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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Hillsborough United Church is a rural two-storey Gothic Revival church building from the mid-19th century and is located on Main Street in Hillsborough. For Christians, faith and hope are enduring mainstays of their belief. In many churches, such as Hillsborough United church, this faith is symbolized in the architecture by soaring steeples reaching toward heaven. On this building, the square-topped belfry with balustrade is transformed into a larger scaled version of the widow’s walk atop the neighbouring house on Main Street.
The Hillsborough United Church is of historic significance as an enduring landmark erected by the village’s forbearers as they struggled to insure their spiritual well-being.
Even though physical survival was a constant struggle for the early settlers in Hillsborough, they considered the preservation of their souls to be of paramount importance. Their beliefs, founded in faraway lands, surrounded and nurtured by a congregation of likeminded people, proved strong enough to survive the loneliness, cold and backbreaking toil of frontier life. One of the hardships the settlers endured was the absence of ordained clergy living amongst them. For Methodists, who were required to follow an organized study of the scriptures, this lack of spiritual leadership was most troublesome. In 1781 an Apostle of Methodism, Bishop William Black from Amherst preached to the German settlers in Hillsborough. During his infrequent return visits to the village, he held meetings in the common meeting house that stood on the northern border of the burying ground used by the Acadian people prior to 1755. By 1862 the Methodists felt confident enough to move to Surrey and build their own church. Mr. Amos Bliss donated the land for the church and parsonage. Captain William Irving was a strong advocate of the church and became one of the first trustees of the new church.
The Hillsborough United Church is also recognized for being a good example of mid-19th century Gothic Revival religious architecture. This style is evident in the form and massing of the overall structure, the use of Gothic arch windows and the square central bell tower that sits atop the gable of the front façade. A flat widow’s walk was used instead of the more traditional spire. Widow’s walks were flattened areas on roof tops with a view seaward, where family members waited in hope and prayer, for the sight of loved ones safely delivered home from sea, a fitting feature for this coastal village. The church building has changed little during the past one hundred and forty-eight years. The placement of a full basement under the building in 1996 allowed for expanded worship activities and church suppers. The most significant structural change was not to the building, but to the church’s organization. In 1925 the Methodist Church joined with the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church to form the United Church of Canada.
Source: Heritage Hillsborough, William Henry Steeves House Museum, Local Historic Places files
The character-defining elements relating to the exterior elements of the Hillsborough United Church include:
- rectangular two-storey massing;
- moderately pitched end-gable roof;
- square bell tower at the gable end of the front façade;
- bell tower balustrade (widow’s walk) has a spire at each corner;
- tall narrow lancet venting on bell tower;
- returned eaves;
- tall narrow lancet windows with label moulding and Gothic tracery;
- pilaster corner boards with plain capitals;
- portico with round pillars on either side and topped by a pediment;
- double door entrance;
- cement foundation;
- cement steps with wrought iron railings fashioned to reflect the shape of the building’s windows;
- clapboard sheathing;
- interior spartial arrangement, woodwork and adornments.
Local Governments (NB)
Local Historic Places Program
Municipal Register of Local Historic Places
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Captain William Irving
Location of Supporting Documentation
William Henry Steeves House Museum, 40 Mill Street,
Hillsborough, NB, E4H 1Z8
Cross-Reference to Collection