St. James Anglican Church is a wooden building designed in the Gothic Revival style during the episcopacy of Bishop Edward Feild (1801-1876) by British architect Reverend William Grey (1819-1872). Located in Battle Harbour on the south-east coast of Labrador, St. James Church is the oldest non-Moravian church in Labrador. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
St. James Anglican Church was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1991 due to its aesthetic, historic and cultural value.
St. James Anglican Church was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Reverend William Grey and constructed in 1857, having been commissioned by Bishop Feild in 1852. This church is a simple expression of Gothic Revival, with elements such as the exposed timber framing on the interior reflecting Grey’s Tractarian practices which placed particular value on the medieval Gothic traditions of the English church.
By the time that Bishop Edward Feild first visited Battle Harbour in the mid 19th century, there were over 300 residents. He noted that he would hold services in the general store, having to turn away people away due to overcrowding. Despite the population, Battle Harbour had not been previously visited by an Anglican minister, nor did it have a church.
Due to the sporadically harsh climate of Newfoundland and Labrador, Grey’s designs were intentionally simple. He wrote that features common in England like battlements and pinnacles would be “either ludicrous, or dangerous, or both together” in this new country. Grey taught architecture to other clergy in St. John’s, professing that a minister should also be able to design and build a church. His distinct style is seen in churches built by some of his students, such as St. Stephen’s Church in Greenspond. Grey also designed churches built in Forteau, Hermitage, Portugal Cove, St. John’s, Burgeo, and possibly Tilt Cove and Nova Scotia, none of which still exist. Grey remarked that Newfoundland and Labrador was “a country little known and often very underrated,” and in 1858 he decided to publish a book of personal sketches of his travels, in which he includes some depictions of churches he built.
St. James Anglican Church is representative of a rural Gothic Revival style church and has a bell tower with a pyramidal roof at the west end of the nave and a vestry at the east end. Both the nave and vestry have a steep pitched gable roof. Many original interior features remain, including latches, hinges and keepers that are typical of the Victorian period.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Battle Harbour – St. James Anglican Church – FPT 1425”
Character Defining Elements
All interior and exterior features (lancet windows, pulpit, baptismal font) that are representative of a Labrador interpretation of the Gothic Revival style of architecture, including:
-narrow wood siding;
-pyramidal roof of bell tower;
-steep pitched gable roof of nave and vestry;
-number of fixed, single pane windows with shaped trim, style, materials, construction, and placement, and;
-building height, massing and dimensions.
All original interior features that are typical of the period of construction, including:
-original latches, hinges and keepers, and;
-interior exposed timber ceiling.
Those features which speak to the environmental value of the church, including:
-location and context of the church within the Battle Harbour landscape.
Battle Harbour may have received its name due to the hostilities between the local Inuit and European settlers in the early-to-mid 18th century. It was a natural checkpoint for ships travelling north along the Labrador coast taking part in the Labrador fishery. It was here that Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established his first hospital outside of St. John’s. On a visit in 1892, he was struck by the lack of medical services in the area and made the building of a hospital a priority. Another theory is that it the name has Basque origins.
The residents of Battle Harbour were relocated during the government resettlement programs of the 1960s and 1970s, but some still returned to the island in the summer months to use their original houses as summer homes. In 1990, during the downturn of the Newfoundland and Labrador cod fisheries and eventual moratorium in 1992, the newly formed Battle Harbour Historic Trust took over the site and began extensive renovations on the buildings, stores, flakes, and wharves. After the site’s designation by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1991, it also became a Canadian National Historic District in 1997.
Location and History
Not specified (Labrador)
1857 - 1857
Reverend William Grey
Rectangular Short Façade