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St. George's Church and Graveyard

119 Charlotte Street, Sydney, Nova Scotia, B1P, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1984/04/04

Front elevation, St. George's Church, Sydney, NS, 2004.; Heritage Division, NS Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004.
Front Elevation
Rear elevation, St. George's Anglican Church, Sydney, NS, 2004.; Heritage Division, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Rear Elevation
Front and side elevationss, St. George's Anglican Church, Sydney, NS, 2004; Heritage Division, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, 2004
Front and Side Elevations

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/05/16

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

St. George’s Anglican Church is located in downtown Sydney, Nova Scotia, at the corner of Charlotte and Nepean Streets. The stone Gothic Revival style church, built between 1785 and 1791, is a local landmark. St George’s architecture is a simple, clean expression of dignity and solidness. The building and the graveyard are included in the provincial designation.

Heritage Value

St. George’s Anglican Church is valued as the oldest Anglican Church in Cape Breton; the oldest building in Sydney; for the property’s long history; and as a representation of the important role its parish council played in colonial Cape Breton. Many of Sydney's early and prominent citizens are buried in its cemetery.

Building of St. George’s Church began in 1785 by engineers of the British 33rd Regiment of Foot, concurrently with the founding of Sydney and its designation as the capital of the new Colony of Cape Breton; however, it was not completed and designated as a parish until 1791.

Architectural Value

Part of the heritage value of St. George’s Church relates to its many changes since its construction. The original building was a simple stone Gothic Revival styled structure, approximately eighteen by twelve meters with three circular windows on the north and south walls. In 1853, a chancel and vestry was added. Starting in 1859, and continuing into the early 1860s, the church was rebuilt from its foundations in the Gothic Revival style, with an open roof and pointed windows, which were slightly ornamented with stained glass. In 1888 a stone tower and spire replaced a wooden tower, which had been destroyed by a gale in 1873. With the exception of a crypt constructed in 1974, St. Georges is much the same as it appeared in 1873 after its last major renovation. The interior of the church features: memorial tablets and memorial stained-glass windows dedicated to prominent individuals; wall-hung headstones; and a Casavant organ. The church's stone Gothic Revival styling is valued as a visible expression of the missionary ideals of its period and of an expansive period in the history of English Christianity. Examples of this style, executed in stone, are rare in Nova Scotia.

St. George's Graveyard is valued for its early sandstone and limestone grave markers. These markers are good examples of: large concentration of early grave markers that have a design and folk-art significance; unusual styles (a high concentration of large tomb-style markers); and locally-significant markers that were produced by local monument makers.

Historical and Spiritual Value

For almost two-hundred and twenty years St. George’s Church has been a place of worship, serving the people of Sydney. Originally, the Parish included the whole of Cape Breton Island, and St. George’s served as the British garrison chapel. As a garrison chapel until 1854, it was granted a Royal Pew and became the official place of worship for members of the Royal Family, if they should ever visit; a role that it still retains.

St. George’s Church also played an integral part in Cape Breton’s history as an independent colony. During the Island’s Colonial Period (1784-1820), the colony's House of Assembly was never called to sit. As a result, the vestry and warden positions at St. George’s were the only elected positions in Cape Breton Island during its colonial period. Many prominent local figures made their bid for the vestry in the hopes that it would further their political interests. Many of Sydney's prominent citizens from the Colonial Period onwards are buried in St. George's Graveyard. Memorials, such as a memorial tablet to Judge A. C. Dodd, the first Chief Magistrate of the Island of Cape Breton, are situated inside the church.

The church chancel contains a memorial window to Bishop Hibbert Binney, who was born in Sydney and was the fourth Church of England Bishop of Nova Scotia; while the nave contains a memorial window to the Honourable John Bourinot, father of Sir John Bourinot, who wrote the rules of order for the Parliament of Canada.

Source: Provincial Heritage Property Files, No. 026

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of the exterior of St. George’s Church relate to its simple Gothic Revival architecture and include:

- gabled roof;
- diagonal stepped buttresses at front corners;
- central stone tower with stepped angle buttresses and spire;
- lancet arch windows with slight stained glass decoration;
- elements of original foundation.

Character-defining elements of the interior of St. George’s Church include:

- memorial tablets;
- memorial stained-glass windows;
- royal pew;
- headstones hanging on the walls of the altar of people buried under the chancel and vestry;
- Casavant organ.

Character-defining elements of the St. George’s Graveyard include:

- eighteenth and nineteenth century sandstone and limestone grave markers;
- early markers, with a design and folk-art influence;
- large tomb-style markers;
- markers produced by local carvers.

Character-defining elements of the site as a whole include:

- continued use as a church;
- cemetery containing tombstones of early settlers;
- central keystone location in the Sydney’s North End, the oldest section of the city.



Nova Scotia

Recognition Authority

Province of Nova Scotia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act

Recognition Type

Provincially Registered Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1785/01/01 to 1791/01/01
1859/01/01 to 1888/01/01
1853/01/01 to 1853/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure

Architect / Designer



Engineers, 33rd Regiment of Foot

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Provincial Heritage Program, Property files, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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