Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Uncle Richard's church

 Gower Street Church sketch

In downtown St. John's, nestled among old buildings and within a stone's throw distance of the harbour lies a little part of my heritage.  George Street United Church as it has been known since 1925, was originally built as a Methodist church in 1873 and survived the Great Fire of 1892, making it the oldest Methodist church in the city.

Constructed with rough Newfoundland stone hewn from the Southside Hills (a gift from the Hon. Stephen Rendell), George Street United Church was designed by Elijah Hoole of London, England (who was also the architect of the present Gower Street United Church). The simple, modified Gothic style church was built in 1873 by master mason Richard Atwill of Devonshire, England, and joiner William Campbell of Queen's Road, St. John's.
 Richard Atwill was my great great uncle on my mother's side and had moved from Broadhempston in Devon to St. John's, Newfoundland  employed as a Master Mason.  Shortly before the church was complete, Richard was inspecting work, fell from scaffolding and died later of his injuries.  I had found his grave in the cemetery last year which told some of the story behind him and the church that he worked on.   So while technically it wasn't Richard Atwill's church I always still think of it as 'Uncle Richard's church' when I am in that part of town and see the spire rising above the rooftops.

Looking back in history, its interesting to see and hear about the past and it also see something tangible that has survived like this church.  Even now, 106 years after his death my great great uncle still lives on though this building.

Interestingly Richard's parents, Richard and Eliza and a brother George died all within a week of each other in 1882.  Presumably from some contagious disease.  I don't imaging that January in St. John's in the late 1800's was a warm place.


Jennifer Rose said...

interesting part of your family history :))

Swiral said...

I think we might be distantly related, do you have any more information on your Atwill relatives?

Feel free to contact me for more of the little information I have

Jeanette said...

Its interesting to look back and see a little part of your own history Jennifer.

Swiral, interesting. But I don't have a way to contact you. Perhaps you can send me an email - my address in on the right side of my blog and I'll get back to you.

Peggy Montano & Paintings said...

I love family history and this is a great story,
I had planned to visit NF some years ago but after checking air flights decided to end up in Halifax. :-)