Old Saint Paul's, Woodstock, Ontario

Trivitt Memorial, Exeter St John the Evangelist, Kitchener Christ Church, Meaford St John's, Sandwich Old Saint Paul's, Woodstock

723 Dundas Street, Woodstock, Ontario

The Rev. Bruce Genge

Sunday Services:
8:00am and 10:30am
Summer: 8:00am and 10:00am

During the reign of King William IV (1830 - 1837), capital punishment for theft was abolished, and slavery was abolished in the British Empire (1833). These were momentous times for the Empire and her residents, and one of these residents, Captain Andrew Drew, Royal Navy, came to the Woodstock area of Upper Canada acting as an agent for Admiral Henry VanSittart. He bought up 300 acres of land, and donated a plot of land for a church and cemetery. Construction began, and St. Paul's, Woodstock was built of local brick in the classic Georgian style. It is told that the brick maker left town shortly after the construction of St. Paul's due to the poor quality of the bricks he had supplied!

Looking at Old St. Paul's today, you can imagine the original building: a box-shaped building, with no sanctuary and no transepts. Two remaining clear glass windows possibly date back to the original building of 1834. The sanctuary was added to the original building in 1843, and the modifications continued in 1851 with the addition of the transepts.

Admiral VanSittart financed the stipend of the rector, and William Bettridge became the first rector of St. Paul's, remaining in that position for 45 years (1834-1879). The Admiral was less lucky: he fell cemetery in an underground vault off his horse in 1843 and died of the resulting injuries. He, with his family, is buried in the cemetery in an underground vault. The building, as it stands today, is an architectural curiosity, with aspects of the original Georgian building preserved, along with the Gothic additions. The original building was consecrated in 1838 by Bishop Mountain, and the present building was declared an Ontario Historic Site in 1958.

In the mid 1870's, it was decided to build a new, larger building to replace St. Paul's, and with the opening of New St.Paul's, the final funeral was held in what was now Old St. Paul's in December of 1879. Discontentment with new arrangements was strong among many of the parishioners who had moved out of the old building, and by Whitsunday, 1882, a portion of the congregation moved back into the old building, where they felt they belonged. Old St. Paul's became a new parish, starting from scratch.

Old St Paul's, Woodstock, Ontario
Exterior front of building, showing original Georgian architecture
and tower used as overnight jail in 1837

The Sanctuary

The petition to reopen the building was successful due in large part to a marble memorial plaque given by the officers of the Madras Light Infantry in memory of Capt. John Alexander Light who died in Paris in 1846. The congregation had been appointed Trustees of the memorial, and the church was named responsible for its perpetual preservation. It was the Trusteeship of this plaque that was named the main reason for reopening the building, after having been closed from December, 1879 to May, 1882.

The Baptism of Jesus

The original altar book, published in England in 1822, before the parish existed, can be viewed in the church. It shows alterations made by the hand of William Bettridge on the occasion of the death of King William IV, and the accession of the young Queen Victoria in 1837.

Two aspects of the interior really caught my eye. First was the sanctuary, added in 1843. On the wall behind the altar, four tablets contain the words of the Decalogue, the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Also, the care taken when moving the altar out from the east wall means that when sitting in the nave, the sanctuary still appears as it did in 1843.

Second is the amazing stained glass. The rich blues and deep reds portray well the scriptural texts they illustrate, such as The Road to Damascus, Jesus' baptism, Jesus and the little children, the Calming of the Sea and Jesus in the Temple, to name but a few.

Old St. Paul's, Woodstock, is a piece of living history in our diocese, and perhaps the only church in our diocese which was used as a jail during the 1837 Rebellion!

November 2006 photostory by Fr. Michael Atkins (former rector
St Luke's Broughdale, London, Ontario)
Many thanks to Fr. David Joyce and Mrs. Shirley Woodall for the hours they spent with me going through the building, the grounds and the history of this beautiful "architectural curiosity". Well worth a visit.

In front of the church is an Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board Commemorative Plaque on
Old St Paul's Anglican, Woodstock
top: The Road to Damascus
bottom: Jesus calms the sea