A LOOK INSIDE: Honiton’s unique Canadian chapel

PUBLISHED: 11:30 06 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:32 08 January 2019

Wolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4922. Picture: Terry Ife

Wolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4922. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

Between Honiton and Dunkeswell lies a perfectly normal chapel – with a very unusual slice of Canadian history behind it.

Wolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4940. Picture: Terry IfeWolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4940. Picture: Terry Ife

Wolford Chapel has never been substantially altered and appears much the same as when built. The interior displays many fine examples of Jacobean workmanship.

The chapel and its collection of antique furnishings and decorative arts were generously donated to the people of Ontario in 1966 by British publisher Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth.

At the same time MR A G Le Marchant, the then-owner of the Simcoe Estate, donated an easement to Ontario for a public right of way to the chapel.

John Grave Simcoe was born in Cotterstock England on February 25, 1752.

Wolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4935. Picture: Terry IfeWolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4935. Picture: Terry Ife

He was raised in Exeter Devon by his mother and educated at Exeter Free Grammar School, Eton and Oxford.

Simcoe began a life-long military career in 1770 when he secured a commission as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot.

In 1775, he was sent with his regiment to Boston then under siege by Washington’s Continental Army, and given command of the Queens Rangers in 1777.

Four years later, Simcoe returned to England on convalescent leave and the following year, he married Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim - a wealthy heiress.

Wolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4934. Picture: Terry IfeWolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4934. Picture: Terry Ife

The Simcoes purchased an estate at Wolford near Honiton and built ‘Wolford Lodge’, which remained in family hands until 1923.

Simcoe spent the next few years enlarging and improving the estate but always maintained a keen interest in events in North America.

Simcoe was later appointed as the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada in 1791.

He arrived in the new province in June 1792 accompanied by his wife and their two youngest children.

Wolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4904. Picture: Terry IfeWolford Chapel in Dunkeswell. Ref mhh 46 18TI 4904. Picture: Terry Ife

Although there had been considerable loyalist settlement in upper Canada, particularly in the east, most of the province was still a wilderness.

Simcoe presided over the introduction of British institutions of government, devising military strategy for defending upper Canada against the United States and building strategic roads to facilitate troop movements to promote settlement and encourage trade.

In 1806, he accepted the prestigious appointment of Commander in Chief in India, and was asked to undertake a special mission in Portugal.

However, en-route to his new command he fell ill in Lisbon and returned to England.

He died in the home of Archdeacon Moore in Exeter on October 26 and was buried at Wolford Chapel on November 4.

The chapel is open to the public during daylight hours.

A team of volunteers assist with the day to day running of the chapel.

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