Saint Paul, Osgoode Station

Diocesan Archives 51 050 3
Diocesan Archives 51 050 3
By on March 1, 2022

Carleton Deanery


Dificulties of Definition

This postcard from circa 1910 is the only known visual record of the first Saint Paul’s Church, Osgoode. Our momentary impression is that it was not a large structure, and further reflection confirms that our initial impression is not wrong.

Osgoode was an area of Scottish Presbyterian and Baptist settlement in the early 19th century, so Anglicanism did not enjoy early innings here, even though Osgoode was the largest geographic township in Carleton County. It was under the ministrations of the Rev. Anthony J. O’Loughlin that Anglicans formed strong churches at North Gower and Manotick between 1872 and 1884, and O’Loughlin is reputed to also have held services at Osgoode.  

His successor, the Rev. James Frederick Gorman, built the first Saint Paul’s Church, Osgoode in 1886 on land donated by Adam J. Baker. To judge from this postcard, it was located at Osgoode Station on the line of the Ottawa & Prescott Railway, perhaps to advise newcomers arriving by rail and the faithful that Anglican services were finally available locally here. There are some architectural historians who argue that the Gothic Revival had fallen out of favour for designing churches in the late Victorian era, and although this was true of some large urban churches in other denominations by the closing years of the 19th century, it did not hold true for Anglicans.  

Saint Paul’s, Osgoode is a case in point.  Despite its very small size—it would be difficult to find a smaller house of worship in the Diocese of Ottawa—it was very much built within the rubric of the High Victorian Gothic Revival. Only the entrance porch with its standard-issue side windows and door and its regular pitch of roof suggests that this was a very prosaic structure. But even the front door, with its non-standard width implied the ethos of the Gothic Revival in the larger structure, as it could be opened wider in order to permit coffins to be carried in and out for a funeral. The broader implication was that for Anglicans the days of all funerals taking place at home were coming to an end, as increasingly they came to be held in the church. The diagonal boards and the ornate hinges on the door to the sacristy reflected the larger Gothic Revival ambitions of those building Saint Paul’s.       

If the clapboards of this small house of worship seemingly contradicted the ambitions of the builders, they could not prevail against the larger design, with the steeply pitched wedge of the front gable filling a full two-thirds of the church’s height. Details of the larger Gothic Revival design were telegraphed immediately by the front triangular window containing three trefoil groupings of panes, the separate chancel that we can barely make out here, and the large pointed window in the sacristy which was larger than those in the side walls of the church.

There were a few flaws.  So ambitious was the design of this church that the brick chimney could not draw, forcing the builders to extend its height in metal to an extraordinary extent.  The belfry, instead of being octagonal to symbolize Christ’s resurrection on the eighth day of the week, appears hexagonal, which for those in the know symbolically alludes to the day of his crucifixion. And finally, what are we to make of the arches in the belfry—curiously M-shaped, and not to be found in any standard architectural work defining arch designs?   

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