percy Bacon Bros. of London. Ten of the 13 lancet windows are filled with beautiful glass from Hardman’s: nine represent the nine choirs of angels and one the lion-beast from The Book of Revelation (the three other beasts were never added). Hanging before the altar is a Beam of Glory from which hang 7 brass lamps.




The first bay contains choir stalls of local facture decorated with poppy-heads representing the Evangelists and angels designed by architect Sir Andrew Taylor. The space is separated from the aisles by a wood parclose screen from a previous church.




A large stone screen separates the chancel from the nave; it was designed by Mr. Vaughan of Boston, built by Robert Reid and the sculpted by Henry Beaumont, both of Montreal. It consists of three large gothic arches in brown stone supported by marble pillars; the spandrels are of white Caen stone carved with ornamental scroll. Till 1955, the screen was closed by beautiful ironwork of local design; the gates have been returned to the main arch in 1993. The screen is surmounted by a large wooden crucifix and statues of St. Mary and St. John, sculpted in Oberammergau in Bavaria. A large brass eagle lectern from the previous church and designed by Thomas Cox and Sons of London is set before the screen on the south side.




The nave is filled with chairs, emphasising the free-church characteristic of the parish. The walls are decorated with brickwork designed by architect Thomas Fuller in a ‘Butterfieldian’ style. The wooden pulpit, in eclectic style, was designed by architect Frank Darling and is loosely modelled on that of All Saints’, Margaret Street, in London. The triangular aisle windows are filled with glass from Percy Bacon Bros. in London and represent Gospel scenes and attributes of Our Lord – with one exception, a memorial window to St. David and St. Benedict. The 24 clerestory windows were intended to illustrate saints, but are largely unfilled: three on the north side by the local firm of Spence and Sons represent Saints Peter, Paul, and John. Beautiful memorial brasses adorn the walls, many of them from Hardman’s. In the north aisle of the fourth bay, under the Good Shepherd window, a niche contains a memorial brass to the Rector-Founder (an anachronistic collage showing him in old age celebrating Mass in an early chapel) and is closed by beautiful metal gates (all the metal work is from Hardman’s). Before it stands a small altar containing hand-painted panels representing ‘young’ saints (Lawrence, Edward, George, and Pancras) and originally in St. Edward’s School in Oxford. On the west wall, a marble tablet from Hardman’s serves as parish War Memorial and recalls the sons of the parish who died in both World Wars.



In the north aisle of the first bay, a small chapel was erected by the founder in memory of his mother, Anne Ashton Wood, and dedicated to St. Anne. The altar is the original table from the first church and is surmounted by a blue wooden reredos representing Christ in a mandala with two adoring angels (designed by Messrs. Cusson of Boston). Three lancet windows, from Hardman’s, represent scenes in the lives of St. Anne and St. Mary, as well as Anne the Prophetess. The side window, by Bacon Bros., depicts St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica, and surmounts a niche containing a memorial brass (from Hardman’s)showing Mrs. Wood in prayer.



Appended to the porch and connected with the church by an arch, the baptistry is a small rectangular room ending in a rounded apse. The floor tiles and the door capitals represent the Evangelists and baptismal motifs (flowing water, fishes). The three windows, from Hardman’s, recall the Flood, the Crossing of the Red Sea, and the Baptism of Our Lord. The font is of remarkable stonework of local design (Mr. Reid), but the upper part has suffered much water damage. It is covered with a two-tiered oak cover by Bacon Bros. with beautiful tracery.



The Wolff & Associés organ op. 27 (1984)
2 manuals and pedal
27 stops, 37 ranks
Mechanical action

According to Karl Raudsepp’s Organs of Montreal (1991), the parish first owned a melodeon. In 1863, the parish purchased a pipe organ from S. R. Warren of Montreal. The instrument was soon supplemented with a large chamber organ (purchased from the Mountain family), which was installed in the chancel. The 1863 organ was eventually rebuilt, and its console was also moved to the chancel.

In 1886, S. R. Warren & Son of Toronto built a new electric-action organ, which was installed in 1892. Three years later, in 1915, the instrument was rebuilt by Casavant Frères, and placed in a ‘chamber’ in the chancel, with an Echo division suspended on the west wall.

In 1981 the parish signed a contract with Hellmuth Wolff of Laval for a new organ. This was delivered in 1984, and still stands in the west gallery. It is a mechanical-action instrument whose specification was drawn up in consultation with the late Donald Mackey, Director of Music of the parish from 1981 through 1986. The instrument is stylistically influenced by 17th and 18th-century British, French, and German organ building traditions. Wolff included in his instrument four Warren stops and one Casavant stop.

The current instrument is regularly played during the church’s services, and has been featured on many recitals and recordings. In 2001, Kevin Komisaruk recorded for ATMA Classique an award-winning CD featuring works by John Bull (1562-1628). More recently, the organ has been played in concert series featuring the complete organ works of D. Buxtehude (1637-1707) and J. S. Bach (1685-1750), performed by the current Director of Music Federico Andreoni. In 2009, organists Federico Andreoni, John Grew, Mireille Lagacé, Garth MacPhee, and William Porter performed a recital to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the instrument. A CD recording of the event is available upon request.



Like us on Facebook!