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Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery Municipal Heritage Site

Torbay, Newfoundland and Labrador, A1K, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2007/07/16

Photo view from Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery, looking east, facing Holy Trinity Primary and Elementary School, Torbay Road, Torbay, NL, 2006/05/10; L Maynard, HFNL, 2006
Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery, Torbay, NL, 2006
Photo view of Father Troy marble headstone with stone cross in the background, looking west, Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery, Torbay Road, Torbay, NL, 2006/05/10; L Maynard, HFNL, 2006
Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery, Torbay, NL, 2006
Historic photo view facing front of former Roman Catholic stone church with cemetery, looking west, Torbay, NL, circa 1900; Torbay Museum, 2006
Former RC chapel with cemetery grounds, Torbay, NL

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/11/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery is located directly off Torbay Road, Torbay, adjacent to St. Michael's Memorial Garden. It contains more than forty headstones, a large, stone cross monument and remnants of a stone church, as well as some cultivated plants and shrubs. The front portion of the cemetery is surrounded by a rock wall with an iron crown and gate. The municipal heritage designation includes all the cemetery land enclosed by fencing, the gravemarkers and monuments within, and the rock wall and iron gate.

Heritage Value

The Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery has cultural, spiritual, historic and aesthetic values.

The Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery has cultural value, located as it is amidst a cluster of properties that bespeaks the settlement of Irish immigrants in Torbay from the 1700s and the coinciding role of Roman Catholicism in the community over the last several centuries. The collection includes the second Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery, church, school, parish hall, rectory, St. Michael’s Memorial Garden (former site of St. Michael’s Convent) and St. Michael’s Convent Cemetery.

The Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery has spiritual and historic values as the oldest known cemetery connected with the Roman Catholic faith in Torbay, as well as the site of the community’s second Roman Catholic building of worship. From 1863 to 1920, a stone church on the site served Torbay’s Catholic residents, along with those from predominately Irish neighbouring communities including Flatrock, Middle Cove and Outer Cove. Its construction began in 1857 with stone shipped from Bell Island or possibly Petty Harbour and drawn from Torbay Beach by volunteers. Some of the church stone was eventually reused nearby to construct the foundation and entrance stairs for the next Holy Trinity Church and an altar in the second Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery. The remaining ruins of the stone church were disassembled around 1962. A decade later, the local Holy Name Society used some of that stone to erect a large, semi-elevated, prostrate cross with an inscribed plaque to mark the church’s former location, and to build a new wall at the front perimeter of the old cemetery.

The use of stone as a building material on the site has historic significance because it harks back to the nineteenth-century period when the Torbay church and a handful of other stone churches were erected in Newfoundland under the direction of Bishop John T. Mullock. Only two of those buildings remain.

The monuments and gravemarkers at the Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery serve as historic records. The majority of gravemarkers bear nineteenth century dates of death starting circa 1836. They record more than thirty surnames, and several record the deceaseds’ Irish immigrant status. A white marble monument commemorates Father Edward Troy, a feisty figure active in Newfoundland partisan politics and very prominent personage in the history of Torbay and region. The Irishman was the community’s first parish priest, serving from 1848 until his death in 1862. Another white marble monument records a prominent tragedy in Torbay’s history when four local boys drowned while competing in the 1884 juvenile fisherman’s race of the annual St. John’s Regatta. Their team was sponsored by the Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society, which erected the monument.

The Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery has aesthetic value due to its appearance and its status as a longtime, highly visible feature of the townscape. The cemetery is located on a grassy embankment directly alongside the main road and is in view upon descending Piperstock Hill, entering the centre of Torbay. The rock wall and iron gate at its entrance make it stand out, while its other physical elements evoke the nineteenth century period. The oldest of its forty gravemarkers are sandstone or limestone, while most are white marble tablet types. There are also some column forms and fieldstone markers, and several grave plots are delineated by ornamental iron fencing. These styles and materials are typical of the period, as is cultivated flora at the site, such as lilac, tansy and columbine. All these elements combine to make the cemetery a special place in Torbay’s cultural landscape.

Source: Town of Torbay Regular Council Meeting Motion 173-07 July 16, 2007.

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements that reflect the age, function and historic value of the site, and which contribute to its aesthetic value including:

-location in community;
-all extant gravemarkers;
-limestone, sandstone gravemarker materials, plus the preponderance of 19th-century white marble gravemarkers;
-design, materials and placement of monuments including those commemorating the old church (stone cross), Regatta tragedy and Father Troy;
-stone wall with iron crown and gate;
-grave plot fencing;
-natural, grassy topography;
-and cultivated plants and shrubs.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

NL Municipality

Recognition Statute

Municipalities Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1857/01/01 to 1972/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Town of Torbay, PO Box 1160, 1288 Torbay Rd, Torbay, NL, A1K 1K4

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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