Ruby Church (Goulds)
Designed by Thomas Pope, St. Matthew's Anglican Church in Goulds has been a prominent landmark on the Bay Bulls Road since its construction in 1913. The church is depicted in many paintings and photographs, the most famous of which is Gerald Squires' painting The Sentinel.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
St. Matthew's has been the focus of much controversy throughout its long and turbulent history. Its origin dates back to a dispute in the 1910s when a local farmer, George Ruby, thought the site chosen for the community church was too far in the lower section of Goulds and decided to build his own. He donated the land and organised fund-raising efforts. Members of the Ruby family have acted as the church's caretakers since they laid the cornerstone on September 10, 1913. Because of its connection with the Rubys, St. Matthew's is also known as Ruby Church.
Although never officially consecrated, the church served as a centre for Anglican worship until 1964 when a new Anglican church, St. Paul's, was built in Goulds. The community relegated St. Matthew's to a burial chapel, whereupon it began to deteriorate.
By 1986 the structure was in a state of serious disrepair and plans were made for its demolition. This led to a major dispute between some members of the St. Paul's vestry, who wanted the structure torn down, and the Goulds Historical Society, led by the Rubys, who wanted it preserved.
Events came to a head on August 2, 1986, when 44 supporters of St. Matthew's restoration confronted 11 members of St. Paul's vestry intent on its demolition. After some heated exchanges, the two sides eventually came to an agreement.
It took another three months before all parties signed a 16-point agreement that stipulated the building and land were to remain diocesan property. The agreement allowed the Goulds Historical Society to restore the church's exterior, but the interior was not to be touched. The society had to agree to cover all cost and maintain St. Matthew's for 20 years. Public or private gatherings, including religious services, were not to be permitted in the building, nor was it allowed to become a museum.
While the parties were conducting negotiations to save the 15 metre (approximately 50 ft.) church, the people of the Goulds were conducting a large fund raising campaign. By the time they signed the November agreement, the restoration committee had collected $1,343.36 for the cost of materials. In addition to money, local people donated materials and labour.
Thanks to the Rubys and the people of the Goulds Historical Society, St. Matthew's church continues to be a prominent landmark on the Bay Bulls Road. In recognition of the efforts of the people of Goulds to preserve their historical heritage, St. Matthew's became a Registered Heritage Structure in February 1988.