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Saint Mary's Anglican Church

39 Mill Street, Hillsborough, New Brunswick, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2009/12/07

Saint Mary's Anglican Church, the Elegant Lady of Mill Street, viewed from the north; Village of Hillsborough
Saint Mary's Anglican Church - from the north
View of the interior taken from the pulpit. The interior conveys the impression of an overturned shipd's hull.; Village of Hillsborough
Saint Mary's Anglican Church - Interior
This sketch was completed by architect J. T. C. McKean on April, 1887.; Village of Hillsborough, William Henry Steeves House Museum archives
Saint Mary's Anglican Church - Sketch

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1887/01/01 to 1889/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/04/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Saint Mary’s Anglican Church is a two-storey church in a rural interpretation of the Shingle and Queen Anne Revival styles. The unusually prominent chimney replaces a more traditional steeple. It is located in a rural setting on Mill Street in Hillsborough.

Heritage Value

Saint Mary’s Anglican Church is historically significant as a symbol of the development of the Anglican Church in Hillsborough. The Church of England has always been closely associated with ‘King and Country’. Being an Anglican in Britain’s colonial empire was a social advantage. For instance, three quarters of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in America were members of the Church of England. However, what had been an advantage before the American Revolution became a huge disadvantage after the revolution. Thousands of Anglicans were forced to flee to Canada as United Empire Loyalist. In 1789, to avoid being tarred with the same brush as royalist sympathizers, the Church of England in the United States changed its name to the Episcopal Church. Anglican clergy held meetings in what is now Albert County as early as 1820, but it was not until 1861 that a congregation was established in Hillsborough. They met in various halls until 1886 when funds were raised to build a church of their own. When the initial funding proved insufficient the congregation turned to the Tompkins Family, who owned and managed the Albert Manufacturing Company, the area’s largest industry. Along with the needed funds, the Tompkins family provided suggestions on the interior design of the church.

Saint Mary’s Anglican Church is also recognized for its architecture. Completed in 1889, the exterior of the building was designed by J. T. C. McKean of the architectural firm McKean and Fairweather. This firm had designed the Saint John City Market, built in 1876. The domed ceiling and super structure of this market building has been compared to the overturned hull of a sailing ship. On a much smaller scale the ribbing and planking of the church’s ceiling convey the same impression. Adding to this nautical theme, the stained-glass bowed end of the church resembles the fantail, where, in a sailing ship, the captain’s cabin is located. However, having the rounded apse and the wings of the transepts at the opposite end of the nave from the altar is a reversal of traditional interior church orientation. This special place incorporates many different architectural elements and blends them together so smoothly that it has a style uniquely its own. There are hints of the more traditional Gothic Revival style layout and window shapes, but without the pretentious gloomy details. The usual glitter of the Queen Anne Revival style is tapered by the more rural Shingle elements. The church even teases its own liturgical purpose. Why bother with the traditional church steeple when, in our country, the answer to most prayers is just to be warm? What better way to symbolize warmth in a church than by making the steeple a chimney.

In the small grave yard behind the church are located the tombstones of the first four managers of the Albert Manufacturing Company, indicating that the influence of the Tompkins Family lingered long after their passing.

This church, the ‘Elegant Lady of Mill Street’, still welcomes her devout and devoted flock each Sunday, just as she has for the last one hundred and twelve years.

Source: Heritage Hillsborough, William Henry Steeves House Museum, Local Historic Places files

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements relating to Saint Mary’s Anglican Church include:
- irregular two-storey massing with a suggestion of a traditional Gothic Revival layout;
- rounded apse and transepts located opposite the altar;
- steeply-pitched gable roof;
- open belfry supported by knee braces in the gable end;
- ornamental cresting along peak of roof;
- copper finials;
- wooden cross finials;
- gable-roofed dormer over the southwest entrance vestibule;
- unpainted shingled roof and exterior walls;
- trefoil stained glass windows with diamond-shaped tracery;
- stained glass lancet windows with tracery and small inset rose windows;
- large flared red-brick chimney with a fireplace;
- interior woodwork and pews;
- ribbing and planking of the ceiling resembling the overturned hull of a ship.



New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Local Historic Places Program

Recognition Type

Municipal Register of Local Historic Places

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


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

J. T. C. McKean


Joseph Tomkins

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

William Henry Steeves House Museum, 40 Mill Street, Hillsborough, NB, E4H 2Z8

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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