All Hallows’, Main Street

When I sixteen I received a call from Alexander Shaw, organist of All Hallows’ Church on Main Street, asking if I could fill in for him during the month of July. This was my first organist gig, and I recall taking the subway to Main Street and walking up the few blocks to All Hallows’ to meet him and learn the ropes. Growing up in the west end, these were uncharted territories; at the time I didn’t even know that Toronto had a Main Street! (Ten years later, Mary Lou and I were married and our first home was just a few blocks from where All Hallows’ had been located.)  Alex Shaw had been a student of Healey Willan’s, and for many years the organist at St. Bartholomew’s, Regent Park. I played for the services in July for several years and came to know and love the place.

All Hallows’ traced its roots to St. Saviour’s parish to the south. In 1913, the Reverend Derwyn Owen (then rector of Holy Trinity Church, and later Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada) preached a mission for St. Saviour’s which resulted in a mission parish being established to the north. The first service was held on December 17th, 1913 in a school portable located at the corner of Palmer Avenue and Secord Avenue. The services at the time were held on Sunday evenings and usually led by lay readers from Trinity College.

This photograph is of the school portable in which the new community began to meet.


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Today it is the site of Secord Avenue Public School and, at the corner where this portable sat, are — school portables!

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In 1914, the rector of St. Saviour’s, the Reverend Vivian E.F. Morgan, invited the Reverend Hamilton Russell Mockridge to take the leadership of the nascent parish of All Hallows’. Fr. Mockridge was, at the time, the curate at St. Peter’s, Cobourg, and had served as curate of St. Thomas’s, Huron Street from 1907 to 1910. His first service at All Hallows’ was on All Saints’, 1914, and he was to serve the parish for twenty-five years.

Early in 1915, the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine established a mission house on Main Street, just north of Danforth, in the All Hallows’ district.

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Fr. Mockridge was the nephew of the Mother Superior of the Sisterhood, Hannah Grier Coome (his mother being her sister), and another aunt, Rose J.E. Grier, was a life-long parishioner of All Hallows’. When the mission house was completed in September 1915, it became the new home for All Hallows’. 

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The building exists today as the Church of the Nazarene, located at 363 Main Street and photographed below. A fascade has been added over the years and the back porch filled in, but the windows on the south side confirm that it is the same building.

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From the beginning, All Hallows’ developed as an anglo-catholic parish. The resident sisters took an active part in the life of the nascent parish, offering Bible and infant classes, catechism and pastoral visiting. The photograph below is of the chapel in the mission house, which was used by both All Hallows’ and SSJD.

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In 1917, property was purchased a very short distance north on Main Street, with a view to building a church. In 1919 the resident sisters moved to the SSJD Mother House on Major Street and Fr Mockridge moved into the mission house. (After the SSJD moved out of the Mission House, the other Anglican order of sisters, the Sisters of the Church, began a long involvement in the life of All Hallows’.) In 1920, St. Thomas’s provided funds to assist with the construction of a new buildling, construction began in 1921, and All Hallows’ was formally set apart as a parish on December 1st, 1921.

At first only the west entrance and the basement were completed.

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A temporary sanctuary, which included the altar from the Mission House, was erected in the basement.

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Construction of the building was completed in 1923. The church was dedicated on October 31st, 1923. The following Sunday, the preachers were C. Ensor Sharp, rector of St. Thomas’s, Huron Street, and Henry Griffin Hiscocks, vicar of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. All Hallows’ affiliation with other anglo-parishes in the city was strong.

This photograph shows All Hallows’ as it looked in 1933.

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This photograph, taken on the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude in 1928, shows the full liturgical crew. (Fr. Mockridge is the deacon to the left of the celebrant.)

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In 1939, the founding rector left All Hallows’ after twenty-five years to become the rector of the parish I now serve, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. His rectorship at SMM was to last only nine months, though, as he died on December 8th, 1939. Every year on the feast of the Immaculate Conception we pray for Hamilton Mockridge, third rector of St. Mary Magdalene’s.

The diocesan archives contain a copy of this program from a concert at All Hallows’ in 1949 — lots of plainsong, Willan and Palestrina. (Double-click to enlarge the photo.)

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By the 1970s, All Hallows’ was experiencing financial difficulties and had become a fairly small parish, yet one which continued to uphold its distinctive liturgical tradition.

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In 1990, All Hallows’ was amalgamated with St. Columba’s, the next parish to the north. In a way, this was an unlikely amalgamation as St. Columba’s was founded after the second world war with a decidedly Irish low church persona. (And yet the two parishes had for some time shared clergy in the summer. For most of the summers I played at All Hallows’, the rector of St. Columba’s, William Warnica, took the services at All Hallow’s while Fr. Scott was on holidays. )

The service of amalgamation, held on September 9th, 1990, began with the Liturgy of the Word at All Hallows’. A sacrament procession then led the congregation to St. Columba’s, while the Litany of the Saints was sung. The end notes in the leaflet of that day say something of the bringing together of two quite distinct liturgical cultures:  “In these changing times, the merging of our congregations and traditions seeks to strengthen our common mission for Christ. The opennes of Anglicanism in the threefold principle of ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason’ allows us to embrace in that new community both the evangelical and catholic, the traditional and contemporary, the ancient and the modern in a rich weave of spirituality and witness for Christ.”  Many of the furnishings from All Hallows’ were incorporated in the All Hallows’ Chapel at the new St. Columba & All Hallows’, located on St. Clair Avenue East near O’Connor.

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Today, the site of All Hallows’, Main Street is a townhouse complex known as All Hallows Close.

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A historical plaque at the driveway briefly records the history of the parish (unfortunately with a misspelling of Hamilton Mockridge’s surname).

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The former address of All Hallows’, 393 Main Street, is now a home.

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