St. Thomas' Anglican Church Registered Heritage Structure
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
Description of Historic Place
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is a timber framed church built in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. This church, built in 1836, is the oldest church in the city of St. John’s. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1986 due to its architectural, historical and environmental values.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is architecturally valuable as an excellent example of an early Gothic Revival building in Newfoundland. As the oldest Anglican Church in Newfoundland St. Thomas’ exhibits a simpler plan than many of St. John’s other large churches. St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is constructed of local spruce and pine, featuring a simple shape, and timber frame construction and these features make St. Thomas’ unquestionably a pioneer church. Furthermore, in its application of Gothic motifs to the exterior of the church St. Thomas’ is also an example of the early development of Gothic Revival architecture in Canada. The early Gothic tradition in Canada involved the use of Gothic elements such as pointed arch windows on the exterior of traditionally simple buildings. Perhaps the most distinguishing Gothic feature of St. Thomas’ Church is its spire which sets it apart from other Gothic churches in British North America during this period. Other structures had the same central square tower façade but the spire did not become common until the 1840s. Moreover, within the immediate neighbourhood of stone buildings, the appearance of St. Thomas’ church is distinctive.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is also architecturally valuable for its association with locally renowned builder Patrick Keough. Keough came to Newfoundland from Wexford, Ireland and is noted for his work on Government House, Presentation Convent and the Harbour Grace Courthouse. St. Thomas’ Church is valuable as a rare known surviving example of this prominent builder’s work in wood. The fact that St. Thomas’ church remains intact after almost 170 years stands as a testament to the quality of the craftsmanship of Keough.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is historically valuable as the oldest, continually used Anglican Church in Newfoundland, having survived both Great Fires of the 19th century in St. John’s. Built in 1836, the land for the church was secured by Governor Sir Thomas Cochrane with the stipulation that space in the church be reserved for officers and troops of the nearby Garrison. St. Thomas’ served as the Garrison church from 1837 until 1871 when the British Garrison in St. John’s closed. St. Thomas’ is also valuable for its association with Bishop Aubrey Spencer who commissioned the church and consecrated it in 1840.
St. Thomas’ Anglican Church is environmentally valuable for its location in St. John’s. This church forms part of a complex of select buildings which symbolize the early governmental, religious, and military history of Newfoundland.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John's - St. Thomas' Anglican Church - FPT 1650”
Character Defining Elements
All those elements which are representative of the building's age and construction in the ecclesiastical Gothic Revival style of architecture, including:
-central square tower, pointed arches, spire;
-use of local materials;
-mid pitch gable roof;
-layout of building;
-window style and placement;
-window and door trim;
-narrow clapboard sheathing; and,
-building height, massing, dimensions and size.
Location and History
||City of St. John's
||008 Military Road
||1834 - 1836
||Rectangular Short Façade