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Lanark Deanery

Franktown, Saint James

Franktown, Staint James
Diocesan Archives 51 F6 9
By on April 1, 2021

A Rare Early Image

We think of the late nineteenth century as an era of church building.  In what is  now the Diocese of Ottawa some 87 churches were built between 1836 and 1880.  But that was not the end of it.  Between 1881 and 1925 a further 79 churches were put up in this territory.  What is not so evident in this impressive statistical statement is that all this building was accompanied by a great amount of demolition of earlier churches.  As the High Victorian Gothic Revival became the favoured design for Anglican houses of worship, many older houses of worship were torn down in order to make way for something built in the new approved style.

In a few instances, either just before the work of demolition began or in the midst of it, photographs were taken of the exterior of Saint James’s Church, Carleton Place in 1881, or the interior of Christ Church, Ottawa in 1871.  By some miracle, a photograph survives of the interior of Saint James’s Church, Franktown—now the oldest surviving Anglican house of worship in the Diocese of Ottawa—before it was gothicized in the early 1890s.

Apart from the earlier churches at Perth and Richmond, perhaps the most significant and earliest of these churches built with the aid of prominent military men was Saint James’s Church, Franktown.  It also happened to mark the boundary between making-do with vernacular structures in which to hold worship services as opposed to purpose-built churches whose very design advertised their sole purpose to be worship.  Anglicans in Beckwith Township in 1823 at first requested the use of the King’s storehouse at Franktown, promising to finish off the interior for Divine worship, and the lieutenant governor—a senior military official—made a gift of the storehouse and the six acres on which it was located in 1826 together with the proceeds from selling a Perth lot on which another military storehouse was located.

The Rev. Michael Harris from Perth—another military veteran—brought a contractor “to estimate the expense of repairing the Store in Beckwith [at Franktown], & fitting it up in a suitable manner for Divine Service.” The contractor recommended that instead of spending seventy to eighty pounds on repairs to the log storehouse, to “lay out whatever funds [the congregation] could collect on a new building, as the money that would be expended on the old one would go far in putting up the walls &c. of a stone Church.”  Sure enough, when Harris consulted with the Beckwith congregation in early 1826, they enthusiastically offered “to put the whole of the Stone & Lime on the ground if His Excellency will permit the funds to be appropriated to that purpose, as they would much rather turn the old Store into a temporary Parsonage & to have a good Substantial place of Worship.”  By November 1826, the congregation had stone and lime on the church site at Franktown “ready to commence operations in the Spring,” and in the spring of 1827 the construction of Saint James’s Church began.

The pews shown were little better than rough benches, and were a later addition.  Contemporary sources tell us that for six years after the church was opened for worship there still were no pews.  There also was no book of banns, no fair linen cloth to cover either the communion table or the consecrated elements, and no baptismal font.

It is not possible to tell from this photograph that this structure was oriented toward the northwest, as it was built square with the main street of Franktown leading from Richmond in the east to Perth in the west.  This photograph does not show the gallery at the rear, but it does show a rustic rood screen to emphasize where Communion was celebrated.  We should also note that the lectern and pulpit are shown in front of the small communion table.  This photograph shows blinding light coming in through the clear glass of the Palladian or Venetian altar window, the board floor appears to be unpainted, and there is a total absence of decoration other than for two intersecting triangles above the Palladian window.

Such was the austerity of early worship here in 1833 that the clergyman reported some members of his congregation had bibles and prayer books, while others did not; the church had only one small prayer book and one small bible.  Although the clergyman “at different times both in Conversation & in discourses pointed out the propriety of the Congregation joining in the responses” from the prayer book, these reminders were “without effect.”

That between 150 and 200 people were reported attending services in a building measuring 33 by 55 feet and lacking pews suggests they were either standing or kneeling throughout the service.     

The Archives collects documents for parishes, including parish registers, vestry reports, service registers, minutes of groups and committees, financial documents, property records (including cemeteries and architectural plans), insurance records, letters, pew bulletins, photographs, scrapbooks, parish newsletters, and unusual records.  

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