Visiting Britannia United Church, Mississauga, Ontario: almost 200 years of history in a modern city

Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Britannia United Church and Cemetery, Mississauga, Ontario
Britannia United Church and Cemetery, Mississauga, Ontario | Source

Pointed arches and flying buttresses from the 19th century

Mississauga, Ontario, one of Canada's largest cities, in the Province's Peel region, is very much a modern place, but it has corners which have a lot of history.

One such locality is at 5961 Hurontario Street (1), where Britannia United Church stands. Although the building dates initially from 1843, its current exterior reflects enlargements made in 1864 and 1897.

The adjoining cemetery is older than the building itself; it dates from 1830 and is well preserved.

However, as a site, the church's history goes back nearly 200 years. Close to the location of the current structure, a wooden church building was erected in 1821.

The building reflects Gothic style popular in the 19th century; indeed, the term Victorian High Gothic is sometimes applied to this noteworthy structure on Hurontario Street. Thus we see recurring instances of pointed arches and prominent, flying buttresses. Executed in mainly red brick, some of the brickwork is also in patterned yellow.

The location of Britannia United Church on busy Hurontario Street in urban Mississauga belies the originally rural nature of its setting. Today the structure counts as being among the oldest of Mississauga's buildings.

While the Britannia congregation meeting in this historic building is now affiliated with the United Church (2), its roots are Wesleyan Methodist (3), and it was as a centre for local Methodist activities that the building was first known for several decades.

The word 'Britannia' in 'Britannia United Church' reflects the strong identification of many Ontarians with the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The building has also been variously known in its history as Gardner's Chapel or Gardner's Methodist Church, referring to the name of the landowner on whose land the structure was built.

December 29, 2014

Portrait drawing of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, by Jacques Reich, Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900, v. 5, p. 438
Portrait drawing of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, by Jacques Reich, Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900, v. 5, p. 438 | Source

Notes

(1) Hurontario Street is one of the major north-south road arteries of Mississauga, linking with the 401 Freeway.

(2) In 1925 the Methodists and Presbyterians united to form Canada's largest denomination, except for 'a sturdy core', as historian Desmond Morton put it, who did not. (Desmond Morton, A Short History of Canada , Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 1997, p. 192.) Desmond Morton served as Principal of the University of Toronto's Erindale campus, in what is now Mississauga.

(3) Primitive Methodists were also active in the wider district. In the 19th century, tendencies within Ontario Methodism would typically reflect ongoing, theological debates among Methodists in Great Britain. When Methodists and Presbyterians merged in 1925, this was billed by some commentators as an expression of Canadian cultural independence from Great Britain.

Map location of Mississauga, Ontario
Map location of Mississauga, Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

In Mississauga itself, among the many visitor attractions, a few of these include: St Peter's Anglican church, Erindale, dating from 1825, and its former Rectory; the leafy Sawmill Valley Trail, and many others.

Ebenezer Hall, Brampton, (distance: 24.4 kilometres), formerly a schoolroom, now a community centre, dates from the late 19th century; it has a distinctive bell-tower.

...

How to get there: Air Canada flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to 5961 Hurontario Street, Mississauga : approx. 10.2 kilometres; buses to Mississauga from Toronto Pearson Airport run from Terminal 1, Ground Level, second curb, Column S4.) No. 19 bus stops near 5961 Hurontario Street. Please check with the airline, your travel agent, or transportation company for relevant up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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