St. Nicholas Birch Cliff

Anglican Church

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Our History

The Reverend C.E. Luce 1912 - 1920 


The year was 1912, in the Village of Birch Cliff. Birch Cliff, located in the south west corner of Scarborough needed a community gathering point. Rev. Charles Luce met with Mr. George Davis who offered the use of his stable (appropriately humble beginnings) at the back of his property to act as a meeting place. This was to be a Mission Church and considered a daughter church of St. John’s Norway (at Woodbine & Kingston Road). This new mission church would be called St. Nicholas, after the St. Nicholas Parish in England, the parish over which Rev. Luce's father presided. 

Once the renovations to the stable were completed, on August 9, 1912, the Lord Bishop of Toronto, Bishop Sweeney, officially dedicated the siteThe membership numbered 60 at that time. The Village of Birch Cliff saw rapid growth in the year 1912. Whole families were emigrating from the United Kingdom to establish a new life.  

1913: EXPANSION COST - $1500 

The tiny church, growing, decided to expand the church building. The cost of the expansion would be $1500.00. The newly expanded church also received generous gifts from its parishioners: oak pews, carved stone baptismal font and lectern Bible. The church opened officially on October 5, 1914; once again the Lord Bishop of Toronto consecrated the church. 


Tragedy soon struck the Birch Cliff community. On Sunday January 16, 1916, as parishioners were setting off to prepare for the Sunday services, they found the church in a blaze of fire. All that was saved was the baptismal font, and a piano, by Mr. Ed. Redman and members of the 6th Toronto Scout troop. 

It was decided a new location was required in order to serve the community better by being more accessible and visible. After a number of considerations, the present site of the existing church was chosen. It was decided the new church would not be wood, but brick. The members wanted a permanent structure. The services of Mr. Harold Carter, an acknowledged Gothic architect, who was also local, were attained to design the new church. Through his work, Mr. Carter became an active member of the church and the Birch Cliff community. (The 3 stained glass windows behind the present church's altar are a gift by the Carter family to commemorate the work of Mr. Harold Carter). 

On July 22, 1916 at 4:00 p.m., the first service was held with the laying of the cornerstone. The service was officiated by many dignitaries, including the then Governor-General of Canada, and the then Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. 

While construction was ongoing, services took place on the lawn under a large marquee tent until after Thanksgiving of that year. St. Nicholas Church still remained to be the focal point of the community at its new location. 

On Tuesday, May 29, 1917, the new church was officially dedicated as " Church of St. Nicholas at Birch Cliff". The present pulpit was received as a gift from the St. Nicholas Parish, Gloucester, EnglandThe matching altar was also received from St. Paul's, Bloor Street. 

In 1919 the St. Nicholas community was served noticed of Luce's resignation. He and his family were to return to England where he would take charge of his home church St. Nicholas, Gloucester. 

The Reverend W.J. Taylor 1920 – 1927 

 St. Nicholas was Rev Taylor’s first parish. Taylor noted that the Birch Cliff community did not have a library. Not soon after his arrival, a library was established at St. Nicholas Church. Sunday was a busy time in the library, as local students, who also attended the church, exchanged their books. 

In 1923, St. Nicholas Church’ membership had escalated to 380. It was decided to extend the basement hall, which would act as a foundation for the new section of the full church building, as originally planned and would eventually be completed in 1953. 

The Reverend T.W. Barnett 1927 - 1931

Under Rev Barnet the Toronto 2nd Girl Guide Company was established. 

Another fire, by arson, which was started with the choir's robes, nearly gutted the east side of the Parish Hall, damaged the organ and scorched the Church. Fortunately, the damage was covered by insurance and the fire did not put the Church in financial distress. 

The Reverend N. Clarke Wallace 1931 - 1940

Rev.Wallace soon became the new incumbent late in 1931 during the Depression. The Sunday School enrollment swelled to over 500, making the Church a busy place on Sunday! 

In 1938, a new Anglican Hymn book was published. 

 The Reverend K.D. Whatmough 1940 - 1948

Rev. Whatmough established The Church Year Group, largely a fundraising group to help raise funds to pay off the mortgage and complete the church building construction as originally planned. Forty feet of the land to the north of the church were purchased as a war memorial. 

During his stay at St. Nicholas, a monthly newsletter was introduced to keep the parish and community informed of the church's activities. 

 The Reverend Lewis C. Garnsworthy 1948 – 1956 

building campaign was launched to raise $80,000. The final phase of construction was completed on May 19, 1953. In 1956, Rev. Garnsworthy moved to Church of the Transfiguration, and eventually became the ninth Bishop of Toronto, in 1972. 

 The Reverend Canon J.E. Birchall 1956 - 1966

RevBirchall was appointed and formed the Junior Auxiliary. Stained glass memorial windows began to be placed. 

 The Reverend E.R. Woolley 1966 - 1974

Rev. Woolley introduced the processional cross and altar candlesticks. 

Gilbert and Sullivan operetta productions were popular events using parish talent and that from the wider community. 

 The Reverend I.D. Nichols 1974 - 1978

Rev. Nichols was appointed as changes were felt in the parish as the Anglican Church re-examined the relationship between baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. 

The Reverend Canon Edgar Bull 1978 - 1983 

In 1980 the college of Bishops was formed as part of the diocesan restructuring. The Book of Alternative Servicesbegan to be used. 

The parish was invited to take part in the third round of a programme of revitalization of parishes within the diocese known as SATS (Systems Approach To Stewardship). 

 The Reverend J.A. Roney 1983 - 1994

Lent noon hour meditation series was launched. 

Close to Easter 1993, it was found that disaster had struck - the organ loft was destroyed when water had leaked from an overhead roof. However, a three manual Artisan Classic electronic organ replaced the two-manual T. Eaton pipe organ. 

 The Reverend Canon Prue Chambers 1994 - 2004 

In 1995 the Reverend Canon Prue Chambers oversaw the transformation of the former organ loft into the Memorial Room. In 1996, nine stained glass windows were dedicated by the Right Reverend Michael Bedford-Jones in the Memorial Room and funds were raised for the installation of an elevator. 

On June 22, 1997 the 85th anniversary of the founding of the congregation was celebrated by a special service. 

 The Reverend Kevin Robertson 2005-2011

After ordination, Rev. Robertson, now Bishop Robertson, served as the Assistant Curate at St. James Cathedral. He then served in incumbencies at St. Peter’s Oshawa, and St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff until 2011. 


2012 saw the 100th anniversary of the founding of the congregation. Special services and events were held throughout the year.  

 The Reverend Canon Janet Read-Hockin, 2012  2020



The Reverend E.G. Robinson 

The Reverend William Wheeler

The Reverend Roy Shepherd

The Reverend Michael Deck

The Reverend Canon Edmund Der 

Assisting Priests 

The Reverend Will Kenny

The Reverend Canon Douglas Candy 

Honorary Assistants 

The Reverend Ian Nichols

The Reverend Joan Waters-Garner 

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