Located on the south side of Main Street in northern Fredericton, the St. John the Evangelist Church and its neighboring cemetery stand as historic landmarks. The design of this “little stone church” was conceived by John Henry Hokeswell and was consecrated by Bishop John Medley in 1856..
The church’s construction began in 1853, making it among Fredericton’s most ancient churches. The cornerstone of the structure was laid on July 18, 1853. By 1855, the church was fully built at an approximate cost of 4000 pounds. It was designed according to Bishop Medley’s vision, featuring a small sanctuary on the east end of the nave (the seating area for the congregation) which could accommodate around 90 people.
The establishment of St. John the Evangelist Church marks Bishop John Medley’s influence and his religious vision for New Brunswick. Upon his arrival from England in 1845, Bishop Medley intended to propagate Anglicanism across New Brunswick by building Gothic Revival churches.
The church’s heritage value also lies in its distinctive construction material and architectural style. The construction of a Gothic Revival church made of stone was a rare sight in New Brunswick during the mid-1850s. Originally planned to be made of wood, local stone was used instead, reflecting Bishop Medley’s blending of architecture and sacred space. When consecrating the church in March 1856, he lauded it as a “gem of architecture”.
The church’s construction illustrates the liturgical needs of the local community. Debates about building a church began in 1851, with the consensus that families in the lower Douglas Parish had been deprived of church services for too long. The original plans, drafted in 1852, were modified by John Henry Hokeswell of London, England in 1853 to accommodate a stone structure.
The Robinson family, descendants of Loyalist ancestry and significant landowners in the region from Nashwaaksis to Douglas, were instrumental in the church’s construction. Major Fred Robinson and his wife donated the land on which the church was built, and stone from the Robinson family quarry was used for construction.
In 1897, Beverly A. Robinson and his wife granted a parcel of land adjacent to St. John the Evangelist Church as a burial plot for Bishop H.T. Kingdon of Fredericton. Rev. George Goodrich Roberts, born in Saint John, assumed the role of Rector in 1857. His son, Sir Charles Goodrich Douglas Roberts, born in Douglas Parish, became Canada’s first Poet Laureate.
The church was initially constructed with a small wooden steeple. While plans included the installation of a church bell, this wasn’t realized until 97 years later. Since 1932, the bell, donated by the MacFarlane Wagon Factory, has rung every Sunday morning. Originally, the bell was part of a ferry that traversed the St. John River from Ferry Avenue in Nashwaaksis to the bottom of Smythe Street before a bridge was constructed around 1880.
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