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October 22nd, 2014

St. John’s Norway - one of the east end’s gems

Q7. Sand removed from St.John's cemetery was used for what purpose?

The church of St. John the Baptist, Norway, is one of the east end’s most notable and enduring landmarks. Set on a hill at the northwest corner of Kingston Road and Woodbine, St. John’s has served the surrounding community since its early days as a tiny settlement known as Norway.

In its heyday in the mid 1800s, Norway had a post office, school, store, steam sawmill, several hotels and taverns, and a population of about 100 people (see article on page 6). The Anglican congregation met at O’Sullivan’s, a local tavern. Then, in 1853, a wealthy landowner by the name of Charles Coxwell Small donated three acres of land for a church and graveyard.

Small owned a 472-acre estate which went all the way from what is now Coxwell Avenue to Woodbine Avenue and from the Danforth south to the lakeshore. He called his estate Berkeley, which was also the name of his mansion in the heart of Toronto, at the corner of what is now Berkeley Street and King. Small also had a summer home just off Kingston Road west of Woodbine.

The church erected on this parcel of land was an unpretentious log structure which had been a schoolhouse. It was purchased for £400 and dragged by oxen a mile along Kingston Road to the site, just west of where the church stands now. In accordance with Small’s wishes, the church went by the name St. John’s, Berkeley. Sometime after Small’s death the church started to call itself St. John the Baptist, Norway, or, simply, St. John’s, Norway.

The little church on the hill was fondly described by one old-timer as being exceedingly quaint and possessing a very sweet bell which was rung every evening at six o’clock.

This bell, first rung in the Church of St. John’s, Norway at its dedication in 1855 was placed in the cemetery office in 1929, and has rung during every funeral service since then.

Sand Used To Make Bricks
The contours of the area were very different in those days. Norway was located at the edge of the formation which includes the Scarborough Bluffs deep long drifts of sand from the shores of prehistoric Lake Iroquois. When parts of the cemetery property were graded, thousands of loads of building sand were removed and sold to the Toronto Brick Works. The sand was made into clay bricks used to build homes and factories throughout the city in the mid 1800s. It also helped pay for 15 acres of much-needed cemetery land.


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