The stone Cathedral building is an architectural jewel. Its style is Decorated Gothic Revival, particularly exemplified in the chancel arch, the clerestory, and roof. All the windows are stained glass. The Casavant Freres organ was originally installed in 1925, and refurbished over the years. The property in front of the Cathedral is known as Bishopsgate, a plaza, garden, fountain, and green space supported by volunteers.
The original wooden building was designed in 1835 by Richard Charles Wetherell (1805-1845), the architect of Dundurn Castle. It was built between 1837 and 1842. The auditorium was 100 feet long and 60 feet across, with a tower and steeple at the west end. The style has been described variously as “English,” “Baroque,” and “Palladian Baroque.”
In 1850s, William Thomas (1799-1860) was hired to build a Gothic-Revival-styled stone replacement, and his design established the current architecture. The first two bays of the nave and a short chancel were built around the wooden church. The church did not have all the funds to realize his project completely, so a scaled-down version was built. Thomas ultimately took his plans to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, now St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. The new section of the nave was 72 feet wide, and each bay was 20 feet from east to west, and the chancel was 16 feet long.
In 1873, Henry Langley (1836-1907), was contracted to finish renovations in anticipation of the appointment of Christ’s Church as the cathedral for the Anglican Diocese of Niagara (established in 1875). His project added three bays to the nave; and his design respected the work done by Thomas. The building was dedicated as cathedral and consecrated on January 1, 1876.
The schoolhouse to the north of the Cathedral was built on the design of William Leith (1835-1880) in 1876. The final phase of the current cathedral was designed by William Palmer Witton (1871-1947) and completed in 1926, as part of the 50th-anniversary celebrations. Witton’s renovations include the extension of the chancel, the addition of the Dean’s vestry (now Steve Varey Memorial Reading Room), two lofts that house the organ pipes, and the ambulatory. The organ, carved woodwork, choir seating and the reredos are all features added during or after this building phase.
The approximate dimensions of the Cathedral are:
Nave: Length 100 feet, height 52 feet, width 72 feet. Chancel: Length 48 feet, height 50 feet and width 35 feet.
Total length, including ambulatory, is 154 feet.
Ceiling and plaster carvings: William Thomas (1855 section) added plaster carvings at the top of columns and plaster casting in the ceiling elements.
Stained glass windows: the oldest window was installed in 1853 and the youngest in 1954, and at least six different companies provided the windows. This combination of 100 years of changing styles and different manufactures results in great variety.
Wood carvings: most of the wood carvings in the chancel, and the lectern and pulpit were done by Valley City Manufacturing of Dundas. The main altar was carved by W. J. Allen of Toronto.
Stone carvings: The stone reredos behind the altar was made by J. Wippell and Company in Exeter, England and shipped for installation in the cathedral in 1932.
Chancel cushions and kneelers: the kneelers in front of the communion rail and seat cushions in the chancel were made by a group of ladies in the 1970s.
For more information on the Cathedral's architecture, please feel free to read Prof. Malcolm Thurlby's article Christ's Church, Hamilton, Ontario, and the Changing Image of the Anglican Church - 1835-1875.
Based on information from Alexander Darling and other sources; compiled by Daniela Cruz.