St. Andrew's Church
(Queen's Road, St. John's)
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in St. John's, also called "The Kirk", is the fourth structure to serve the spiritual needs of St. John's Presbyterian population. The history of Presbyterianism in Newfoundland dates back to 1842 when St. Andrew's was established as a congregation of the Church of Scotland. The first church was opened on December 3, 1843. Six years later in 1849 a schism developed within the church as it divided into two factions, the Established Presbyterian Church and the Free Presbyterian Church. In 1850 the Free Presbyterians built their own church. After more than two and a half decades, discussions began on reuniting the two Presbyterian factions. The reunification talks were intensified after the Free Presbyterian Church burned on January 30, 1876. On October 15, 1876, the Established Presbyterian Church was also destroyed by fire. The two groups decided to come together to build St. John's third Presbyterian Church, which was dedicated on November 30, 1879.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
The third church also fell victim to fire on July 8, 1892, in the Great Fire that destroyed most of the city. The commission to design the fourth and current Presbyterian Church in St. John's was given to architect James Wills. Wills had recently arrived in the city to do restoration work on the burned out shell of the Anglican Cathedral. The contract to build the new church was awarded to the firm of S.M Brookfield of Halifax. On August 24, 1894, Governor Sir Robert Thorburn laid the corner stone of the present church.
St. Andrew's is an excellent example of a High Victorian Gothic Revival church. The structure was built using red Accrington brick and Scottish Giffnock stone. Local Newfoundland red and black slate covers the roof which has a terra cotta tile ridge.
When the Kirk was dedicated on August 2, 1896, the structure was not yet complete as it lacked a planned tower and spire. Eight years later industrialist Sir Robert G. Reid and the Honourable James Baird made significant contributions to the church that enabled the tower and spire to be completed. Into the base of the tower was placed a "Burning Bush" stone medallion salvaged from the ruins of the old church.
The interior of St. Andrew's has a magnificent collection of stained-glass windows and a spectacular pipe organ. The Kirk boast one of the world's best collections of Ballentine stained-glass windows from the renowned firm A. Ballentine & Sons of Scotland. Between 1902 and 1926 James Ballentine installed a series of twelve windows depicting various episodes in the life of Jesus Christ. The window in the east transept is an exception, it was installed in 1922 as a war memorial in honour of the twenty-five young men of the congregation who gave their lives during the Great War from 1914-1918. The window collection was added to in 1963 when two stained-glass windows were installed in the vestibule. The latest additions to the Kirk's window collection were made in 1989 when Peter Breckon of Sunhound Glassworks Limited installed six further works of stained-glass windows. Breckon also carried out restoration work on the older windows.
Work on St. Andrew's pipe organ began in 1896 when Peter Conacher of Huddersfield of England used nearly 1500 pipes to install a two manual, 22-stop organ. In 1916 over 2,000 pipes were used to enlarge the organ to 42-stops. In 1961 the English firm of Hill, Norman and Beardand rebuilt the organ using most of the pipes from the previous organ builders. In 1986-1987 the organ was refurbished by Fernand Letourneau. The resulting three manual organ is purported to be the most complete pipe organ in any Newfoundland church.
Time has taken its toll on the exterior of St. Andrew's and the congregation has established a "Fund for the Kirk in St. John's" to help defray the high cost of maintenance and restoration work.
The Kirk is a monument to the important contributions of Scots to the development of the City of St. John's.The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador designated St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, "The Kirk", in St John's a Registered Heritage Structure on October 31, 1997.