St. Richard of Chichester, Etobicoke

The post-war period between 1945 and 1966 witnessed an explosion of Anglican church growth in the City of Toronto with twenty-eight parishes being founded in that time period (averaging one every ten months!). This blog has told the stories of many parishes in the downtown or near-downtown which experienced profound demographic changes as their parishioners moved east, west and north into new suburban areas. The flip-side of this movement was the many parishes founded in new suburbs.

One of these twenty-eight parishes was St. Richard of Chichester, located in Etobicoke on The Westway between Kipling and Islington.

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In many ways, St. Richard’s is a ‘typical’ story of suburban church growth in this period. The life of the parish began in July 22, 1958 when thirty-seven people met in a small portable to conduct a vestry meeting requesting the Bishop of Toronto to establish a new parish. The congregation met in a portable until 1960

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In 1960, construction on a permanent building was completed.

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The parish’s first priest, the Reverend Fred Hall, served both St. Richard’s and the Anglican Church in Malton. He described the early missionary work of the parish in this way: “When we started, this was a very small Westway Village. We had high-calibre entertainment, musical plays. I went around slogging through muddy new subdivisions inviting people out.”  At one point the Sunday School numbered one hundred. It is same to assume that this pattern was played out throughout the City in these years, as the suburbs were built and populated and parishes were founded and grew. Fr Hall also recalled that church attendance began to drop as early as 1959. When the Diefenbaker government cancelled the Avro aircraft, British employees who had come to Canada to work on the project (and who lived in the neighbourhood) returned home.

By 1965 the parish was self-supporting and on May 25, 1980 the mortgage had been discharged and the building consecrated by Archbishop Lewis Garnsworthy. A new Keates pipe organ was dedicated at the same time.

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During the incumbency of Fr James McCue (1983-1991), the sanctuary was renovated with a new altar and furnishings. (I had the pleasure of playing the organ on the evening these renovations were dedicated.)

IMG_4275 (1024x711)IMG_4278 (1024x693)Changing demographics and a preponderance of Anglican churches nearby meant, for St. Richard’s, a gradual decline in parishioners and attendance. At one point the parish asked the parish of St. Wilfrid’s to the south to contemplate amalgamation, but, in the end, the St. Richard’s vestry declined to accept the proposal, which would have resulted in selling the St. Richard’s property. The final service was held on April 27, 2003, with the founding priest, the Reverend Fred Hall, preaching.

The building is now home to the New Gate Korean Presbyterian Church. (I have, as yet, not been able to gain access to the building to see what remains of the furnishings.

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4 comments
  1. William Cooke said:

    A rather melancholy story. One of my best friends was married at St Richard’s, which was his bride’s home parish.

  2. Kathryn Tostrup said:

    Hi
    Does anyone have information or memories about this church that may be able to help me?
    I am trying to obtain a photograph of Ben Whittam my maternal grandfather (husband of Lucille obit below). Originally from Manchester UK he emigrated to Etobicoke in 1947 with his parents and sister. He died in 2002, last known address 15 Mitre Place and is buried with Lucille in Prospect cemetery. I was told by a former foster child of theirs that they were very active in the church and she remembers going to clean with them as a child. I am assuming that a couple active in the church would have their funeral at the said church. I am unable to locate an obit for Ben but have confirmed his place of burial. I would be grateful for any help on behalf of my mother who never met her father but continues to hope that she will be able to see a picture of him before she passes.

    February 9, 1992 WHITTAM, Lucille — Suddenly at Etobicoke General Hospital on February 8, 1992, Lucille in her 80th year, beloved wife of Ben Whittam. . A funeral service will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Richard of Chichester (240 The Westway). Interment Prospect Cemetery.

    • Hello Kathryn
      I remember Ben and Lucille Whittam from my teenage years at St Richards, and may be able to help. You can contact me on ronald@dunning.plus.com.
      Regards
      Ron Dunning

  3. Lysa said:

    Hi Kathryn, let’s connect.

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