A bit of our history

ward neighbourhoodIn late 1845, John Strachan, the first Anglican bishop of Toronto, learned his financially struggling diocese had received an anonymous £5,000 bequest from England. The funds were to be used to build and sustain a new Gothic-style church to serve the poor. The donor’s will specified the pews must be “free and unappropriated forever.”
Strachan was a key figure in the Family Compact. Yet after the 1837 rebellion, he faced criticism over his affluent lifestyle and the church’s dominance. With the money, Strachan hired Henry Bowyer Lane to design the church, to be located in St. John’s Ward, on the site of an estate northwest of Yonge and Queen. Almost 50 years later, it was revealed that the mystery donation came from a young British woman named Mary Lambert Swale. Born to a family of wealthy bankers and lawyers, she married Hogarth Swale, a Yorkshire Anglican priest. Though they never visited Canada, the couple learned about Toronto from Strachan’s articles in an Anglican journal. Swale died in May, 1845, at the age of 25. The bequest had been part of her will, as was a similar gift to establish a place of worship for Australian convicts.
None of that backstory was known immediately after her death because Reverend Swale wanted the gift to remain a secret. When builders finished the Church of the Holy Trinity in 1847, writes Eric Arthur in No Mean City, “Strachan published a notice inviting ‘the poor families of the United Church of England and Ireland to make the church their own’ and another announcing the opening for service of the ‘Parochial Church of the Poor of Toronto.’”

Read the full article here

The Ward – excerpt article

Coach House Books published the book and more about The Ward can be found here 


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