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Visiting St Andrew's Church, Bendale, Scarborough, Ontario: the oldest Presbyterian church in Toronto

Updated on February 5, 2013
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Scarborough, Ontario
St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Scarborough, Ontario | Source
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario | Source

Part of old Scarborough

The origins of this Presbyterian church building in Bendale, Scarborough, Ontario go back to 1818. With the amalgamation of Scarborough into the City of Toronto, this makes it the oldest of Toronto's Presbyterian churches.

The actual, Gothic Revival building dates from 1849. A plaque with '1849' and 'Jehovah-Jireh' (1) is affixed to one of the walls. The building is executed in brick, with corner blocks in stone. Features of the building include a prominent spire, which in former years would have been even more conspicuous, because the many mature trees which have grown up around the building would once not have obscured it, as is the case today. Gothic arching is discernible at various windows of the building.

Adjacent to the building is its cemetery, which, given the relatively early date of the church, is historically important, since not a few of Scarborough's early settlers from Great Britain are buried here. In the cemetery is a plaque denoting a First Nations Trail along which David Thomson, the first European settler, came and near which he built a dwelling in 1796 (2).

The congregation was founded by the pioneer Thomson family (3), who also are memorialized in the nearby Thomson Settlement. Interestingly, the congregation did not start to call itself St Andrew's church until 1875. Previously the church was sometimes known as 'the Scots Kirk'.

In 2008, the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Honourable David Onley, formally inaugurated some refurbishment work, completed by its 190th anniversary.

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church is located at 115 St Andrew's Road, Bendale, Scarborough, Ontario.

February 5, 2013


(1) This is a quotation from Genesis 22.14, meaning 'the LORD will provide'.

(2) Intending visitors to the cemetery — particularly groups — are advised that because the cemetery is still in use, a prior call to (416) 438 4100 may be advisable to avoid disappointment.

(3) The Thomson family was from Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and was one of many families displaced by the Lowland Clearances, at the hand of English landlords. Thus, part of the early history of the Toronto ares of Upper Canada was characterized by the tenacious presence of Scottish people sometimes radicalized by memories of what they acutely felt was oppression by those enjoying the patronage of the Crown. This in turn casts some light by way of background on intellectual background of William Lyon Mackenzie (grandfather of Canada's longest serving Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King), whose 1837 Rebellion is a very significant in Ontario's history.

Also worth seeing

In Scarborough itself, the Thomson Settlement at nearby Thomson Park (distance: 1.2 kilometres); Cornell House and the McCowan Log House are now museum features.

Erskine Church , Pickering (distance: approx. 17.5 kilometres) dates from 1854; a Pioneer Memorial Cairn contains some interesting inscriptions.


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 115 St Andrew's Road, Scarborough : 33.1 kilometres). However, visitors may prefer to use the TTC public transit; #21 runs nearby. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

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

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