Tag Archives: Cheltenham


Saturday July 4, 2015

Having explored the Cheltenham Brickyards and Badlands we walked up Mill Street and into the village of Cheltenham.  The dominant feature in the area is the Niagara Escarpment which offered prime building material, close to the surface.  Large red pieces of whirlpool sandstone were cut and used for major public buildings in Toronto and other urban centres.  In Chingaucousy Township, outcroppings of Queenston shale proved perfect for making terra cotta (Terra Cotta) and bricks (Cheltenham).  The Credit River winds its way through farms, past mills and industrial sites and provided power and transportation to the early settlers.

Charles Haines emigrated from Cheltenham, England and arrived in York (Toronto) in 1817.  Charles drew a half lot on the Credit River that had excellent prospects for a mill seat.  His first grist mill in 1827 was built of logs and had a single run of stones.  As the needs of the farming community increased a larger mill was required and Haines built a new one with three run of stones.  Haines was taking advantage of increased grain production in Peel as well as grinding American grain.  Under colonial tariffs it was lucrative to turn American grain into Canadian flour and sell it to England.  The grist mill burned down in 1945 and only the foundations remain. This is why Cheltenham has no mills on Mill Street.  The picture below shows the remnants of the dam structure as seen from the south side of the river.


As you look across the Credit River you can see remains of the dam on that side as well.  More imposing is the structure of the saw mill.  The first saw mill was erected by Haines around 1835.  The existing structure is reported to be the third one on the site.  It was built around 1886 and is one of the few remaining saw mills that are close to Toronto.  It is also featured in the cover photo in a shot from Mill Street.


Across from the old saw mill, also on Haines property, is a building called the Honey House.  In this building Theodore Haines, followed by his son Rusty, keep an apiary.  Cheltenham is surrounded with meadows where a wide variety of flowers are in bloom.  Here, the bees can collect nectar which is basically sucrose and water.  They use an enzyme to convert the sucrose into glucose and fructose and then eliminate all but about 18% of the water, making honey. This building is made of yellow and red brick, possibly from Interprovincial Brick, in the most interesting pattern I have yet featured.


Although the bumble bee doesn’t make honey it is useful in it’s own way.  Like the honey bee, it collects pollen from flowers and transfers it to other flowers, completing the process of pollination.


This house was built by Frederick Haines Sr. beside the general store following the fire of 1886.  In addition to running the general store and the grist mill Frederick was a key figure in the town.  The dichromate brick in this house gives beautiful decoration to the home. The extended bay windows give the house a symmetry around the arched entrance.  The building was used as an antique store during the 1960’s and 1970’s before being used as a retreat for the United Church.  It has now come full circle and serves as a private residence once again.


When a fire destroyed several buildings on the main street they were quickly rebuilt.  The General Store is located in a building made of local sandstone and limestone which replaced an earlier frame structure.  It was built in 1887 and has served a wide variety of uses over the years.  As well as being the general store and post office it has also been a bank, library, tailor’s shop and a doctor’s office.  When the telephone came to the community it housed the first local switchboard.  Also, Cheltenham’s first gas pumps were located in front of this building.


William Henry opened a frame inn beside the general store in 1848.  Lost to the fire of 1886 it was replaced with the brick building that stands here today.  The Cheltenham Hotel has dichromatic brick using yellow for corner quoins and window lintels to offset the red brick, making the building look more substantial.


The town has a large collection of historic buildings including several homes on the main street. The one pictured below with the fine scroll work sits across from the end of Mill Street.  It was built around 1875  by Charles King who had purchased the property from Fred Haines in 1870. The front lawn still sports the well and water pump.  This pump was made by R. McDougall & Co. in Galt.  McDougall was a manufacturer of heavy steel equipment from the late 1880’s until they were bought out in 1951.  They specialized in lathes, but also made water pumps, including the one at Earl Bales house and at Spadina House.


Charles Haines built his second house in 1835 on the top of the hill over looking the valley with his milling empire and the town it spawned.  The house is pictured below prior to restoration in 1988.

Top of the Hill-page1

The restored Haines house has now been converted to a bed and breakfast which is conveniently called Top Of The Hill.  The owners are related to Charles and Martha and the house has been in the family since it was built.  In 1988 the house was stripped of some of its additions and lifted up to get a new basement.  Guests of the B&B can relax among family antiques and read the diary written by Charles’ son, Charles, which describes life in the pioneer town.


The Credit River flows through town and makes a beautiful tapestry to portray the trees and the nearly still Canadian Flag.


Charles Haines lies buried in the cemetery across the road from the fire hall.  His legacy includes transferring the name Cheltenham from the UK to Upper Canada.  Several heritage buildings in town were built by himself or his direct descendants.


Cheltenham is a picturesque village which retains much of its historic form and buildings.  For this reason it is designated as a Cultural Heritage Landscape and many of its buildings are designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

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Cheltenham – Brickyards and Badlands

Saturday July 4, 2015

We parked at the site of the Cheltenham Brickyards.  It was 22 degrees and sunny, a beautiful Saturday morning.  It was time for us to investigate the brickyards as well as the community of Cheltenham, which will form a companion post.  The brickyards are fenced off so it’s handy to have a camera where the lense can fit through chain link fencing.

Cheltenham is situated on the Niagara Escarpment and the surrounding area has plenty of easily accessible shale deposits.  In the early 1900’s it was discovered that this shale made especially good dry pressed bricks.  Frederick Bruce McFarren was born Oct. 25, 1889 in Toronto and would become one of the best known figures in the Canadian clay brick industry. In 1914 he produced his first bricks in the Cheltenham Brickyards under the name of Interprovincial Bricks.  The brick in the picture below is marked “I B 8 0” for Interprovincial Bricks. Like other less than perfect examples, it has been discarded along the sides of the old railway tracks.


The Brickworks was sold by McFarren to Cooksville Brick in 1928 but Frederick retained a management position there until at least 1955.  McFarren was responsible that year to oversee the conversion of the plant from coal fire to natural gas. The building closest to Mississauga Road is the concrete coal storage shed.  Built of poured concrete with concrete buttresses it was used to store the coal that fed the kilns until 1955.  


Two, three story brick buildings remain on site.  These were known as crushing or mixing sheds and stood just to the north of the kilns and chimneys.  The two buildings feature brick buttresses and overhanging gable roofs.  The cover photo shows all five remaining kiln chimneys along with one of the crushing sheds.  Also seen in the picture below are concrete bases for brick storage sheds and steel beam supports for manufacturing buildings.


Five of the original six brick chimneys are still standing.  These four sided chimneys are built of bricks and reinforced with metal banding.  Originally they were set in pairs but the south eastern one is missing today.  Long buildings containing kilns ran between the chimneys.  The chimneys were used to exhaust the underground ventilation tunnels from the downdraft kilns.  The tunnels and some underground works still remain.  Intercontinental Brick introduced the first continuous or “railway” tunnel type of kiln in Canada in 1922.  The kilns at Intercontinental Brick were built by G. W. Booth.


Two manufacturing plants existed on the site and although they have been removed the brick walled earthworks still remain.


The Hamilton & North Western Railway was incorporated in 1872.  In 1888 they were absorbed into the Grand Trunk Railway.  The GTR was taken over by the Canadian National Railway in 1923.  Mcfarren chose the site of his brick factory carefully.  He needed a place where the raw materials for his bricks could be extracted on site so that he wouldn’t need to pay to transport it.  He also needed easy access to shipping, preferably by rail.  In 1912 a site was selected near the GTR tracks, close to Cheltenham for labour and with easy access to the local shale.  The picture below shows the now abandoned railway tracks and the berm on the right that hides the still active shale pit.


Another local innovation was the bringing of electrical power from Georgetown to power the plant.  Interprovincial Bricks was sold to E. P. Taylor in 1954 and to Domtar in 1955.  It was under Domtar ownership that the brickyards were finally closed in 1964. Meanwhile McFarren had purchased Streetsville Brick with the money he made from the original sale in 1928, renaming it McFarren Brick in 1929.  McFarren is remembered in Streetsville with a park named after him.

The Familiar Bluet is a damselfly, sitting with wings folded, and is common in Southern Ontario. They were darting all around us and one is hiding on the stalk of grass in the centre of this photograph.


The picture below shows what the brickyards may have looked like around 1930.  Several additional buildings can be seen, some of which were workers housing.  Notice the kilns running between the six chimneys.


Eyed Brown butterflies seemed to be everywhere along the sides of the old railway line.  As weather patterns change this butterfly is becoming more common in northern areas.  The less common Smoky Eyed Brown has 5 spots on the forewing instead of just four as on the example in the picture below.


Just north of Cheltenham are the Cheltenham Badlands.  The area of the Great Lakes was formerly an inland sea known as the Michigan Basin where over time a delta was formed of iron rich soil.  This mud was slowly compressed into what is now known as Queenston shale.  The iron in the shale gives it its red colour.  This shale was exposed when cattle grazing removed the protective vegetation cover.  Farming has been discontinued at this site since 1931 but the erosion is ongoing.  The clay seen here is similar to that found at the site of the Cheltenham Brickyards.  A hiking trail used to cross the badlands but people won’t stay on the trails and the erosion is increasing.  Therefore, the area has recently been fenced off while a new preservation plan is developed.


The Cheltenham Brickyards have a cultural heritage designation because they reveal an important use of the local landscape.  Proximity to raw resources and transportation allowed the nearby community to continue to prosper after the decline of the saw mill and grist mill industries.  Look for more on the founding of Cheltenham in an upcoming post.

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