Our History

St. John’s Anglican Church is an historic as well as religious landmark in the Town of Whitby. The "oldest" church building still in use in the town, it was built in 1845-46 and opened for worship on July 5th, 1846.

The land on which the church stands was owned by John Scadding, property manager for John Graves Simcoe, Ontario’s first Governor. Mr. Scadding established the village of Windsor at Big Bay (Whitby Harbour) in 1819, but was killed by a falling tree in 1824, before his community could develop. His sons, Charles and Henry, carried out their father's wish that an Anglican Church be established at Windsor, by giving one acre of land for this purpose. The gift was received by Bishop John Strachan on May 2, 1848, after the church was built.

St. John's Parish at Whitby was founded by Rev. John Pentland (1804-1871) in 1841, after he had established his first parish at Columbus in 1835. The first services were held in a log school house east of the present church.

The stone used to build St. John's Church in Kingston limestone, quarried by the prisoners at the Kingston Penitentiary. It was brought to Whitby by John Welsh (1810-1859) who started shipping grain from Whitby Harbour in 1833. He needed ballast for the return trip after shipping grain to Kingston, so he brought back blocks of limestone to build himself a store. At the same time he made a deal with James Rowe, another grain merchant, to supply building stone for a church, free of charge. William Smith, an Irishman like Welsh, Rowe and Pentland, designed the church and supervised its construction.

When St. John's opened, it had no seats and no organ. The first choir leader, Henry Bate (1810-1850) provided music with a violin, bass and flute.

In 1872, the church spire was struck by lightning. The lightning bolt passed along the east wall on the church and shot out into the cemetery from the north end. In 1913, the east wall had to be repaired because of cracks from the lightning bolt, and was stuccoed over. It was not until 1874 that the spire was replaced.

From 1889 to 1919 the church was unable to support a full-time minister, so was staffed by students from Wycliffe College, the Anglican theological school in Toronto.

In 1897 a basement was installed in the church and the floor raised four feet. A gallery at the back of the church was removed at this time, and the old box pews were replaced by the existing pews in 1900.

About 1950, the basement was extended to the north and in 1983 an addition was built above this basement to provide a nursery and meeting room.

 

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St. John's Anglican Church in Whitby turns 165
By Parvaneh Pessian

WHITBY -- Sunday school picnics, confirmation and even her wedding in 1948 are just some of the memories Lois Watson cherishes from her years at St. John's Anglican Church.