Description of Historic Place
Saint Edward's Anglican Church is situated on a hill overlooking the Annapolis River in Clementsport, Nova Scotia. Built of local materials in the New England Meeting House style with Classical detail, St. Edward's was consecrated in 1797. Graves of early settlers are nearby in the surrounding churchyard. The building, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
Saint Edward's Anglican Church is valued because it is an outstanding example of the successful melding of the New England Meeting House style with pure Classical detail. It is also valued for its historical association with Loyalists of Dutch ancestry.
When the United Empire Loyalists came to Nova Scotia, some took up land in Clementsport around 1783-1784. Most of them were of English and Dutch ancestry. For a number of years following their arrival, divine services were held in private homes and a barn. It was in this barn, owned by Captain Douwe Ditmars, that the first Confirmation in the extended area between Annapolis and Digby was held. Annapolis had its own rector, the Reverend Jacob Bailey; Digby had its rector as well, the Reverend Roger Viets. These faithful priests conducted services and ministered to the spiritual needs of the people in what is now Clements Parish.
By 1790, the number of families had noticeably increased. With that increase came the desire of the people to have a church of their own. In that year a petition was drawn up and sent to the Right Reverend Charles Inglis, the first Bishop of Nova Scotia, requesting the building of a church, to which Bishop Inglis gave full approval. Construction started on St. Edward's in 1793 and was completed, or nearly so, by the late summer of 1795. The land on which St. Edward's stands was donated by Douwe Ditmars, and St. Edward's was consecrated in 1797 by Bishop Inglis. From 1797, priests from the neighbouring parishes conducted services until 1841, when Clements Parish was founded and the first rector, the Reverend W.M. Godfrey, was appointed. Reverend Godfrey continued as rector for forty years.
By 1880, St. Edward's was desperately in need of repairs and, together with the problem of heating the church in the winter, it was agreed to build another church on the main highway, and then proceed with the demolition of this building. The new St. Edward's was built in 1894.
Although official consent had been given for the demolition of St. Edward's and committees appointed every year to see that this was done, no action was taken. In 1916, the Reverend A.W.L. Smith came as rector of Clements Parish. Reverend Smith was keenly interested in St. Edward's and was opposed to its demolition. He set up a committee to work for its restoration and to establish a museum.
St. Edward's is one of the oldest surviving churches in Nova Scotia. Its proportions and method of construction are examples of a New England Meeting House style melded with overtones of Classical detail. Built of wood and rectangular in plan, it has a rectangular chancel and square bell tower capped with a squat, four-sided steeple. The Palladian window with its fanlight is one of the most interesting features of the church. The church also contains the original pulpit with sounding board and box pews.
Graves of early settlers are nearby in the churchyard. The most prominent names are Ditmars, Vroom and Purdy. The oldest burial in the cemetery is that of Douwe Ditmars who died in 1796. Ditmars was the man who donated the land on which the church was built.
St. Edward's is still consecrated and a service is held annually on the third Sunday of August. St. Edward's currently operates as a museum during the summer months.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 50, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Exterior character-defining elements of Saint Edward's Anglican Church include:
- wood frame construction;
- rectangular plan;
- rectangular chancel;
- square bell tower capped with a squat, four-sided steeple;
- single doorway with shouldered architrave and a simple, closed pediment in the front façade;
- large, round-headed entrance with double doors and architrave and keystone on the south elevation;
- round-headed windows with moulded architrave and keystone;
- small oculus at the peak of the front façade;
- cemetery surrounding the church, with original grave markers.
Interior character-defining elements of Saint Edward's Anglican Church include:
- original pulpit with sounding board and box pews;
- Palladian window with fanlight;
- rear gallery;
- chancel arch outlined with a wooden moulding and keystone;
- plastered ceiling in a barrel shape, with an interesting pendant hanging above the line of the gallery.