The origin of the land, glebe or private, has never been clearly established, although local people believe that glebe land was received for the church, hall and parsonage that have stood at the present St. Thomas’ site. The land overlooks picturesque New London Bay, with the Cavendish Dunes and The Hebrides jutting into the harbor. Tourists stop on the highway new to St. Thomas’ church to capture a panoramic view of the north shore of Prince Edward Island, also referred to as the Garden of the Gulf and the Million Acre Farm.
The first St. Thomas’ church was started in 1827 in the present location, but it blew down. The Mother church was rebuilt in 1829 and opened by the Rev. W. Walker. It was consecrated on October 04, 1833 during Bishop John Inglis’ first visit to Prince Edward Island, and the same year that the first incumbent, the Rev. T.H. Walpole, was appointed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The second and present church was first used for service on January 28, 1877 in the time of the Rev. O.S. Newnham and was consecrated on May 29, 1877 by then Bishop Hibbert Binney. The seating capacity was 150 persons, with an additional 30-40 seats provided by the gallery for large events such as Christmas, Easter and funerals.
The new hall of the church was built in 1989 to coincide with the 160th anniversary of the mother church. Fundraising was started through a letter to friends of the church dated September 18, 1988. Hall construction was started in October of 1988 with a sod-turning ceremony which included the church officials and Arnold and Horace Meek, descendants of the founder (Rev. William Meek) who turned the fist sod. Construction overseers were Arnold Meek and James Jollimore, assisted by treasuer Wesley Cole. These three names would go down in posterity, the Rev. M. Collier said. Much construction was completed by volunteers. An appreciation night was held on April 07, 1989 to thank them for their generosity.
St Thomas Hall was also been the recipient of numerous monetary donations and gifts, including memorials, and some of the hall furnishings were made by volunteers. In April of 1989 church members and honoured guests gathered for the dedication presided over by the Right Reverend A. Peters. Three years later in February, 1992 the mortgage burning ceremony was held along with a luncheon and fellowship. The senior warden, Calvin Jollimore, the junior warder, Lola Meek Ogilvie, and the overseer, Armold Meek, were in attendance. After using the new facility the St. Thomas’ church ladies say that food preparation was “a pleasure compared to the old hall.”
St. Thomas’ cemetery was first consecrated on June 21, 1843 and has changed a great deal over the years. Early photographs show hay growing where the cemetery presently exists. In 1998 St. Thomas’ church initiated the annual Mermorial Flower Service to renew interest in the upkeep of the graves and to provide for the maintenance of the cemetery. Weather permitting, the service is held in the cemetery alongside the unused shore road. In 1999, the cemetery was extended behind the church.
By Canon Robert C. Tuck, Architectural Historian
St. Thomas’ church was erected in 1876 to replace an older building dating from 1827. The exterior appearance in 2000 is very much changed from how it looked when it was first built. In the beginning it had a slender spire, corner boards, and was shingled. First the church lost its spire due to rot at a time when members could not afford to replace it. Later the church building was sheathed in wide strips that eliminated the corner boards; then a pyramidal cap roofed with asphalt shingles was installed on top of the tower; and then a new hall sheathed in similar fashion to the Church was built on the north east corner of the nave adjoining the sanctuary.
Despite these changes the original design survives in the proportions and lay-out of the building, which in 1876 was very traditional, even old-fashioned. Although the detail of the intersecting tracery in the window heads is pointed and therefore Gothic, the building’s symmetry and proportions recall the earlier neo-classic Georgian style that went out of fashion as the Gothic Revival took hold, for the length of its nave is short in relation to its width, and the chancel is shallow. In these respects it belongs with older churches built a generation earlier at St. Eleanor’s (1838), Georgetown (1839), Port Hill (1841), Cherry Valley (1842), Springfield (1848) and elsewhere. Yet the pitch of the nave roof is much steeper that that of the earlier buildings, thereby reflecting Gothic rather than Classical influence. Although the heritage character of St. Thomas’ Church has been obscured on the exterior, much of it survives on the interior. Entrance to the church is gained through the original doorway, set in the south side of a tower placed symmetrically in the center of the west gable elevation of the nave, a familiar and traditional arrangements in Prince Edward Island, where an entrance sheltered as much as possible from cold north-west winds is highly desirable.
At the back of the nave is a gallery, where, traditionally, the singers and musicians were placed. But that was before the onset of the cathedralesque chancelitis contagion that swept through the Anglican Church with the Gothic Revival in the nineteenth century, bringing with it robed choirs (and organs) that wanted to be seen as well as heard. The organ is now placed on the epistle side at the front of the nave.
Everything in the interior of the mother church – its nicely crafted and brightly painted period pews, wainscoting, woodwork, white font, communion rails, alter – is fresh, clean and immaculate. the original sacristy on the gospel side of the sanctuary has now become a passage way to the splendid and convenient hall, which accommodates new sacristy and other facilities that would have astonished no only the 1827 ancestors of the present congregation but also those of 1876.