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Old St. James Church

5875 Rte 12, Birch Hill, Prince Edward Island, C0B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2020/11/27

East elevation; Province of PEI, C Stewart 2019
East elevation
Side and rear elevations; Province of PEI, C Stewart 2019
Side and rear elevations
Interior; Province of PEI, C Stewart 2019

Other Name(s)

Old St. James Church
Old St. James Anglican Church
The Old Shipbuilders' Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2021/01/13

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Old St. James Anglican Church in the Parish of Port Hill is a Georgian style building dating from 1841. Located in Birch Hill, Prince Edward Island, it features a gable roof, eave returns, fluted corner pilasters, and large pointed arch Gothic windows. The church is set on an Island sandstone foundation in the midst of its cemetery.

Heritage Value

The Old St. James Anglican Church is valued for its fine Georgian architectural features; its association with the history of the Anglican Parish of Port Hill; and for its contribution to the community.

The building was built in 1841 as a mission church in the area of Port Hill. However, it was not the first church in the area. There had been one on the farm of Hatfield Maynard. The first missionary appointed was Rev. William Roche. In June 1843, Bishop John Inglis visited the church and consecrated it. In his journal, Inglis wrote:
"We next proceeded to the Church at Port Hill, which, though small, is compact, and suitable to the place, to which it is very creditable. Mr. Yeo's subscription to the building was 50 Pounds. It was consecrated, with its burial ground, and named after St. James. Fifteen persons were confirmed, and notice was given for the administration of the Lord's Supper, for the first time. I addressed the people on all the employments of the day, and found them very attentive."

The Mr. Yeo mentioned in this excerpt is James Yeo who was a major shipbuilder and strong adherent of the church. His son would later build nearby Yeo House, now a local museum administered by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation.

The church was used until a new one was constructed across the road in 1885. It was then used as a Sunday School. The building was never electrified and contains many fine interior details such as the original box pews.

The Georgian style of the building is evident in its gable roof with eave returns, fluted corner pilasters, wood shingle cladding, and square configuration. The body of the church contains large pointed arch Gothic windows with decorative tracery. The most ornate of these is located in the chancel behind the altar and contains many panes of colourful stained glass. A small entrance porch is located on the opposite gable end. The structure originally had a spire, but this was removed in 1890.

With its many historic associations and remaining architectural features, the Old St. James Anglican Church remains a landmark in its community.

Heritage Places files, Department of Economic Growth, Tourism & Culture, Charlottetown, PE File # 4320-20/O5

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements contribute to the Georgian heritage value of the church:

- The original Island sandstone foundation
- The wood frame construction and wood shingle cladding
- The fluted corner pilasters
- The gable roof with eave returns
- The brick chimney
- The small entrance porch
- The chancel with large stained glass window
- The Gothic style pointed arch windows with decorative tracery
- The location of the church near its cemetery



Prince Edward Island

Recognition Authority

Province of Prince Edward Island

Recognition Statute

Heritage Places Protection Act

Recognition Type

Designated Historic Place

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Peopling the Land
Migration and Immigration

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Places files, Department of Economic Growth, Tourism & Culture, Charlottetown, PE File # 4320-20/O5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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