Description of Historic Place
The church at 317 Ramsay Street, known as Christ Church Amherstburg, is a one-storey brick church designed in the Neoclassical style and constructed in 1818-1819.
The exterior of the building and select interior features are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property was also designated by the Town of Amherstburg under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1978 (By-law 1511).
Christ Church is located on Ramsay Street, at the southern edge of Amherstburg's historic downtown, in close proximity to the church rectory and the graveyard. The property is bordered by an iron fence.
Christ Church is associated with Lt. Colonel William Caldwell (c. 1750-1822), Rev. Richard Pollard (1753-1824) and Fort Malden (Amherstburg). It is the oldest church in Essex County.
William Caldwell, a Loyalist, came to Niagara and joined the Butler's Rangers during the American Revolution. He assumed command of the regiment when Butler fell ill. After the Revolution, in 1783, he settled in Amherstburg and worked as the Justice of the Peace, the Deputy Lieutenant of Essex County and was an officer in the British Indian Department. During the War of 1812 he commanded the Western Rangers and the First Nation forces. Following the War of 1812, planning for a new church began. The Indian Council House, where Anglican services were held, was destroyed during the conflict. Col. Caldwell donated one acre of property to the Anglican church trustees, along with 100 guineas, for the church construction. In return for his donations, Caldwell asked that a pew be marked, and held for his use, an obligation fulfilled to the present.
Rev. Richard Pollard was stationed at nearby Sandwich and was the chaplain at Fort Malden. He received a grant from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to establish four churches in Essex County, one being Christ Church. The British Government also contributed money to build Christ Church on the condition it would serve Fort Malden and provide a place for soldiers to worship.
Built in 1818-1819, Christ Church was constructed with the assistance of the Royal Engineers. Rev. Romaine Rolph, who served as the incumbent of Christ Church, from 1819-1836, and Rev. Pollard celebrated the first mass, on December 12, 1819. This makes Christ Church the oldest Anglican church in Essex County. The church was consecrated, in 1833, by the Bishop of Quebec, the Rt. Rev. J.C. Stewart.
Christ Church was designed in the Neoclassical and Palladian style. Its remaining, 1819 features, include the red brick, in Flemish bond; the open frame ceiling (uncovered in 1912). The ceiling also features 10”x10” exposed timbers connected by pins of oak and hand-wrought iron bands. Its construction reflects an upside down ship's hull, in Norse fashion.
Notable features on the exterior include the round-headed wooden double doors, round-headed Georgian windows recessed within brick arches and two small finials above the front eaves. The side walls each contain four round-headed windows and three lancet windows on the chancel. The east (rear) façade is dominated by a single pointed-arch window. The original spire was replaced in the late 19th century with an octagonal wood lantern, which was replaced again, in 1935, by the present square base and copper spire, topped with a cross. Additions include an 1853 porch, at the front of the church and an 1875 addition of six metres, to the east end of the church (over burial grounds), providing space for choir stalls, a chancel and an organ. In 1953, the chancel was enlarged as a memorial to members of the parish, who died during the Second World War.
The interior contains oak pews, which replaced the original black walnut pews, and the centre-aisle of Norman design, both added in 1912. The stained-glass windows date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Source: Ontario Heritage Trust Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Christ Church include its:
- pew marked for Lt. Colonel William Caldwell
- red brick in Flemish bond
- round-headed wooden double doors
- round-headed Georgian windows recessed within broad brick arches on the front façade
- two small finials above the front eaves
- round-headed Georgian windows on the side walls
- lancet windows on the chancel
- copper spire topped with a cross
- 1853 porch
- open frame ceiling
- 10”x10” exposed timbers constructed as an upside down ship's hull in Norse fashion
- pins of oak and hand-wrought iron bands
- 1875 addition providing space for choir stalls, a chancel and an organ
- oak pews
- centre-aisle of Norman design
- choir loft
- memorial to members of the parish who died during the Second World War
- stained glass windows
- iron fence
- close proximity to the church rectory and graveyard