Profiles of church founders Frederic William Cumberland, Robert Brittain Denison, Thomas Fuller, and Georgina Broughall, mainly from previously published sources. There is also a long essay on Canon James Edward Ward (d. 1958), written by his nephew.
Frederic William Cumberland
Frederic William Cumberland (1820-1881), Architect and Civil Engineer
Cumberland was, along with the founder, Col. R. B. Denison, one of the original wardens of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields Anglican Church in 1859. Like Thomas Fuller, Saint Stephen’s architect, Col. Cumberland received his education and professional training in England. He came to Canada in 1847 and distinguished himself in architectural practice, railroad construction, and public affairs. Among his best known works in Toronto are St. James Cathedral, University College, and Osgoode Hall. His residence, originally called Pendarves and now Cumberland House (Baldwin House), was restored and now houses the International Student Centre of the University of Toronto.
Cumberland’s Villa Now for Students
Toronto Star column “Historical Toronto”
On the morning of Aug. 8, 1881, trains draped in black began arriving in Toronto. Hundreds of men gathered in groups and began the long march to the house at the corner of College and St. George Sts.
Frederic Cumberland was dead.
In the obituary notice that appeared in The World, it was said there wasn’t a person in the city or in the country who hadn’t heard of him.
He had formed the regiment that became the Royal Regiment of Canada. He had helped found the society that became the Royal Canadian Institute.
He was a man of extraordinary talents and had designed almost all the greatest buildings of mid-19th century Toronto, including St. James Cathedral and most of Osgoode Hall.
For himself, in 1860, he had designed one of the small marvels of the city, a 33-room country villa complete with a classic dining-room and ballroom that stands today, almost hidden behind the trees, at 33 St. George St.
After his death, the house become the home for a number of wealthy Torontonians, and in the 1920s the government of Ontario acquired it as the official residence for it lieutenant-governors.
In 1923, when there were rumors that a group of Americans were planning to buy the land and put an apartment building on the site, the University of Toronto bought the property, and during the past 50 years it has served as the home of the faculty of law and the department of history, among others, and is currently the International Student Centre.
Oct Oct. 7, the Ontario Heritage Foundation will unveil a plaque on the lawn and declare the house one of the landmarks of Ontario.
Its original name was Pendarvis, but in 1967 the university renamed it Cumberland House in the hope that the story of Frederic Cumberland might be better remembered.
Cumberland’s father was secretary to Lord Stanley and for many years the family lived at 14 Downing St. in London.
After college, Cumberland entered the engineering department of the Great West Railway, but on the advice of Lord Stanley he moved to the engineering department of the Admiralty and helped construct some of the mammoth dry-docks at Portsmouth.
In 1845, he married Wilmot Bramley whose sister was the wife of Thomas G. Ridout one of the chief officers of the Bank of Upper Canada in Toronto.
Two years later, at the age of 27, Cumberland brought his wife to Toronto in search of a new career.
His first commission was to lay out the corner of Yonge and Bloor Sts. Others soon followed, and in 1849 he and Thomas Ridout, the son of Thos. G. Ridout, formed a partnership and entered the competition for a design for a new St. James Cathedral and won.
It is their magnificent Gothic-style building that stands today at King and Church Sts.
Two years later he formed a more lasting partnership with W.G. Storm and won the commissions for most of the most important contracts in the city.
For Toronto’s new post office at No. 10 Toronto St., he created a remarkable building in the style of a Greek temple. It has recently been restored and is now the head office of the Argus Corporation.
For the Law Society of Upper Canada he created the facade of today’s Osgoode Hall. for St. James Cemetery, he built was is possibly the beautiful small chapel in the city.
And for the university, he designed University College, which has been called “Ontario’s noblest building” and the finest recreation of an early medieval building on this continent.
By the 1860s, the building boom in the city was over.
Cumberland had become increasingly upset by the squabbles over his fees and had been turning more and more to one of the other major interests in his life, the railway.
A line that later became the Northern Railway had been built north from the city to reach the rich agricultural and forest lands of the north.
By the late 1850s, when it had begun to flounder and was on the verge of bankruptcy, Cumberland accepted the position of managing director. he immediately persuaded the company’s investors to double their investments rather than lose all their money and began encouraging settlers to develo9p new timber lands along his line.
He promised he would build stations wherever they wanted them it soon became a joke that his railway had more stops than the local bus.
But he made the railway a success. He became totally involved in the line and in the lives of his men. He knew every man who worked for him and won their undying loyalty.
In 1861, when war with the United States seemed inevitable, he formed the regiment that became the Royal Regiment of Canada and among the first to enlist were men from his railway.
The last 20 years of his life were almost completely devoted to the railway and, when he died at his home in 1881, it took a train of 16 cars to bring just the men from the northern stations who wanted to march in his funeral.
He was buried in St. James Cemetery, and on his coffin his son placed two wreaths bearing the last words Cumberland was heard to say, “I am”…and “My men”…
— Donald Jones, Saturday October 1, 1977
Robert Brittain Denison
Robert Brittain Denison (1821 -1900) was born on April 24, 1821 in the house on the Denison’s Bellevue Estate. He was the youngest son of George Taylor Denison and the grandson of Captain John Denison, one of the very early settlers of York, and part of the upper class who held the reins of power in the new world. Robert was sixteen when the rebellion of 1837 ushered in an age of change, despite the efforts of the Tory oligarchy known as “The Family Compact”. The Family Compact was descended from the families and officials Lord Simcoe had established in power, and the old political structures were defeated by the democratic ideals of more recent settlers, many of American origin.
According to historian Dr. Christoper Thomas (June 2002):
Lord Simcoe had long left the scene by 1837 (back to England, I imagine, and maybe dead; he had founded York in 1793). The fly in the ointment for the Family Compact crowd like Denison was more recent arrivals from the US, especially upper New York State. Whereas the first wave of settlers in the 1780s had been loyal to the Crown (Simcoe honoured them with the title “UEL” ‘s), later arrivals, especially around and after the War of 1812 had come to Ontario mainly in search of free land and felt no loyalty — indeed felt animus — toward the crowd Simcoe had set up in office in Toronto and on the park lots round about, among whom the Denisons held pride of place.
While these United Empire Loyalists were opposed to annexation with the new republic, they also felt that the colonists, not England, were the best judges of their own political needs. Artisans, farmers, and tradesman alike wanted a voice in government.
Robert followed his father into the militia and received his appointment in 1843. this was confirmed in February 1846. Promotion followed, a lieutenant’s commission on May 5, 1848 and Captain on December 6, 1850.
Robert inherited Bellevue on the death of his father in 1853, but did not move his family from the old estate in Weston until 1865. Until then, he and his wife Emily Anne Winn (m. May 1, 1845) lived at the family homestead in Weston. Like many of the old families, Colonel Denison felt his responsibility to the town and his position in society.
Col. Denison was an ardent churchman and a warden of St. George the Martyr, on John Street. The first Bishop of Toronto, John Strachan, was a personal friend and for many years the family attended services at Saint James’ Cathedral. The decision to occupy the house on the Crown Grant Park Lot 17 may have turned his thoughts to a chapel for his family’s use, as St. James’ Cathedral was a fair distance from Bellevue. He also saw the necessity of expanding the church as the town spread further west, and was responsible for the construction of Saint Stephen’s, the city’s first church west of Spadina and north of Queen. He donated the northern section of the 100 acre Bellevue Homestead, and financed the design and construction for $10,000 — an enormous sum in the 1850’s.
Denison was not without his critics, and during the period of the “Fenian Excitement” of 1866, he was in charge of the garrison at Toronto. It was his office to inspect the guard every night at eight o’clock and Sundays were no exception. Every Sunday evening, the Denison family would gather at the church for Evensong and a little before eight, Col. Denison would leave his seat and proceed on his way the north door. The fact that the time to leave coincided with the hymn before the sermon gave rise to the rumour that Col. Denison did not approve of the sermons, and that was why he left just then.
R. B. Denison’s interests included neither farming, active politics nor commerce. Like his father, R.B. parcelled up and sold family land at intervals over the years to support their household running costs. By the time R.B. died — August 4, 1900 — he no longer owned any land.
The Fighting Denisons
Saint Stephen’s-in-the-Fields is one of the last reminders in the area of one of Toronto’s original founding families, the Denisons.
The church was founded by Robert B. Denison, the third son of the late Colonel G. T. Denison, who died in 1853. He paid for the entire cost of construction – $10,000 – which was an enormous sum in 1858.
The Denisons were possibly the most military minded family in Toronto’s history. They fought with honour in almost every major war for 150 years. A Denison was a militia officer in the War of 1812. A Denison led the cavalry during the Fenian Raid in 1866 and in the Northwest Rebellion in 1885. And when the Czar of Russia announced a world-wide contest for a book on military history, it was won by a Denison from Toronto.
George Taylor Denison, who won the Czar’s prize, was born in the family home on Denison Square on Aug. 31, 1839, the grandson of the George Taylor Denison who built the house in 1815. In 1874, while he was practicing law in Toronto, he learned of the Czar’s prize of 4,000 rubles for a book on the history of cavalry and, though he had never gone to military school, he decided to enter the contest.
He began working half days at his law office and half days on his book. Goldwin Smith gave him the use of his library at the Grange and for two years he told almost no one what he was doing for fear they would laugh. The book (“Modern Cavalry, its Organization, Armament and Employment in War”) had to be in St. Petersburg by Jan. 1, 1877. With only a few months left, he sailed for England to do his final research in the British Museum and then to St. Petersburgh. He hired 14 men to copy his notes into a final form and a few hours before midnight on the night the contest closed, he dressed in his colonel’s uniform and delivered his book.
It won the grand prize.
The premier of Ontario awarded the young lawyer the position of police magistrate of the principal criminal court in Ontario. He held the position for over 40 years and retired only a few years before his death at the age of 86. He tried over 650,000 cases, often completing as many as 60 cases in an hour.
They said he handled his work with military precision.
— Donald Jones, Toronto Star
Thomas Fuller (1823-98) studied and practised architecture in his native Bath and in London. He was the son of the Mayor of Bath, and a member of gentry. He fell out of favour for acting as general contractor on a building of his own design. Fuller went to Antigua to build a new cathedral from 1845-47, after the original cathedral was destroyed in a hurricane. He then returned to England.
“Believing…that better opportunities existed in the new world”, Thomas Fuller emigrated to North America in 1857. It is not surprising that he chose Toronto, the most British city on the continent. Incorporated as a city barely two decades earlier, Toronto was already the metropolis of Canada West. The fifties were a booming decade, which saw the coming of the railways and the appearance of the city’s first large public buildings — St. Lawrence Hall, St. James’ Cathedral, the Normal School, a grand new Post Office, University College, and the Don Jail (the need to rebuild the core of the east half of the city after the Great Fire of April 1849 catalyzed some of this activity). To Toronto came a stream of talented young British architects: while the 1843 city directory shows only three (John G. Howard, Kivas Tully and William Thomas), there were nine by 1851, at least a dozen five years later, and no fewer than eighteen by 1861. Apparently unsatisfied by his partnerships and out of favour with the officials of his profession in England, Thomas Fuller joined the exodus to the New World.
In late 1857 or early the following year, Fuller became senior partner in a firm with Chilion Jones and a mysterious figure with the surname of Messner. It seems once again to have been a partnership of convenience. Nothing at all is known of Messner, but Chilion Jones (1835-1912) was a member of a well-known Brockville family that went back to the Family Compact. The sixth son of Jonas, was a judge on the bench at Toronto, Chilion Jones would have had connections throughout the Upper Canadian Establishment — connections that might draw commissions. Marion MacRae points out that none of the firm’s buildings is known to show any evidence of Jones’ hand, and he never again designed a building of importance once the partnership with Fuller had broken up. Likely Jones was the salesman and business-manager of the team, while Fuller did most of the actual designing.
During his short stay in Toronto, Fuller made his home on Bellevue Avenue, near the Anglican church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields. Built in 1858, it was the firm’s first known commission, and an appropriate beginning for a Tory businessman and an English Gothic architect. St. Stephen’s was built on a suburban site alongside College Street at the expense of a local land-owner, Colonel R. B. Denison. Mulvany considered the church to be “one of the prettiest and most ornate exemplifications our city possesses of good ecclesiastical art”. In a plain Early English style, the church rose “in a strong wedge from a broad base solidly buttressed to a charming open bell-cote”. he interior arrangement of a nave with side aisles, short transepts, deep chancel and a low, “humble” porch (facing College Street) satisfied purists.
— from Dominion Architecture: Fuller’s Canadian Post Offices, 1881-96
Dr. Christopher A. Thomas, 1978
Success followed quickly for the firm of Fuller and Jones. In 1859, a year after building St. Stephen’s-in-the-Fields, the partners won the competition to design the new Houses of Parliament (Centre Block) in Ottawa, the chosen capital of Canada. On September 1, 1860 in Ottawa the cornerstone of the Parliament buildings was laid by Edward, Prince of Wales.
Thomas Fuller later became supervising architect for all projects on Parliament Hill and from 1881 to 1896 was Chief Architect for the Dominion of Canada (department of Public Works) under the government of Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald and those of his Conservative successors. He resigned when Laurier’s Liberals took office in 1896. His son, Thomas W. Fuller, was also appointed Chief Architect in 1927 and designed many notable public buildings throughout Canada.
His grandson, Thomas G. Fuller, founded Fuller Construction, a company that grew very large and built many of Ottawa’s leading buildings in the period of the city’s and federal government’s expansion after World War Two.
“Light, God’s eldest daughter, is a principal beauty in a building.”
Georgina Broughall: A Pioneer of Women’s Work in Toronto
Many people have contributed to the growth of St. Stephen’s, and one of the most outstanding was Georgina Broughall. As wife of the Rev. Canon A.J. Broughall, she lived in the Rectory for over fifty years. She was the mother of a large family and three of her sons entered the ministry. One of them became a bishop.
It is said that she had the ability to deal with people with tact and understanding. in good times and bad, there was a constant procession of supplicants seeking aid at the door. She apparently possessed the ability to help people without destroying their dignity. Not only did she take an active part in the life of the church, but also in the wider community. Her name appears in the early records of the Women’s Canadian Historical Society.
One of her achievements was the starting of the Young Women’s Bible Class. The first meeting was held on Ascension Day, May 6, 1875.
When the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (an Anglican convent) was being organized, she lent her support against great opposition. Many of the preliminary meetings were held at St. Stephen’s Church. The order was founded in 1884.
In Victorian Canada, much of the bitterness and prejudices of the era of Reformation remained, although more than three centuries had passed since the Reformation. Although the reasons for the break may have been somewhat obscured in the minds of the people, anything that was a reminder of Rome was unacceptable.
The latter half of the 19th century saw the beginning of a revival of Anglo-Catholic traditions among advanced churchman. However, the community was of a Reformist tradition. In this environment, it took a brave woman to sponsor an Anglican convent, and Georgina Broughall was not to be intimidated.
Georgina, together with her friend Mrs. Barwick, lent their support to the establishment of the Order of the Sisters of St. John in Toronto (now known as The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine). Theirs was a nursing order, and Reverend Mother Hannah Grier Coombes was grateful for the support of two such stalwarts of the community. Eventually the order was established and a hospital built on Major Street. By 1925, the nuns were operating a “home for the aged” at No. 87 Bellevue Avenue, a property which was originally built as a private hospital. Today, the order has left the Kensington neighbourhood, but is still a recognized part of the religious community with a Convent on Botham Road.
At a time when young girls were coming to Toronto in great numbers to find work, she saw the need for a women’s residence. So she set to work with characteristic energy to start one. Georgina House opened in 1908. The whole church seems to have been involved in raising money for furniture. Individual groups were asked to furnish rooms and there was much activity as members sewed curtains, bedspreads and household linen. The oil portrait of her now hanging in a classroom was commissioned by the Board and hung in the residence until it was closed. The portrait shows her wearing the Women’s Auxiliary Pin. St. Stephens’ was the second church in the diocese to organize a Women’s Auxiliary, which has now been absorbed into the Anglican Church Women and the St. Andrews Guild.
— Miss Madge Cartright, 1987
Recollections of a Rector
James Edward Ward was born during the final decades of the Nineteenth Century, not far from Calgary, Alberta. Thus by generation he became a product of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, with a touch of the Canadian version of the Wild West. His younger years were spent on a cattle ranch, and his first employment was as a genuine cowboy, riding horses and herding cattle. Of course Uncle Jim, as we came to know him in my family, was a very, very bright young man. He enjoyed the great out of doors, the horses, camping and all those things of which so many young people still dream. Still, he was compelled to make use of his creative resources and active mind. As a teenager he was already writing and having work published.
In his late teens he felt the desire to explore the world of Christian faith, and the desire grew in him to become an Anglican priest. That was a period when Canada was young, the West was even younger, and advanced study, especially of theology, meant traveling east to Ontario or beyond. Cowboy James Ward set his sights on the University of Trinity College, Toronto, before that institution moved to Hoskin Avenue as part of the University of Toronto. Arriving in Toronto, Uncle Jim soon found that the first step toward his goal was to obtain his Senior Matriculation, or Grade Thirteen, and so as an adult, committed to learning, he enrolled in the fifth form at Parkdale Collegiate.
During his first years in Toronto, James Ward lived with my maternal grandparents, Henry (Harry) and Priscilla Wodson, and their daughter, Kathleen who, of course, became my mother. Unfortunately I never learned exactly how Uncle Jim and the Wodsons first became acquainted, but a lasting friendship developed, ending only with finite lives of all those concerned. Thus as long as Uncle Jim lived, he was a part of my life and that of my family. As I recall, but cannot be certain, Uncle Jim was about ten years older than my mother, and a few years, perhaps five, younger than my grandfather. My grandfather was a professional writer and journalist as well as an amateur musician. He and his brother, Edward, both wrote for the old Toronto Evening Telegram. Uncle Edward was Music Editor for the Telegram, and for years Organist and Choirmaster at St. Jude’s Church, Roncesvales Avenue. Thus I suspect the connection with James Ward resulted from common interests and publication.
It was shortly after she became a widow that my mother told me that she had a terrible crush on Uncle Jim from the time they met, and held deep feelings for him throughout her life and his.
There were stories told to us about Uncle Jim, and another mature student, keeping order for some of the teachers who had difficulty, even in those days of sterner means of classroom control, with overly rambunctious teenagers.
On finishing the Ontario Upper School, James Ward entered Trinity, as planned. The ‘old’ Trinity, rather like its modern-day successor on Hoskin Avenue, was certainly reminiscent of an Oxford college, precisely as Bishop Strachan intended when he founded a university for the second time, rebelling at the ‘Godless administration’ which took over his King’s College, which became University College and the University of Toronto. Uncle Jim, being a voracious reader and scholar of History and the English language, felt the urge to finish his studies in the Mother Country, and at the Mother of English Universities. He was accepted into Oxford, graduating in the fullness of time from there with an M.A. degree. Later, Trinity and U of T would honour a distinguished alumnus with doctorates.
Uncle Jim, with the recommendation of the Bishop of Toronto, entered a Church of England seminary, and in due course was ordained Deacon and later Priest, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, by the Bishop of London, for the Diocese of Toronto. His first curacy was served in London, although the parish eludes me. World War II intervened, and Uncle Jim joined the Chaplaincy Corps and was attached to the Canadian forces. He rose to the rank of Major, and was wounded in action. Damage to the roof of his mouth had much to do with the character of his voice which became familiar through years of radio broadcasts.
Returning to Canada, Uncle Jim was appointed curate, and then Priest-in-Charge at the Church of St. Simon the Apostle, almost in the shadow of the new and imposing St. Paul’s Bloor Street. His major, according to him, contribution to St. Simons was acquisition of the present High Altar. It seems the while he was in charge there, he noticed the Altar was always completely covered with hangings, including a full-length frontal. One day Uncle Jim lifted the frontal and found two rough packing cases with a plank across the top. Not considering that appropriate, he set the wheels in motion to change that!
At that time there were few openings for the position of rector in the diocese, but the Bishop felt the need to do something for James Ward who was already making a name for himself as a writer, preacher and scholar. He was also a wounded veteran of the Great War, and held the rank of major. Two parishes were open, and the Bishop offered him a choice between St,. David’s, Donlands Avenue, and St. Stephen-in-the-Fields.
The College Street church, of course, was already in place, serving a parish that was in the midst of change, as it always seems to be. It had been built by the Dennison family, and was quite large, with space in Nave, aisles and chapels for over a thousand worshipers. An impressive Chancel and Sanctuary had been added after the fire, along with the Lady Chapel. The interior was rather stark, consisting mainly of unplastered raw brick wills. The congregation was quite large and loyal to the parish, but it was obvious to James Ward that the Denison’s had not kept the finances of future generations in mind when they built the Church. It would, it seemed, always be difficult for parishioners to maintain what was, in fact, one of the largest parish structures in the diocese.
St. David’s was a new parish in a new development to the east, just north of The Danforth. The Bloor Street viaduct was yet to be built, and reaching it from the centre of the city was a long and arduous journey. A rather small and unimposing church building was planned, a simple rectangle, accommodating perhaps two hundred at a service. Definitely not impressive. The new community consisted mainly of rather small semi-detached houses on narrow lots.
St. Stephen’s was an older, established building that already had a history and a mystique of its own. The new Sanctuary and Chance, built after the 19th Century fire, reflected the thinking of the Oxford Movement, and was designed to accommodate the ceremonial approach approved by Fr. John Keble and his friends. There was also a very fine-sounding pipe organ. Unlike most Toronto Anglican churches of the day, there were candles on the High Altar and a Cross on the retable behind. For an Oxford and Trinity man, the decision was easy. Soon after visiting both, Uncle Jim was inducted as Rector of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields.
A Musical Ministry
James Ward, aside from being a talented and prolific writer in various fields, was an accomplished musician. Before arriving at St. Stephen-in-the-Fields, he had learned to play the piano, guitar and zither, had studied music theory and composition and had become well experienced in the choral traditions of the Church, honing his skills in that regard during his years in England. His first parish responsibilities in Toronto were at the Church of St. Simon the Apostle, a parish already noted for outstanding Anglican music, particularly its choir of men and boys. It also had a fine Casavant pipe organ.
One of the features of St. Stephen’s which appealed greatly to Uncle Jim was the impressive-sounding Ryder – Breckles and Mathews Pipe Organ, with its Chancel case of 16-foot pipes, and another front opening into St. Stephen’s Chapel, where organ pipes formed the reredos. It was not long after his arrival, however, that Uncle Jim learned about the instruments unfortunate unreliability.
In spite of the mechanical problems with the pipe organ, St. Stephen’s already had a history of hiring talented organists and choir masters, generally, of course, both the same person. When James Ward arrived, the musical incumbent was a Dr. Doward, a musician of high repute in the city. The new rector was determined to maintain and enlarge on the musical tradition. Over the years music was under the direction of such distinguished names as Thomas Crawford, Frederick Shuttleworth, John Fitch, Ian Galliford, George Coutts, Frederick Geohagan, and the last organist hired personally by Canon Ward was Dr. James Burchell, current Organist and Master of the Choristers at All Saints Cathedral, Halifax, NS. Two distinguished organists who enjoyed the St. Stephen’s instrument when it was behaving, were Dr. Healy Willan and Dr. Charles Peaker.
The organ had tracker or mechanical action, which meant no electricity, but the keys were directly connected to the pipe valves with levers. Originally the wind was supplied by hand-pumped feeder bellows. This system was ‘modernized’ when running water was brought to the Church and an hydraulic pumping system was installed. The water pump was an English idea that proved fairly reliable in the warmer climate of the British Isles, but the Canadian winters were usually too much for it. When the hydraulic system froze, the Church relied on a large harmonium which used to be kept for the purpose in St. Stephen’s Chapel, in the south aisle. It was an exceptionally fine example of the reed organ, and could still fill the Church with sound in the 1960’s on occasions when the pipe organ was uncooperative.
Although the pump organ was satisfactory for accompanying hymns, it was not considered an ideal performance instrument, and James Ward was already planning to introduce radio broadcasting, a first in North America, shortly after his induction. The first step toward modernization of the pipe organ came with the installation of an electric blower to replace the hydraulic device. This was done very shortly after Uncle Jim’s first Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, when the water-powered blowing system froze during the processional hymn. Royalties from Uncle Jim’s writing for radio broadcasts solved the financial needs for this project, and a blower was installed by the Lye Organ Company.
During this period James Ward often collaborated with his organist on new service music, composing a number of settings for Psalms and Canticles in the tradition of Anglican Chant. His setting for the Te Deum was often sung in procession around the Church to celebrate festivals and other special occasions. Visiting Low Churchmen were known to cringe at this Popery!
Very much a Renaissance Man, James Ward contributed from his talents to the life of St. Stephen’s and the Anglican Church in general. One of the rules he set for himself while at Oxford was to write a poem every day. Some of these were of a secular nature, while others expressed his deep spirituality and Catholic faith. One such poem was called, ‘Ring Ye Bells of Joy and Praise.’ This work was set to music by him, and became a tradition at Harvest Festival or Thanksgiving Services for decades. It was included in the old hymn book, The Book of Common Praise, revised in 1938. 1934 saw the publication of a small book of Uncle Jim’s hymns, all but one with his original tunes, entitled ‘Spirit of Life and Other Hymns.’
By the start of World War II, the organ had become increasingly unreliable. While magnificent in sound, it continued to have mechanical problems. The touch was very heavy for the player, due to the long levers needed to reach to all parts of the large and spread out instrument. Purchased second hand from a former Methodist Church, it had been moved .to St. Stephen’s by Breckles and Mathews, and many changes had to be made to fit it into its new home. Many of these changes became serious trouble spots.
Already noted is the fact that St. Stephen-in-the-Fields was a large and rather grand edifice, in some respects, pretentious. It always seemed that maintaining its fabric and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in more affluent parishes was constantly just beyond the resources of the people. Thus in order to obtain a suitably impressive pipe organ, the congregation resorted to a used one. When rebuilding and modernizing it seemed necessary, sadly they turned to an organ builder who was often willing to compromise on quality, and build or rebuild to a price. While James, now Canon, Ward had dreams, like the organist of the time, of a Casavant, the work was done by Franklin Legge. Some of the new components made by Legge still function well today, but some do not. By this time, 1942, Uncle Jim was referring to the parish as St. Stephen-in-the-Red. Although he was never satisfied with the result of Legge’s work, the cost was half of a similar job by Casavant, the only really good Canadian organ builder still in business at the time, and the Rector paid for a large part of the work from his writing income. No further major changes were made to the instrument until Canon, later Bishop, Guy Marshall became rector, with Peter Roe as organist and choir director.
Meanwhile the tradition of fine Anglican choral music was maintained and enhanced. In keeping with both the Rector’s love of music and the influence of the Oxford Movement, all Sunday and Festal services were fully choral, although Anglican chant rather than plainsong was commonly used. Collects and prayers were intoned. At that time in Toronto the practice of singing the entire service was in the same league, in certain circles, as candles on the High Altar. Uncle Jim used to tell an anecdote in this connection.
There had been a few attempts by certain clergy and laity to convince the Bishop, possibly through a Bishop’s Court, to discipline priests who insisted on singing services, lighting candles and holding processions. It was on the fifth Sunday of a month, when parish tradition decreed that the Litany would be sung, that Uncle Jim claimed to have recognized a group of visitors in the Nave, known to be of the Low Church persuasion. About half way through the Litany, Uncle Jim added a petition, and sang, “From those who have come to spy upon our service,” and the Choir, without hesitation, immediately responded, “Good Lord, deliver us!”
Music by choir and congregation was an important part of the wonderful religious dramas which became a special feature of St. Stephen’s through the years.
Somehow, the details were never given to me, Uncle Jim became friendly with the Rogers family, inventers of the’ batteryless’ radio, which they manufactured and sold in Toronto. Their patent on that idea was very successful, and the new ‘plug in and play’ radios became popular around the world. Broadcasting was in its infancy, but the Rogers brothers saw the potential and founded on of Canada’s first commercial radio stations, with the call letters, CFRB. The CF being assigned by Ottawa, and RB standing, of course, for Rogers Brothers. The station remains as one of Canada’s major private stations, although no longer owned by the Rogers family who later moved on into television, telecommunications and cable systems.
From the beginning of CFRB, James Ward was a writer for the station, doing freelance work, often without pay, providing scripts for radio plays, often with a Western slant, commentaries on local, national and political events, commercials, and, of course religious broadcasts, especially aimed at children and young people. Needless to say he also saw the possibilities for regular Church broadcasts. There was no way that St. Stephen’s, whether in the Red or in the Fields, could afford air time, even in those days. However, the Rogers family, in appreciation for the many ‘freebee’ scripts made an arrangement with Uncle Jim. If the Church would pay for the necessary phone line connection to the studio, CFRB would, at first, provide air time for the 11:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. services.
The broadcasts continued from the 1920’s until the induction of Canon (later Bishop) Marshall. After the station was sold, the new management of CFRB honoured the commitment to Canon Ward and St. Stephen’s, but with the rising operating costs of CFRB, its growth and the value of air time, the broadcasts in the later years were limited to one hour on Sunday mornings, and Evensong was no longer carried.
To me as a child it was always exciting if we were not attending our own parish Church, St. Clement’s. Eglinton (North Toronto) to listen to the broadcasts on our Rogers Batteryless Radio, and hear Uncle Jim’s distinctive voice. Immediately before the offertory hymn, he would make the station announcement , his ‘commercial’ and finally announce the hymn, quoting the ‘New’ book, the ‘Old’ book and the ‘American’ book. The broadcasts were heard as far away as Pittsburgh, and responses came from New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as all over Ontario and parts of Quebec. The formula was always the same, and we would listen to Uncle Jim announce, “This is the service from St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, broadcast to you over radio station CFRB. We are always glad to hear from our listeners, just drop a line to St. Stephen’s Rectory, 99 Bellevue Avenue Toronto. We will now sing Hymn number….. in the New Book, ….. in the Old book and …. In the American book. “ And the service would continue. Money was never mentioned, but donations came regularly, and were still arriving for a year or more after that last broadcast.
My mother, sister and I listened to the broadcast of that last service on a radio in Uncle Jim’s room at Sunnybrook Hospital. The officiant and preacher was Bishop Wilkinson. At this time the Bishop announced that Canon Ward was being appointed Rector Emeritus, an honour seldom given. He praised James Ward as a pioneer among Churchmen, especially as a broadcaster and proponent of religious theatre. Uncle Jim, lying there having difficulty moving in his bed, was obviously pleased, but embarrassed, by what he heard. A few days later the accident he had suffered while crossing College Street from the Church proved to have been a fatal one, and my next visit to St. Stephen’s was for Uncle Jim’s funeral.
St. Stephen’s, Home of Thespians
Always modern in outlook, yet always fascinated by the past and the traditions of the Catholic Church, especially, of course, as represented by Canterbury, James Ward had studied the Church and its ways from the earliest times. One of the things that appealed greatly to him was the use of drama in and around churches and cathedrals, especially in Mediaeval times. The mystery plays, pageants and other productions which had so often been used inside the ancient structures and outside, using the porch as a stage, had often been used by the clergy as a means of telling stories from scripture or to demonstrate the lives of saints and martyrs. That made a lot of sense in a time when the majority of people were unable to read and write, and often did not understand the Latin used in the various liturgies.
Of course the Nineteenth Century and the Twentieth saw the growth of Sunday Schools and with that the introductions of children’s dramatics and the Christmas and Easter pageants. Uncle Jim was, needless to say, fully aware of this, but what he sought was something of he highest possible calibre. He firmly believed that whatever was done or performed in the Church must be of the highest possible standard. Needless to say the ‘jazz Masses’ that were becoming de rigueur at the time he was nearing the end of his career as a priest, had no appeal.
While at Trinity and after returning to Canada through its alumni, James Ward came in contact with Dorothy Mavor Moore and her family of actors as well as noted Toronto actor Earle Grey. It was his feeling that if there were to be plays performed in the Church, then they should be professional performances of which the Church could be proud.
Over the years he wrote a number of religious plays, best known being the Passion, and Christmas dramas, along with ‘The Gleaners,’ based on the book of Ruth. For many years at least two, and usually more, productions were staged at St. Stephen’s, attracting large crowds, pretty well filling the Church to capacity. In the earliest days the names of Dorothy Mavor Moore and Mavor Moore were strongly connected with the plays, and in time the Earle Grey Players made St. Stephen’s their home, and presented the works. The stage was made by placing planks atop the choir stalls, stretching across the Chancel. The Choir was usually involved, though hidden from view behind the stage, while the organ had a considerable role. My most vivid memory of the plays was the impressive performance of Earle Grey himself, playing the part of Pontius Pilate.
In the finale or climactic scene of each play, I recall the Cross on the High Altar, visible above the stage, being suddenly and brilliantly illuminated, generally with a glorious musical moment by the hidden choristers and the organ blazing forth.
My copies of the plays have now been given to St. Stephen’s, but sadly I did not have the entire set. They were published by Longmans, and at one time at least, were available from both the U of T and Trinity College libraries.
Personal Recollections: These vignettes represent incidents, memories and impressions from earliest childhood until the arrival of Canon Marshall as rector. They may be totally disjointed, but I have tried to keep them more or less in the order of occurrence.
Uncle Jim was a frequent, perhaps constant, visitor to our home, and nobody was ever more welcome than he, by parents, grandfather and my brothers, sister and me. He was very tall and quite thin. In my earliest years he was balding but with a fringe of black hair which turned grey as the years went by. His voice was low-pitched and distinctive, perhaps a bit ‘different’ as a result of his war wound. My brother Gerald used to call him ‘The priest with a Gothic arch..’ All of us used to imitate his voice, to various degrees of success. He always wore black, as befitted a priest… shoes, socks, suit and clerical vest. The only contrast we ever saw was the white of his collar. At that time it seemed that there were two types of clerical collar popular among Anglican clergy. Those of a Low Church predilection tended to wear rather high and noticeable ones, while those touched by the Oxford Movement chose collars with a lower, more subdued profile. One of my first recognitions of a difference within the Church was a comparison between St. Clement’s and its rector of the time and St. Stephen’s and Uncle Jim. The latter sported the smaller collar, while Canon Nicholson, vicar and later rector of St. Clements, proudly wore an awesomely large and conspicuous white one. The High Altar in north Toronto was rather bare as I first recall it, with no candles and a cross for the retable came later. At St. Stephen’s I remember one Eucharist during which a candle was accidentally extinguished. Uncle Jim casually went up to the footpace, hitched up his cassock and found a match which he proceeded to strike on the sole of his shoe before re-lighting the candle.
The black motif was carried out as Uncle Jim always wore a cassock around the Church and its grounds which were more extensive then, including a large three-story Parish Hall with an historic school building as an auditorium. His car, always shining, was a black 1938 Oldsmobile opera coupe, which he was still driving in 1956.
Through his Trinity/St. Hilda’s connections and the Arts and Letters Club, Canon Ward managed to cultivate a number of Toronto’s wealthier families, and when the Wardens had difficulty with the famous red ink each year, somehow he was able to coax appropriate funds to balance the budget by year end.
The Rectory, then at 99 Bellevue, was a fascinating place for a boy to visit. The house was enormous, as rectories were in those days, and very much a bachelor domain. There were shelves and boxes of books everywhere, with National geographics dating back to 1900. At a time when most of the boys in my school class were collecting pictures of cars (They were scarce during and just after World War II, so definitely objects of fascination) Uncle Jim allowed a friend of mine and I to collect automobile ads from his stacks of magazines, and as a result we were the envy of all our friends with pictures of things like a 1909 Rambler, or a 1902 Tudhope in our scrap books. Thinking back, we had been permitted to spoil some valuable magazines with our scissors and glue pots.
There was also a fine piano, a zither and a wind-up phonograph for entertainment when visiting. There were examples of Uncle Jim’s art work on walls, in boxes and on easels. He did a great deal of pen and ink drawing as well as very skillful etchings. At times I recall being present while he worked on the latter, intricate drawings into wax on a sheet of copper, then acid applied to complete the work. After that ink and a hand press… All fascinating.
In most respects, as mentioned, Canon Ward was up to date with the technology of the time, but his personal tastes were definitely more along classical than ‘popular’ lines. He was born during the reign of Queen Victoria and lived, of course, during the Edwardian period. Thus some of his artistic and musical tastes were heavily influenced by the tastes of his youth. Whileh is writing and art work still suit today’s world, his musical compositions are best described as Edwardian period pieces. Some rather overly lush harmonies and very romantic key changes in his hymn tunes make them difficult to sing today. Perhaps that kind of music will come back into vogue in the future. For now seem ‘interesting’ and ‘quaint.’ For those interested, my copy of ‘Spirit of Life and Other Hymns’ has been given to St. Stephen’s, and should be on display or otherwise available. The hymn for Harvest, ‘Ring Ye Bells of Joy and Praise’ is in the 1938 Book of Common Praise, but rather than using Uncle Jim’s own tune, the recommended tune is ‘Monkland’ by J.B. Wilkes. (Hymn number 311 in the Blue Hymnbook.) That was the tune normally sung at St. Stephen’s while Canon Ward was rector.
Uncle Jim’s sermons were always quite brief. They were also very thoughtful, and just slightly academic, but not overwhelmingly so. He spoke quietly, and with no histrionics. Another contrast with our parish Church where Canon Nicholson preached long and fiery sermons, his words thundering from the pulpit… In later years I asked Uncle Jim if his brevity was to fit in with the time constraints of the broadcasts. His comment was, “If you can’t get your message across in seven minutes, you are talking too much. If you go on for more than ten minutes , they’ll all go to sleep.” Made a lot of sense, but I thought that sleep would have been impossible during one of Canon Nicholson’s sermons!
The day the Bishop of Toronto, Archbishop Owen, I believe, told Uncle Jim he was to be installed as a Canon of St. James’ Cathedral, he, the new Canon, called us with the news and came to dinner to celebrate. I don’t remember how old I was at the time, but do recall asking him before dinner while the adults had a sherry, just what being a Canon meant. He explained, “It means I get to preach in the Cathedral once a year when the Dean is away on holidays…”
As with most churches at the time, St. Stephen’s had active Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides. The units all kept their flags in racks at either end of the Altar in St. Stephen’s Chapel which was in the south aisle, now converted for other purposes into rooms. One morning when Canon Ward went into the Church the eight flags were missing. Of course those were also the days when most Anglican and Roman Churches were open all day and often twenty-four hours a day for prayer and meditation. People still respected holy places. He made the discovery on one of the days when he was visiting our home, and told us of the loss with sadness that anyone would do such a thing. We asked what he planned to do. He smiled, and told us that he would talk to the Sunday school about how disappointed the Lord would be over such behaviour, and also say something similar in Church on Sunday, with a mention in the prayers of intercession. We were told that the following Monday morning all the flags had been returned.
During the last years of his incumbency, Canon Ward, watching the finances of the parish, was fairly certain that the Bishop was thinking of closing St. Stephen’s. One of his thoughts was to have at least one item of furniture that would be portable, and if the building were to be closed, the people would take it with them to either a new building or perhaps to another Church, should the parishes be combined. He thought that the ideal item might be a new processional Cross, to replace the existing simple, wooden one. Having made that decision, he set about drawing a design to scale for a brass Cross on a wooden staff. Of course Bishop Wilkinson did not close the place, and for the time being the plan was shelved. The wooden Cross remained in use, and the drawing gathered dust in Uncle Jim’s study.
At last, having reached the age of seventy and beyond, his health failing, partly as a result of conditions during World War I which had long-term effects on so many veterans, the time came for Canon Ward to retire from the parish he had served so long and so well.
Once again the parish’s resources were a concern, and the Wardens along with diocesan officials tried to find a way to provide for a new rector and maintain the services of the curate, Rev’d . Father George Roe, a retired priest who had come back to help Canon Ward. The problem was solved with the appointment of Canon Guy Marshall who was already Chaplain to the Flying Angel Mission to Seamen in Toronto Harbour, and an honorary associate at St. Paul’s, Bloor Street. Canon and Mrs. Marshall would have the rectory as a home, but no stipend, since he would continue to be paid by the Mission. The parish could manage the much lower salary of a curate at the time.
Shortly after these decisions were made, Uncle Jim contacted my mother, now a widow, suggesting that he might rent half a house from her, since she now owned the family home in Lawrence Park. Unfortunately for both Uncle Jim and my mother, who at that time told me she was still carrying a torch for him, the large house had been sold just a few days before the phone call, replaced by a typical, small suburban bungalow in Willowdale.
Within a month, and days from his official retirement, Uncle Jim was crossing College Street to a restaurant, now gone, for lunch. He was struck by a truck and badly injured. The story of my last visit to him in the hospital has already been told. Shortly after the induction of Canon Marshall, Canon Ward was buried from St. Stephen’s, with interment at St. James’ Cathedral Cemetery. That service was the last time I saw the Church filled, with standing room only. The nave and aisles, with seating for well over nine hundred, were filled to overflowing. Of course the Chancel and Lady Chapel were filled, and along with the choir clergy from the diocese and beyond were in attendance, as well as those of other denominations. Even the aging and ailing Cardinal McGuigan was there, and the service was conducted by Bishop Wilkinson, assisted by a number of Uncle Jim’s colleagues…
Shortly after Canon Marshall moved into the rectory, the design for a new Processional Cross that Canon Ward had drawn was discovered. The Wardens, led by Rector’s Warden Major Ernest Moogk, decided to have the Cross custom made to Uncle Jim’s design, and placed in the Church as a memorial to the rector who had served so many years. It is there to the present time.
Another interesting sidelight. After World War I Uncle Jim had been curate and priest in charge at the Church of St. Simon the Apostle. Shortly after the arrival of Canon Marshall as Rector, organist Dr. James Burchell left to assume his present position at All Saints Cathedral in Halifax, and was replaced by Peter C. Roe, son of the Rev’d. Fr. George Roe. A couple of years after his arrival, Peter managed to purchase the pipes for the pedal trombone stop from the organ at St. Simon’s, which was being rebuilt. Peter donated and installed the pipes, which form a part of the organ at St. Stephen’s today. The huge, 16’ pipes are mounted on the back of the swell box, for anyone interested. Just a coincidence? Who will ever know.
This essay is based pretty well entirely on memory, and is not the result of any in-depth research, archival research, and so on. The late Rev. Canon James Edward Ward was a very close family friend and very much a ‘hero’ of my early days. Allowance must be made here for any errors due to the faulty memory resulting from my own advancing years. While to the best of my knowledge the incidents mentioned are true, I would not dare to guarantee the order in which they occurred the exact dates involved. With those reservations, it is hoped this will be found of interest to present members of St. Stephen’s parish.All material here is based on personal recollections and information which was given by my late mother and her father. Little, if any, of this material has been set down in writing before now.
— Ross Trant, August, 2002
1. Bellwoods Park, near Crawford Avenue, was the site of the original Trinity College and University. The last of the old building was torn down about fifteen years ago, but I believe some minor remnants were retained for historic reasons, although I’m not certain of that. There is, I believe, a ‘Historic Site’ plaque there. The facade was pretty well identical to the present Trinity College, without the Chapel which was completed around 1953.
The original Trinity, like the present one, was firmly affiliated with the Church, and was ‘High Church’ in leanings, reflecting the Oxford Movement which was beginning at the time. Like Oxford colleges, it stressed the classics and humanities, had daily Chapel services and students and graduates on the campus wore gowns at all times. The architecture was also quite reminiscent of certain Oxford colleges.
When Egerton Ryerson took over the Ontario/Upper Canada/Canada West education system from Bishop Strachan, he secularized King’s, closed the chapel and the divinity school and changed the name to University College, University of Toronto, removing all religious references and connections which had always been a part of Oxford (and Trinity.) The new building, the present UC, was designed to be very different – a new and more secular kind of structure. Of course the gowns went, except for ceremonial occasions, mainly convocations and opening of term. The differences between UC and Trinity continue today, of course.
2. My mother and her parents (and Uncle Jim) lived on Pacific Avenue at the time. Uncle Jim was 21-22 when he went back to high school. That’s a major difference, of course, compared with 17-18 year olds, especially then. It made him and the other mature student legal adults. They also had the maturity of previous work experience etc.
3. I’m afraid I never had many details of how or when Uncle Jim was wounded, but believe it was in 1917 and involved flying shrapnel, one piece damaging the roof of his mouth.