This Sunday morning, St Paul’s Anglican Church in Sydenham will celebrate its 180th anniversary.
This stone church has an intriguing history. (much of the following is drawn from an account written by the late Gladys Lewis, in 1962) The church was originally built in 1837 in Loughborough on a 1.5 acre parcel of land at the junction of Church, Portland and Walker streets, on property provided by Sarah Switzer, wife of Robert Osborne. Money from the Clergy Reserves paid for the construction, but the property itself was not owned by the church until 14 years later, when it was “conveyed to the Bishop of Toronto and his successors forever..” Sarah Switzer Osborne was given 15 shillings in recognition of the property exchange.
By 1848 the brick rectory had been constructed, and a Rev T W Allen was the first full-time clergyman to live there. Finally, “having been fitted up and furnished with all things needful and necessary for the performance of Divine Service,” the church was consecrated, dedicated and named as the Church of St Paul on August 7, 1852. The congregation raised 40 pounds sterling to buy the bell.
In 1893 the first railway to Sydenham, an extension of the Napanee, Tamworth and Quebec railway was built, its tracks passing into the village below the church on the hill. In 1904 the congregation requested a rector from England. When the Rev John Astlay, his wife, son and two daughters arrived they came by train, accompanied by ‘a Scotsman’ who served as a butler and tutor for the children. The town band and most of the village residents were at the station to greet them.
In 1910, what became the CN rail company bought the tracks, extended the rail line to Smiths Falls and later Ottawa, and relocated the tracks a few metres north in order to build a longer, better grade up the small escarpment to Harrowsmith. That year, the rail company bought the church property. The graves were relocated to the current graveyard, and the church was taken down stone by stone. Only the rectory still stands, on Hobbs Lane. Without more research there is no record of the congregation’s reaction to the railway’s demands that the church be removed to accommodate the new rail line.
The current church property on Mill Street was purchased from Charles Ruttan, the cornerstone was laid Sept 12, 1912, and a year later the new St Paul’s was officially opened by the Bishop of Ontario. Photos show that the second church building was reconstructed differently from the first: the windows are shorter and wider, and the tower and entrance was moved from the centre to the side.
The church’s 180th anniversary will be celebrated at a special service at 10 am Sunday the 22nd, presided over by the Bishop, who will use a version of the 1837 Anglican service. The choir has prepared both old and contemporary music, and congregants are encouraged to wear period costume if they wish to. Coffee and 1837-style treats will be shared after the service. Everyone welcome.