“Museum London”:http://museumlondon.ca/ runs a number of walks in the summer and one of their new ones is titled Heaven and Hell. A volunteer from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario took us on an hour and a half walk through a few blocks downtown showcasing churches and pubs, hence the title. The tour was on twice this Saturday and cost $8. Different tours run on other Saturdays and run rain or shine. I caught the morning tour (10:30 – noon) and we started out in the rain but it soon let up.
Our first stop was next door to the museum, the old Courthouse. It is the oldest public building in London and was built with gothic features – a recurring theme for the first part of the tour. Our guide pointed out the gothic pointed windows, tracery on the windows, buttresses on the towers and tall narrow features to draw our eyes up to heaven. Don’t be fooled by the large grey bricks though, the building was built with small yellow bricks, covered in grey stucco and then had lines drawn on to look like larger stones/bricks. On our way to the first church we stopped by Eldon House, the oldest private dwelling in town which is now a museum. Both of these buildings are on Ridout Street.
There is currently a fair bit of construction going on downtown, hence the fencing and heavy equipment in front of the first church on the tour, Talbot Street Church. It is a Christian Reformed Church designed with gothic features, just on a broad rather than tall scale. In contrast to the cathedrals coming up on the tour, this building is quite squat but still incorporates the pointed windows and buttresses.
St. Peter’s Cathedral and Basilica (1885) was the next stop. It is quite imposing on the corner of Dufferin and Richmond Streets. There was a wedding taking place so we could not go into the cathedral (going inside is not the purpose of the tour anyway) and they had the doors open so we had to be quiet when we were up close checking out the brickwork, buttresses, gargoyles and other gothic characteristics. It was designed based on Notre Dame in Paris – 13th century French Gothic style.
Further down Richmond at the corner of Queen Street is St. Paul’s Cathedral (1846) which has a totally different appearance but still has gothic features built in the English Gothic Revival style. We took some time to explore the gravestones that are still in the lawn.
From here we switched to the Hell part of the tour – Whiskey Row on King Street where at one time there were over 100 pubs and 70 hotels. On the opposite side of the street is “Covent Garden Market”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/176803-review-covent-garden-market-ontario. A new building is in the place of the one that was there in the 1800s and most of the pubs are gone. Given the propensity for drink at the time, there is a plaque in a bank across from Covent Garden that marks the place where the Salvation Army first met in Canada in 1882.
It was an interesting tour that has me thinking about going on some of the other tours on offer this summer.