Video: St. Catharines private school Memorial Chapel turns 100 this June

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Published November 28, 2022 at 3:33 pm

The Ridley College Memorial Chapel is shown here in the 1920s, not long after its construction. (All Photos: St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre)

In June 2023, the Memorial Chapel at Ridley College in St. Catharines will turn one century old.

The private, all-boys boarding school started in 1888 (only Upper Canada College in Toronto is older) and needed a property shift after the first school on Yates St burned down in 1903.

At that point, it landed on 2 Ridley Road, a tract of land they purchased above the western banks of the Welland Canal and has built up ever since. At the moment, it has the largest boarding program in Ontario with students representing over 61 countries.


The Ridley College campus in 1923 with the Memorial Chapel on the left.

But when the First World War broke out in 1914, over half of the school’s then-800 graduates enlisted to serve in the war. Sadly, by the war’s end in 1918, 61 former Ridley alumni had been killed with dozens more returning injured.

At that point, the school decided it was time to build the Memorial Chapel to honour the fallen former students and by Spring 1919, they had raised over $50,000 to construct.

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All stone and very gothic is style, the new church opened in June 1923 and at the very first service, there was a very somber reading of the names of Ridley’s war-dead was followed by a moment of silence and the bugles sounding the Last Post.

Built of grey Georgetown stone, the building offers a huge contrast to the others on campus. Eleven stained-glass windows line the side walls and altar’s end.


The interior of Ridley College’s Memorial Chapel after it opened in June 1923.

The seats – then and now – are made of solid oak, and several furnishings were given in memorial, including an oak eagle lectern, archer’s desk, organ screen, and communion table.

At the first service, Dr. John Ormsby Miller, Ridley’s first Principal, called the Memorial Chapel “a House of Sacrifice,” stating “it owes its building to the blood of a little band of Canadian soldiers who once attended Ridley.”

Watch as the museum’s “History from Here” host Sara takes you inside Memorial Chapel at Ridley College

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