St. Ambrose Anglican Church

 

The St. Ambrose Anglican Church in Redcliff was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2008. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance for either its history or architecture. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Below is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the St. Ambrose Anglican Church.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was extending its survey grade across the southern prairies during 1881-82, a point was made to identify places suitable for the erection of stations and the subdivision of townsites.  One such spot was where the railway was earmarked to cross the South Saskatchewan River at present dayMedicine Hat.  Among the established industries in the area was that of clay products.  Common clay and shale were readily available along the river flats, while ball clay, fire clay, and stonewear clay were to be found in the outlying areas.

       

In 1906, with the population ofMedicine Hatgrowing, the Stoner Land Company, which owned land along the South Saskatchewan River northwest of town, incorporated the Redcliff Brick Company and began to make bricks for the many buildings going up inMedicine Hatand elsewhere along the CPR line.  In 1907, a townsite was subdivided and a water & sewer system was installed near the plant.  With people arriving to engage in the brick industry, and its related service industries, Redcliff was soon incorporated as a village.  With the demand for brick growing, and the red clay off theSouth Saskatchewanproviding an excellent product, Redcliff also continued to grow.  The plentiful supply of natural gas was another inducement for industry as well as people, and Redcliff was referred to as a “Smokeless Pittsburgh.”  In 1912, with its population listed at 3,000, Redcliff was incorporated as a town.  By this time, three major brick plants were in business, along with an iron works, a truck-manufacturing plant, and the Dominion Glass Company. 

With the population increasing so rapidly, and many of the people being of English descent, it is not surprising that pressure grew for an Anglican church.  At the time, Redcliff, likeMedicine Hat, was encompassed by the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle.  The newly appointed minister was H.C. Gibson, late of Maple Creek, and formerly of Bournsmouth,Hampshire,England.  In early 1913, he was able to get the Redcliff Realty Company to donate 4 lots in the town for a church, manse and parish hall, if they could be constructed within two years.  The estimated cost of $7,000, however, could not be raised from the district, and, so, just the wood frame manse was built that summer.  In the meantime, Reverend Gibson embarked on a fundraising tour ofEngland, seeking assistance mainly from the parish of St. Ambrose in Bournsmouth.  Here, he found success, for his father was still the parish priest.  The younger Gibson thus returned to Redcliff in the spring of 1914 with $6,200 for his project there. 

Work on the St. Ambrose Church in Redcliff was begun in July 1914, the contract being awarded to the W. Wolfe Construction Company of Redcliff.  Clinker brick was supplied by Redcliff Clay Products for $7,000 per thousand.  Work proceeded rapidly, and, on 13 December, 1914, St. Ambrose Church was consecrated by Bishop Lord ofQu’Appelle.  This was not too soon, for World War I brought a recession to the urban areas of westernCanada, and it is possible that funds would not have been raised inEnglandwith the war in progress.  Many businesses in Redcliff closed down, and Redcliff itself saw a decline in population.  St. Ambrose managed to survive, however, and, in 1987, it was incorporated as a Registered Historic Resource.  In 1908, it became a Provincial Historic Resource.

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