Description of Historic Place
St. Stephen’s Anglican Church was constructed in 1840 and features a mixture of Greek and Gothic Revival architecture. The church is located at the top of a knoll near the corner of Regent and Central Streets in Chester, Nova Scotia. The municipal heritage designation applies to the church and surrounding property, which includes the church’s cemetery.
St. Stephen’s Anglican Church is valued for its age, historical associations, cemetery, and architecture.
In 1836 the parish determined that the congregation of St. Stephen’s Church had outgrown the original building and four years later it was demolished and within a week the new church was sufficiently advanced in its construction regular service began there in June 1840. One of the church’s early historic associations is with Captain Jonathan Prescott, a veteran of the second siege of the Fortress of Louisbourg and was one of the congregation’s first wardens. He is buried in St. Stephen’s cemetery, which surrounds the church on its north and east elevations.
The church also has a unique historical association that pre-dates its construction. Tradition maintains that the small wooden cross that hangs in the church is made from a section of the keel of the “Young Teazer,” an American Privateer that was set on fire by its captain to avoid capture by the Royal Navy during the War of 1812 in Mahone Bay. Local folklore insists its phantom ship still sails and can be seen burning in the bay. In addition to this interesting artefact, the interior of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church is somewhat unique because it boasts a full wrap-around balcony that is ornately designed and is a testament to both the size and commitment of the church’s original congregation.
The exterior of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church also clearly demonstrates the congregations’ desire to have both a large and beautiful building. The north and south elevations of the original part of the church boast a five bay façade of lancet arch Gothic Revival windows. The most notable feature of the original portion of the church is its ornately designed bell tower on the western elevation. The tower projects from the gabled end and moderate eave returns on the gable create a Greek Revival themed temple-style front façade. The tower is unique in the Chester area because it is topped by a flat roof with heavily ornamented pinnacles marking the corners, which are joined by a styled battlement.
In 1873 a large chancel addition was made on the east elevation of the church featuring a large window that features style elements common to both Romanesque and Gothic Revival designs. The chancel addition also features a small hipped roof entrance on both its north and south elevations to provide secondary entrances to the chancel.
Source: Municipality of the District of Chester Heritage Property Files.
The character-defining elements of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church that relate to its Greek Revival architecture include:
- placement of bell tower in middle of gable end, partially recessed into gable;
- eave returns on original portion.
The character-defining elements of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church that relate to its Gothic Revival architecture include:
- five bay façade of lancet arch windows on north and south elevations;
- single lancet arch windows on north and south elevations of chancel;
- modified Gothic Revival windows;
- lancet arch windows on eastern elevations;
- two large wooden entry doors forming a lancet arch at base of tower;
- exterior board and batten door and a paneled interior door, on tower, topped by a lancet arch window;
- pane-less lancet arch windows at top of bell tower;
- flat roof tower with ornate decoration.
Other character-defining elements of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church related to its exterior architecture include:
- steeply pitched gable roof on chancel;
- small partially hipped symmetrical additions to north and south elevations of chancel;
- moderate pitch of original gable roof;
- wooden shingle cladding;
- narrow corner boards on the tower and chancel;
- decorative mouldings under eaves;
- plain narrow frieze on all elevations.
Interior character-defining elements of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church include:
- wooden cross believed to be constructed from the keel of "Young Teazer;"
- wrap-around balcony featuring support columns with raised rail edges facing aisle forming an arch;
- ceiling design extending from top of supports to next support column;
- balcony railing made of highly decorative paneling;
- exposed arched support beams for chancel roof;
- interior passage from tower to church featuring a series of lancet arch open doorways.