Cart 0

Over 225 years ago...

“As the ship sailed into the mouth of the Niagara River in July 1792, Robert Addison caught his first glimpse of the little village of Butlersburgh that was to be his home for the next thirty-seven years. At first, it appeared to be nothing more than a line of bush along the shore of the Niagara River. This was the place he had been sent to as minister and missionary...”

 — St. Mark's Celebrating Since 1792,
by Fred Habermehl & Donald L. Combe


The Parish

St. Mark’s has a rich, historic past, dating back to 1790, when two residents wrote to Bishop Inglis of Nova Scotia requesting that a clergyman be sent to minister to the residents of the new village. The following year, the Reverend Robert Addison was commissioned as missionary and minister at Niagara. The Church and indeed the whole Diocese of Niagara owe their origins to his pioneer work.

A series of very interesting publications have been created by the St. Mark’s Archives about our parish rich history.


Robert Addison

Robert Addison was born 6 June 1754 in Heversham, England. He graduated with an MA from  Trinity College at Cambridge University and was ordained a deacon by the Church of England in 1781. He married Mary Atkinson, daughter of Rev.R.Atkinson, in 1780.  Addison’s  career with the church did not prove successful so, he applied to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts for overseas mission work and was accepted.   He travelled to Canada arriving in Quebec in the fall of 1791 and in Niagara in July 1792.

         Early services were held in the local Freemason Lodge, or the Court House and construction of the church building was begun before 1800.

Addison was the lone voice of the Anglican Church in the area as the nearest priest was at Bath near Kingston. He served a huge area of Ontario and spent much time away from Niagara.  Soon after his arrival  Addison began his registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials.  These  records remain important historical documents from these early times.

         The parish treasures Addison’s 1768 Romer silver chalice and a library of 1,300 sixteenth and seventeenth century books which he brought with him to Niagara.  The oldest book in the collection was published in 1548. Another item of note is a manuscript containing ten unpublished sermons from 1785.

         During the War of 1812, he served as a Brigade Chaplain to the Centre Division of the British Army in Upper Canada and in 1812 conducted the funerals of General Sir Isaac Brock and Lieutenant Colonel McDonell. When the occupying  American troops left Niagara in 1813, they burned the town and set fire to the church.  Fortunately only the roof of  the sandstone building was destroyed and was soon able to be restored. During the occupation of the enemy troops Addison was able to hold services in his home, Lake Lodge. After the War, Addison supervised the rebuilding the church. He remained in Niagara for thirty seven years, until his death in 1829. During his lifetime, he served his church and the people of Niagara, serving also on Niagara’s Public Library Board and the Board for the General Superintendence of Education and  aided in building of churches in Grimsby, Queenston and St. Catharines.

         Robert Addison’s remains  were interred by the north transept of the church.  He is memorialized by an impressive plaque on the church wall above the grave.

         He was succeeded by the Reverend Thomas Creen.

Robert Addison website.jpg

Addison Library


Addison Hall houses the oldest library west of Quebec, a collection that would have been typical of an English clergyman’s library in the eighteenth century.  It consists of 1200 publications, which were brought to Niagara-on-the-Lake by the Reverend Robert Addison in 1792.

Some of the volumes bear the name of Richard Atkinson, Addison’s father-in-law and curate in Whittlesey, England, as well as of William Beale and Thomas Topping, predecessors in that parish.  The books were housed in Addison’s home, Lake Lodge, outside of the town.  Consequently they escaped damage when the town was burned in 1813.  They remained in that house until the death of Mrs. Addison, when Robert’s grandsons inherited them. They retained the books they wished to keep and presented the rest to the rector of St. Mark’s “in perpetuity”. A catalogue of the books as well as an analysis of the collection was completed by Dr. William J. Cameron of the University of Western Ontario in 1967.

The Parish Hall has been named in honour of the founding rector of St. Mark’s, Robert Addison.  The collection is presently housed in a room, designed by the noted Canadian artist, Campbell Scott and constructed by local craftsman, Bill German.

The short-title catalogue of the books included in the Addison’s Library can be found Here.

Access to the library may be arranged through the church office.

War of 1812

During the War of 1812, the church was used first as a hospital by the British and Canadian forces and as a hospital and barracks by the Americans. When Major General Sir Isaac Brock was killed at Queenston, Addison conducted his funeral service and followed the cortege to the burial site in Fort George.

The American forces occupied the town in 1813. They destroyed the Fort and dug rifle pits in the cemetery, the contours of which can still be seen. The church was used for stores and several of the markers in the cemetery bear the marks of what the local residents believed to be the scars left when the cooks used them for chopping meat. Before retreating across the river, the enemy burned the entire town except for one house and the lighthouse.

As soon as the town was liberated, the British army replaced the roof of the church and used the building for their stores until their own Fort and commissary could be rebuilt. Since the first priority was to rebuild their houses, it was some time before attention could be given to refurbishing the church and it was not until 1828 that St. Marks was rededicated. At the same time, a bell was furnished by public subscription and intended both to call people to worship and to sound the alarm in case of an emergency.


The Windows 

The window over the altar (centre) was installed in 1843, the oldest stained glass windows west of Quebec. The top panels bear ecclesiastical and Masonic symbols at left, and the royal symbols at right (crown and three lions). These reflect the attachment of the Parish to the Anglican Communion and to the Crown of Great Britain. The middle panels have a Trinitarian theme with the Bible (God), the Cross (Christ), and the Dove (Holy Spirit). The lower panels contain an equilateral triangle (the Trinity), the Greek letters XP (Christ) and IHS (Jesus), and a trefoil (the Trinity). Oak leaves border the sides, a traditional British emblem.

Seven of the side windows are the work of R. McCausland & Son of Toronto. The first window, commonly referred to as the “Resurrection Window”, was installed in 1896 (left). It depicts the Tomb on Easter morning, with the Angel pointing: “Behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). Mother-of-pearl glass was used for the Angel’s wings and robe, giving the appearance that he is glowing even though the windows on this side do not receive much light. Several levels of glass were used, giving a three-dimensional effect.

The Alma Memorial Window, installed in 1893, depicts the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (right). The base panels have lilies and roses of Sharon, which are emblems of Christ. An angel holds a scroll in the top roundel: “The memory of the just is blessed”. Alpha and Omega are displayed on either side.

-The Windows in St. Mark’s Church, by The Reverend H.D. Maclean, Rector of Niagara

The Cemetery

The area around the church was used as a burial ground before the church was granted the land and probably was a burial site used by the First Nations People.

        The earliest marker in the cemetery, dated 1794, is that to Elizabeth Kerr, daughter of Molly Brant and Sir William Johnson. An earlier stone was uncovered during the 1838 construction of the transepts and is now housed in the church. It is in memory of Leonard Planck a member of Butler’s Rangers. Their barracks and hospital were to the east of the church.  Planck died there in 1782 as the result of wounds inflicted at the battle of Upper Sandusky.

        This is the oldest cemetery still in use in the province and the antiquity of the monuments and the historical importance of those interred here are of interest to many historians and genealogists.

        Contact the Archives Committee for Information on those interred in our cemetery and other historical, or genealogical information.

        Arrangements can be made for tours of the cemetery by application through the church office.


The Rectory

The first two ministers at Niagara owned their own homes. When William McMurray, the third Rector arrived, he insisted that the Church should build him a home. As a result, the rectory, which stands west of the Addison Hall, was erected in 1858.

It was constructed of bricks that arrived from Britain as ballast in the sailing vessels and were purchased from the estate of Samuel Zimmerman. The grandiose style chosen was the Tuscan Villa. Most of the priests since that time have made their home in this rectory.

For many years Addison’s collection of books was housed on shelves in the rector’s study.

For more information click here.


The Bells

The bells.jpg

The rebuilt and enlarged chime of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Niagara on the Lake, has as its basis the original six bells cast for the church by Meneely & Company at West Troy, New York, in 1877. This set covered the first six notes of a diatonic major scale from A3; that A bell, known as the tenor of the chime, was said by the makers to weight 1,240 pounds, and was arranged in full swinging (church bell) mountings; the remaining bells were hung stationary from a timber frame, parts of which are in use today.

In 1917, the church ordered three additional bells from the Meneely Foundry, which would be the next two diatonic notes of the scale, completing the octave in A, plus one semitone (G4 actual), the “flat seventh” scale degree. This chime of nine bells remained in use until the bells were taken down for tuning at the beginning of the present project.

The 1877 and 1917 bells have been for the first time tuned to “five point” or carillon bell standards (sometimes referred to as “Simpson” tuning); and nine new bells have been cast and tuned to agree and extend the compass. The chime now covers a diatonic range of an octave and a fifth, plus six semitones (all semitones except the lowest two within the range). This provides considerable musical flexibility to play hymns and other appropriate selections in many different keys. The pitch basis for the chime was decided from the average of the old bells, and is close to the older International pitch of A4 = 435 hz; and the chime is tuned in equal temperament.

Rather than the original style chime-stand with large “pump handle” levers, the chime is now played from a “baton” type carillon style keyboard, where smaller levers are provided on two levels (upper ones corresponding to the “black” keys of a piano), and having pedals providing alternate control of the lowest eight bells. This keyboard differs from those playing, for instance, the Peace Tower carillon in Ottawa, and the carillon at the Rainbow Tower, Niagara Falls, only in length, (those instruments having 53 and 55 bells, respectively). A radial type transmission action is used between the keyboard and bell clappers; all actions and clappers are pivoted on sealed stainless-steel ball bearings. All action, clappers, and bell fittings are new, and new sections of structural steel bell framing houses the new bells. The tenor bell has been rehung in new swinging mountings, and is played from the keyboard via the external hammer, so that it may also be swung for a call to service bell.

In addition to playing manually from the keyboard (through which the chimer is in full control of dynamics, by variation of touch on the keys), the instrument is now equipped with an electro-pneumatic playing system, through which hymns and other melodies may be programmed on a daily basis as desired for automatic play under control of a computer.

On St. Mark’s Day April 25th, 2012 a 19th bell was added known as the Brock Bell. (No. in chime 3, Actual Note C4, Keyboard Note D#3, Weight 650lbs). This bell was a generous gift of the Foster Hewitt Foundation.

Below is a picture of the different commemorative plaques you can find inside the church about the various bells donations and restorations history.

Bells plaques.jpg

In 1987 St. Mark’s established a charitable foundation the purpose of which is to provide funds necessary for the maintenance and upgrading of our historic property, including the Rectory, Addison Hall and St. Mark’s Church. All donations are acknowledged with official receipts, which may be used for income tax purposes. Bequests and memorial contributions should be arranged in discussion with the Rector.

St. Mark’s Historic Properties Preservation Foundation Committee:

Bishop Ralph Spence, Honorary Chair

The Rev. William Roberts, Rector

Allan Magnacca, People’s Warden

Gary Zalepa, Rector’s Warden

Open, Parish Council Rep

Mark Annett, Treasurer

Historic Properties Foundation

conservation fund.jpg