Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Muscular Christianity

Canterbury Hall (1879)
Muscular Christianity. A idea which emerged during the Victorian era - physical strength and health married to the manly pursuit of Christian ideals in life and politics. A phrase which links these images of a very unusual church building in Trenton, and a glacial erratic found several miles north.

 But first...a few words about this polychromatic brick church, which has always caught my eye. Only a warm day last week brought me onto the streets of the town, to have a closer look. This is Canterbury Hall, built 1879 as the Sunday school and function hall for nearby St. George's Anglican Church. A picturesque Gothic revival building perched on a rise, it's an interesting style departure from its mothership, the 'English village' church in local limestone.

St. George's Anglican Church, Trenton
The brickwork is fascinating. Red brick creates bands across the facade, and follows the raking cornice of the gable. The exotic cross in the gable and the triangular motif depicting the holy trinity are unusual, conjuring mysterious lodge symbols. Diamond shapes, zigzags. The bricklayers were on fire that day.

Arches over the windows are flattened, Tudor style. Bricks are pressed into service to form decorative hoods over the windows.

And soaring overhead is a wonderful belfry pierced by a Gothic lancet arch opening.

Sadly, successive alterations to the front entrance have given the hall a perpetual dirty face. The building looks unoccupied. Graffiti are starting to add to the interesting facade. Uh-oh.

 And the link to the Bleasdale Boulder, that most muscular of rocks which rests where the glacier dropped it, in a lovely Conservation area on Highway 33? Reverend Canon William Bleasdale was the rector at St. George's from 1848-1889. The Reverend Canon supervised and volunteered in the actual manual work of building Canterbury Hall. And in his free time, this Victorian Renaissance man studied botany, astronomy, entomology and geology. Bleasdale drew scientific attention to the big rock in Glen Miller; featured on the scientific lecture circuit, it became a national curiosity - 'The Bleasdale Boulder'.

weighing in at one million kilos, the most muscular of Ontario rocks

Thanks to the LACAC notes resident in the fabulous Trenton library for the words to describe the wonderfully eccentric Canterbury Hall. And thanks to reference librarian Robert Amesse for making them available to me. 

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