Description of Historic Place
Cannington Manor Provincial Park comprises two separate parcels of land near the Moose Mountain upland in southeastern Saskatchewan. A 15 ha parcel contains archaeological remains of a late-nineteenth century village, several replica buildings of wood-frame and log construction, and a 1920s one-storey, wood-frame schoolhouse that serves as the park’s visitor reception centre. Located near the centre of the village site, but not on park property, is a shiplap-sided log church built in 1884 and its associated cemetery.
A second, 32 ha parcel, located 3 km from the village site, consists of a farmyard surrounded by hayfields and poplar groves. The yard contains a 2 ½ -storey wood-frame house, remnant walls of two stone outbuildings, and a memorial cairn that marks the grave of Arthur Hewlett, the property’s second owner.
The heritage value of Cannington Manor Provincial Park lies in its association with late nineteenth century settlement in the Canadian West. Following its acquisition of Rupert’s Land in 1870, the Canadian government sought to establish an agrarian society in the West based on British institutions and values. Accordingly, the settlement of English-speaking pioneers was actively encouraged. While farmers of modest means were to be the backbone of a stable agricultural economy, the immigration of wealthier individuals who would help “civilize” the frontier was also promoted.
Homesteaders began arriving in the Moose Mountain area in the 1880s. Most were of lower socio-economic standing, though some were more well to do. Among the latter was Edward Michell (Captain) Pierce, an upper middle class Englishman who aspired to the life of a gentleman farmer. Intending to establish a centre for agricultural and industrial development, Pierce founded a village named “Cannington Manor” after Cannington in Somerset, England. To further his ambitions, Pierce wrote letters to English newspapers promoting the West as a place of opportunity where, with little capital, families could support themselves in the style of a landed gentry. As a result, a number of middle class English were persuaded to settle at Cannington Manor. This “English Group” cultivated a lifestyle that emulated refined Victorian Society and inspired much of the legend that came to surround the settlement.
By 1889, the village had a school/town hall, teacherage, church, vicarage, land titles office, post office, flour mill, hotel, store, blacksmith’s and carpenter’s shops, and several residences. Despite its auspicious beginnings, the village faced numerous obstacles. Lack of access to markets, a difficult climate, depressed grain prices and an economic depression in the West conspired against the village’s success. The death of Captain Pierce and failure to secure rail service were further blows. Although Cannington Manor thrived for a time, its wealthier residents eventually left, taking with them the capital that had sustained the village. By the turn of the century, the village was largely abandoned. Around the same time, policy-makers were realizing that settlement of the prairies on strictly British lines was not viable. During subsequent years, immigration to the West would have a much more ethnically diverse character.
The park is also valued for its contribution to the present-day community’s sense of time and place. Although much attention has been paid to the English Group and their “eccentric” lifestyle, the working class farmers also played a vital role in the life of Cannington Manor, providing the wealthier English with paid labour and much-needed agricultural expertise. Moreover, it was the farmers who persevered and succeeded after the village declined. Today’s community residents proudly identify with the ethos of hard work, endurance and cooperation embodied in the story of these first farm families.
Heritage value also lies in the architecture of the Humphrys/Hewlett house. Built by the Humphrys family in 1888, the scale and amenities of the 18-room house speak to the affluent lifestyle of Cannington Manor’s English Group. The house is one of the last intact examples of the homes built by the settlement’s wealthier residents, and is also notable as one of the earliest and largest balloon-frame structures in Saskatchewan. Purchased in 1904 by Arthur Hewlett, a practical, hands-on farmer, the property also symbolizes Cannington Manor’s transition to a more typical Canadian-style farming community.
Further heritage value resides in the park’s educational role. Since the 1960s, the park’s archaeological remains, replica buildings and period implements and furnishings have been used to present the story of Cannington Manor to the public.
Province of Saskatchewan, The Parks Act, May 26, 1986.
The heritage value of Cannington Manor Provincial Park resides in the following character-defining elements:
-elements that illustrate the layout and structure of the village, such as the position of replica buildings, the marked locations of former buildings, and the trail that corresponds to the village’s original main street;
-elements that reveal information regarding daily life in the village and at the Humphrys/Hewlett farm, including archaeological objects; structural features such as cellars, walls and foundations; and the spatial relationships of the remains;
-those structural and exterior elements of the Humphrys/Hewlett house that contribute to the house’s status and prominence, including its balloon-frame construction, scale, form, massing, and detailing such as the window trim and the metal roofing on the dormers;
-exterior elements of the Humphrys/Hewlett that are faithful to its period, including the clapboard siding and wooden shake shingles;
-interior elements of the Humphrys/Hewlett house that reflect the lifestyle of Cannington’s middle class residents, such as original woodwork and finishes; the spatial configuration of the rooms, including the two-storey entry hall with second floor gallery and grand staircase; and the darkroom with its built-in photographic processing tables;
-elements related to the settlement’s commercial enterprises, including the foundation of the flour mill and the remnant stone walls of Humphrys’ hog barn and pork plant;
-elements that reflect the settlement’s transition to a Canadian-style farming community, including Arthur Hewlett’s grave and memorial cairn, and the 1920s schoolhouse with its rectangular form and gable roof;
-elements that speak to the park’s educational role, including public access to the park for interpretive purposes, replica buildings, period furnishings and implements, and artifacts and furnishings original to the village such as the carpenter’s tools and Captain Pierce’s desk on display in a replica residence.