Description of Historic Place
St. Andrew’s Church National Historic Site of Canada is a small stone Gothic-Revival-style church located in the community of St. Andrew’s, Manitoba, some ten kilometres north of Winnipeg. Set in a churchyard on the west bank of the Red River, at the northwest corner of River Road at St. Andrew’s Road, it is surrounded by a perimeter stone wall of rubble masonry, dating from circa 1858. The designation refers to the church on its footprint.
St. Andrew’s Anglican Church was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1970 because:
- it is the oldest surviving stone church in Western Canada;
- it is the earliest example of the Gothic Revival style in the West; and
- it became a centre of Anglican missionary activity in Rupert’s Land.
This church, replacing an earlier wooden structure, was consecrated by the Anglican Church Missionary Society as part of its mission in the Red River Settlement in December of 1849.
This pioneer expression of the Gothic Revival style is distilled here to its basic elements: a simple rectangular form, gable roof and tower. Its Anglican Church Missionary Society minister, Rev. William Cockran, designed the stone church, Hebridean stonemason Duncan McRae (1813-1898) supervised construction, and carpenter John Tait provided interior furnishings. Local parishioners donated funds, labour and the limestone, which was quarried locally. Three iron bells set within the tower and spire of the church called parishioners to worship. When St. Andrew’s ceased to function as a mission in 1886, it evolved to what it is today, a place of worship in an active parish, and a landmark in the province.
Changes in liturgical emphasis caused some interior modifications of the altar placement in the nineteenth century. Structural failure of two of the exterior stone walls required extensive repairs in 1931 and 1932. Routine maintenance of wood in the windows and spire has also been undertaken. Major structural repairs of the stone church’s walls, foundations, roof trusses and belltower took place in 1983 and the 1990’s.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board, Minutes, 1970; Commemorative Integrity Statement, February 2000.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value include:
- its location on the west bank of the Red River, at the crossroads of two historically main routes in the Lower Red River Settlement;
- its setting within a large treed churchyard with perimeter fence of limestone rubble, within which is contained some 2,000 graves, many marked with headstones of early settler families;
- its simple rectangular massing under a pitched roof with square tower on the gable end;
- its construction of local limestone with some inserts of fieldstone;
- its Gothic Revival detailing, notably the simple pointed-arch openings and tower with open wooden belfry;
- its entrance through the tower on the west end with flagstoned narthex;
- its fine craftsmanship evident in door and window trim of bush-hammered Tyndall stone, dressed with fine vertical grooves, and delicately carved corbels that finish each corner of the building;
- its windows with their original wooden mullions, Gothic arched frames, and delicate keystones at the apex of each opening;
- its layout with open hall and gallery, altar beneath the east window, centrally located pulpit, box pews, and wooden seats with kneelers flanking the nave;
- its original woodwork by carpenter John Tait, including the altar, pulpit, reading desk, choir stalls and pew boxes;
- its stained glass window in memory of William Cockran, fashioned in England and installed in 1885;
- its three bells, cast and shipped from England in the 1850’s.