St. Agnes, Long Branch

Long Branch was a village along the lakeshore which was swallowed up by the Borough of Etobicoke and, eventually, by the City of Toronto. The parish history of St. Agnes’ Church (A Community of Caring: The story of St. Agnes’ Anglican Church, Long Branch, 1919-2004) describes Long Branch in 1919 as an ‘arboretum’, a community of cottages near the lake shore.

In 1919, women living in Long Branch who wanted to provide for Christian education for their children began to meet. One of them was Mrs. M. Snell, mother of George, Herbert and Dorothy. Her sons both eventually were ordained, and George Snell was the eighth Bishop of Toronto (1966-1972). (See also the entries about St. Barnabas, Halton for other connections with Bishop Snell.) A retired priest from the Diocese of Qu’appelle in Saskatchewan, the Reverend J.R. Martins, had moved to Long Branch to be near relatives. He began the mission that was to become St. Agnes’, first meeting in a school auditorium, and then in a tent. This photograph below, taken in 1920, shows the Sunday School in front of the tent (located on the present site of James S. Bell Middle School).

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The first permanent meeting place of St. Agnes was a small cottage, seen in the two photographs below.

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Land was soon purchased on what is now Long Branch Avenue, just south of Lake Shore Boulevard, and a church built through voluntary efforts of the congregation. St. Agnes was, at the time, under the care of nearby Christ Church, Mimico.

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This building suffered a fire in 1944 and, although note completely destroyed, the congregation decided to tear it down and rebuilt.1944 fire. The second St. Agnes’ is shown below.

IMG_9550 (Medium)By 1955 the population in Long Branch had grown substantially and a decision was taken to build a new church. This is the present-day structure on the site; it was dedicated by Bishop Wilkinson on December 15, 1958.

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IMG_9543 (Medium)The photographs above and below show how the chancel and sanctuary area evolved, with the removal of the choir screen and the moving forward of the altar closer to the congregation.

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The photograph below, from the parish history, shows Bishop Snell returning to his roots at St. Agnes’, accompanied by some of the clergy who served the parish over its history.

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St. Agnes’ closed in 2005 and the building was sold. It is now home to a Polish Pentecostal congregation.

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The cornerstone of the 1958 building is still visible.

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An interesting feature of the property is the rectory, which is immediately adjacent and, in fact, attached to the church building.

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Through kindness of the pastor, I was able recently to see inside the space and take photographs. It is large as it would have been in its St. Agnes’ days, although the altar and its platform have been moved back toward the wall some distance.

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This is the side altar.

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And the aumbry, for the reservation of the sacrament.

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  1. Thanks for finally talking about >St. Agnes, Long Branch |
    lostanglicanchurches <Loved it!

  2. I was baptized at St Agnes in 1947, and went to Sunday School there till the mid-1950s. I have two photos of the exterior in its pre-1944 manifestation, and can send scans if anyone is interested.

  3. Scott Hutchison said:

    Ronald Dunning, my grandfather was Confirmed in St. Agnes, Long Branch in 1933. I’d love to see more photos of what it looked like before 1944. Thanks for considering it!

  4. I’ve sent them to Fr Harrison, who says he’s planning to post them here.

  5. Rui Pires said:

    Hello, I was wondering if anyone had a photo of Sarah Jane Skeen, one of the six women involved in founding St Agnes Church back in 1919. I live on Skeen’s Lane and have been trying to learn more about the Skeen family. She eventually went to live on Arcadian Circle after she sold the land the lane is on, but I know little about the person who my street is named after.

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