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History of the Cathedral of
St. John the Baptist
St. John's



The history of this church dates back well before the recordings of the baptisms, marriages and deaths recorded from 1753. History has it that the first Chapel (a military one) was built in 1696, but raids from the French destroyed it. Further chapels were built again in 1699 (when the population was approximately 500) in 1699 and then again in 1702 with the help of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG). Rev. Jackson was accepted as the Missionary by the SPG. It is recorded that 100 hands were set to work to erect a church and a house for Rev. Jackson. In 1705, this church was also destroyed by the French who traveled overland from Placentia. In 1706, another church was built, but French under St. Ovide captured the town yet again in 1708 and the church served as a prison and then a warehouse. There is no record of what happened to this church, but it did not survive beyond 1720. In 1720 another church was built, but other than what Rev. Walbank wrote, there is nothing known about the history of this other than it was to have been built close to the southeast corner of the present Cathedral churchyard. This church survived until 1757, when it was in such a state of decay to be beyond repair.

The Rev. Langman who had been appointed incumbent of the Parish in 1752 undertook the building of a new church which was opened for service in 1757. From Jun to Sept, 1762, St. John's was under military rule to the King of France and Rev. Langman and his people were reduced to great distress. Most of the protestants were sent to Placentia. The death of Rev. Langman's wife and infant daughter prevented his removal, but not the plundering of his home or the church. During the French occupation the church was used by the Roman Catholics. In the register of the Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths for that year, Rev. Langman noted Nov 4, 1760 to the 27th June, registers were lost when French took this place and I lay sick in a dangerous flux and all my papers were lost. Just below this he recorded the death of his wife on Aug 9th and a few weeks later his infant daughter on Sept 30th, 1762.

In 1791 when Rev. John Harries was transferred to St. John's, he found the church to be in a sad state (being a wooden building) and beyond repair. Some five years were to elapsed before a decision was made by the Governor to build a new church. In 1800 the old church was replaced by a new one which was built a little further up the hill from the old one (Church Hill). Vandalism at the Church caused further records to go missing, which ones they were is un-recorded, but 100 pounds was offered in the Royal Gazette for information on who did the vandalism. In 1844, plans were underway to construct a new building as the old one had deteriorated badly. Cut stone was imported from Cork, Ireland at the cost of £3,800. The plans prepared by Mr. Purcell cost £20 and the engraving of the plate for the foundation stone £1/10-0. This church again fell caused by the fire of June 1846. Bishop Field set about immediately to construct another church as his parishioners were without a place to worship.

In 1847 a contract was entered into between Mr. Wm. Hay of Edinburgh and Sir Geo. Gilbert Scott on behalf of Bishop Field to come to NFLD to supervise the building of the new Cathedral. Worked progressed rapidly and opened on Sept 21, 1850. This church stood until 1885, when massive renovations and additives were made to the Cathedral. For the next seven years attention was focused on the completion of the interior furnishings and adornments as well as preparations for the tower and spire, only to be defeated once again by the Great Fire of St. John's on July 8th, 1892. Only the outer walls lay standing. It was not time for regrets, but time to rebuild and they did that with the generous aid from the United Kingdom, Canada and the US and by June 24th, 1895 the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was rebuilt and ongoing additions for the next 35 years. So despite all the hardships that this Cathedral endured, it stands today as an Majestic Architecture's delight.

Information and Records for the Cathedral of
St. John the Baptist
St. John's

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Church Hill Church Office
9 Cathedral Street
St. John's, NL Canada
A1C 3Y4

Telephone #:
Parish House - (709) 726-5677
Cathedral - (709) 726-1999
Parish Hall - (709) 753-6868

Fax #:
(709) 726-2053

e-mail address:

Home Page:

The Very Rev'd Josiah Noel
12 Cahill Drive
St. John's, NL
A1A 5H4 709-722-3537


The Rev'd Dr. Robert Rowlands
48 Fox Ave
St. John's, NL
A1B 2H9
709-754-8944 (home)


The Rev'd John Hewson
(Honorary Assistant)
65 Carrick Drive
St. John's, NL
Canada, A1A 4N5

Administrative Assistant:
Ms. Marilyn Warford, C.S.

Records available:

Baptisms(1753-1790)Box 1 - Reel # 09 (1752-1784)
Baptisms(1812-1857)Box 1 - Reel # 09 (1810-1818)
Baptisms Reel # 09 (1849-1857)
Baptisms(1879-1906)Box 2 - Reel # 32 (1752-1792)
Baptisms Reel # 32 (1795, 1803, 1849)
Baptisms Reel # 29 (1879-1906)
Baptisms Reel # 09 (1818-1848)
Marriages(1753-1790)Box 1 - Reel # 32 (1752-1795)
Marriages(1796-1803)Box 3 - Reel # 09 (1752-1784)
Marriages(1812-1819)Box 3 - Reel # 09 (1796-1803)
Marriages(1828-1851)Box 3 - Reel # 09 (1809-1879)
Marriages(1825-1879)Box 4 -  
Marriages(1819-1828)Box 3 (with alpha transcript)
Burials (1753-1790)Box 1 - Reel # 09 (1752-1790)
Burials (1812-1893)Box 5 - Reel # 32 (1752-1790)
Burials  Reel # 32 (1795-1803)
Burials  Reel # 29 (1812-1824)
Burials  Reel # 29 (1846-1893)
Miscellaneous(1750-1850)Box 6 (Births, Marriages and Deaths)
Lay Baptisms (1849- )Box 6 (West Coast/Northern Peninsula & Labrador)
Misc. Entries (1807-1811)Box 3 
Bldg of Church (1759- )Box 6 - Reel # 09 (1759)
Parishioners List(1863- ) Box 6 - Reel # 09 (1863)
Transcripts (1849- ) Box 6 
Burials(1830-1838) Box 6 - Reel # 29 (1830-1838) (Portugal Cove)

These records are also available at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) Death records have been recorded since 1752

The following are the Vital Statistics Volumes (DPHW) that are available at the PANL only

Parish: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Place: St. John's
Religion: Church of England
Baptisms:1752-1791Vol 26CReel No. Ad (1785-1786 Missing)
 1796-1848Vol 26BReel No. Ac (1804-1807 Missing)
 1849-1870Vol 26AReel No. A
 1870-1892Vol 26Reel No. A
Marriages: 1754-1834Vol 26E Reel No. B (1760-61; 1794-95; 1804-06 Missing)
1835-1891Vol 26DReel No. B

These are the All Newfoundland Births - Vital Statistics Division microfilm available for this parish at the PANL for the period from 1891 to1926 for baptisms and from 1891 to 1922 for marriages.

The death records for the Cathedral Parish start from 1753 onwards There are also microfilms at the PANL from the Vital Statistics Division from 1891 to 1949 for deaths.

Cemeteries used:

The Burying Grounds located south of the Cathedral on the Church property is one of the oldest known cemeteries in St. John's with burials dating back to 1752 of all denominations even though the ceremonies were performed by a Church of England Minister.

General Protestant Cemetery located on Waterford Bridge Road, St. John's
Anglican Cemetery - located on Kenmount Road
Anglican Cemetery - located on Forest Road

A list of Pastors who have served the Cathedral Parish:

Rev. John Jackson(1699-1705)Rev. Jacob Rice(1705-1712)
Rev. Charles Davis(1713-1719)Rev. Thomas Phillips (1719-unk.)
Rev. John Fordyce(1730-1736)Rev. Thomas Holback (1742-4mos.)
Rev. William Peasley(1744-1749)Rev. Edward Langman (1752-1782)
Rev. Walter Price(1783-1789)Rev. John Harries (1791-1809)
Rev. David Rowland(1810-1817)Rev. Thomas Grantham (1817-1818)
Rev. Frederick H Carrington(1818-1839)Rev. Thomas F.H. Bridge(1840-1856)
Rev. Edward Field(1856-1876)Rev. James B.K. Kelly (1876-1877)
Rev. Llewellyn Jones(1878-1894)Rev. Arthur H. Browne (1894-1899)
Rev. Henry B. Cartwright(1899-1905)Rev. Llewellyn Jones (1906)
Rev. Thomas B.A. Saunders(1907-1908)Rev. William C. White (1908-1918)
Rev. Leonard L.C. Jeeves(1919-1929)Rev. Harold G. Peile(1929-1934)
Rev. Ernest R.W. Higham (1934-1946)The Very Rev. Robert S. Rayson(1947-1955)
Rev. J.A. Frank Slade(1955-1977)The Very Rev. Edward C.W. Rusted (1977-1989)
The Very Rev. Donald F. Harvey(1989-1993)The Very Rev. William J. Bellamy(1993-present)



I would like to thank Julia Mathison for sending me the history and photo of the Cathedral
and The Very Rev. William J. Bellamy for updating the list of Priests who served the parish.

Contributed by Barbara McGrath

Page Revised by Ivy F. Benoit (Friday October 29, 2004)

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