Description of Historic Place
St. Paul's Anglican Church, a prefabricated iron structure built in 1890-92 and later expanded, occupies an open site at the northwestern edge of the northern seaport of Churchill where the Churchill River flows into Hudson Bay. The provincial designation applies to the church and grounds around the church.
St. Paul's Anglican Church, a long, rectangular, Gothic Revival structure, the core of which contains rare pre-1900 iron components imported from England, is one of the oldest prefabricated metal buildings in Canada and the only known iron facility of its type that survives in Manitoba. The church's metal framework, wall panels and roofing were gradually assembled at the isolated Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) post of Fort Churchill (1783-ca. 1933) on the west side of the Churchill River just south of Hudson Bay by Rev. Joseph Lofthouse, the post's first resident Anglican missionary and later the first Bishop of Keewatin. The durable, unpretentious building was moved in 1936 across the river to the new port of Churchill, where in expanded and altered form it stands as the oldest church still in use in northern Manitoba. Beyond its valued spiritual role, St. Paul's has a rich legacy of associations with northern trade, exploration, settlement and defence, as demonstrated by fine material features that commemorate Arctic explorers Jens Munk and Sir John Franklin, the former HBC post at York Factory and a former military base (1942-80) at Churchill.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Minute, January 13, 1996
Key elements that define the heritage character of the St. Paul's Anglican Church site include:
- the open Churchill-area location on a large lot in proximity to the Churchill River and Hudson Bay
Key exterior elements that define the church's modest Gothic Revival style, rare construction type and symbolic features include:
- the simple rectangular form of the 1890-92 building under a medium-pitched gable roof
- the post-relocation extensions, including the slightly lower, gable-roofed front porch and the stepped rear (chancel) addition with a central gable and lower shed-roofed side sections
- the 1968 tower commemorating an early seventeenth-century Danish Arctic expedition led by Jens Munk, set into the gable end, topped by a slender spire and containing an 1857 bell from York Factory
- the fenestration, including four tall, rectangular, flat-headed windows on both sides of the 1890-92 structure, the chancel's large pointed arch and two smaller rectangular openings, etc.
- the composite construction, including the standardized plan and prefabricated iron framework, metal wall and ceiling panels and metal roofing of the 1890-92 structure, etc.
- the minimal details, including the horizontal siding, front curved bargeboard, plain window and door surrounds, modest plate and intersecting tracery in some windows, etc.
Key interior elements that define the church's spiritual and commemorative functions include:
- the simple layout, including the vestibule, unobstructed centre-aisle nave, narrow, modestly elevated chancel, etc.
- the unpretentious material qualities and details, including varnished tongue-and-groove wall panelling and flooring, the metal ceiling, the pointed chancel arch, etc.
- the stained-glass windows, including one donated by the widow of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin to the Anglican mission at York Factory and now preserved at St. Paul's, and windows from the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the former Churchill military base
- the artifacts, furnishings and other details, including four metal liturgical plaques, a convertible pew from the 1890-92 church, a 1924 plaque inscribed with a Jens Munk drawing of the Churchill area, etc.