Toronto Through My Lens

Victoria Memorial Square

At 10 Niagara Street, on the corner of Portland Street and Niagara, sits Victoria Memorial Square:

Victoria Memorial Square is a park and former cemetery. It was established in 1793 as the burial place for those affiliated with the nearby Toronto Garrison (Fort York). It was the first cemetery to be used by European settlers in what would become the city of Toronto. Originally known as St. John’s Square, the park today is part of Fort York National Historic Site.

The Old Soldier
War of 1812 Memorial

This monument in the Square is entitled The Old Soldier, and was erected by the British Army and Navy Veterans’ Association. It was erected to honour the dead of the War of 1812, on this site of an old burial ground used between 1794 and 1863 for soldiers and their families from nearby Fort York. 

The memorial was designed and constructed by Walter Seymour Allward. He designed a bronze half-length figure of an old one-armed soldier in the uniform of 1812 holding his military cap, the George IV medal on his chest and the end of one empty sleeve pinned up.

The memorial’s cornerstone was laid on July 1, 1902. The cornerstone featured a time capsule, including newspapers, coins, and other documents of the day. Veterans of several wars were on hand for the ceremony, including those who had served in the Crimean War, Second Opium War, Indian Rebellion of 1857, Second Anglo-Afghan War, Fenian Raids, North-West Rebellion, and the South African War. The official unveiling was on July 5, 1907, after nearly 20 years of planning and fundraising.

Inscriptions On The Memorial

DEFENCE OF YORK (NOW TORONTO)

IN MEMORY OF OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND MEN WHO WERE KILLED OR DIED OF WOUNDS IN THE FOLLOWING REGIMENTS OR COMPANIES OF REGIMENTS ENGAGED IN THE DEFENCE OF YORK (TORONTO).

APRIL 27TH 1813

ROYAL ARTILLERY
ROYAL NAVAL ARTIFICES
8th REGIMENT (OF FOOT)
ROYAL NEWFOUNDLAND REGIMENT
CLENGARY FENCIBLES MILITIA
INCORPORATED MILITIA
Front Plaque
IN MEMORY OF OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND MEN WHO
WERE KILLED, DIED OF WOUNDS AND DISEASE, IN THE FOLLOWING REGIMENTS OR COMPANIES OF REGIMENTS ENGAGED DURING THE WAR OF 1812-1815 UPON THE WESTERN CANADIAN FRONTIER, WEST OF KINGSTON.

Royal Artillery – Royal Engineers
19th Dracoons 41st Regiment 100th Regiment
1st Regiment 49th Regiment 103rd Regiment
6th Regiment 82nd Regiment 103th Regiment
8th Regiment 89th Regiment
Royal Veteran Rect.
Royal Newfoundland Rect.
Prov. Dracoons Militia
Wattsville Rect. Militia
Canadian Fencibles
Simcoe Militia
Clencary Fencibles Militia
York Rangers Militia
1st Norfolk Militia
Coloured Corps & Indians
Rear Plaque
“Dead in Battle – Dead in the field”
More than his life can a soldier yield?
His blood has burnished his sabre bright
To his memory, honour: To him, good night”

This monument is to perpetuate the memory and deeds of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men who gave their lives in the defence of Canada in the War of 1812-15 and is erected by the British Army and Navy Veterans residing in Toronto. Aided by generous subscriptions from the British Army and Navy, and the citizens of Canada.

July 1st 1902

BATTLE FIELDS

RIVER CANARD
BEAVER DAMS
BLACK ROCK
CHATEAUGUAY
CHRYSLER FARM
DETROIT
FORT NIAGARA
FORT ERIE
YORK
FORT GEORGE
LUNDY’S LANE
THAMES
STONY CREEK
Side Plaque

Surviving Headstones from the Military Burial Ground

The park is Toronto’s oldest cemetery. The downtown site was used as a burial ground for nearly seventy years, from 1794 to 1863. During that time, it saw hundreds of burials, including many soldiers from the War of 1812.

The park was created by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe shortly after the establishment of the Garrison at York and the founding of the town. Simcoe’s infant daughter, Katherine, was one of the first to be buried at the cemetery which was closed in 1863 when it was deemed to be full.

The cemetery was converted to a park in the 1880s. Its grave sites were levelled, paths were established, and the 17 surviving headstones gathered along the park’s western edge:


Historical Photos

1885 – Military burying grounds, today’s Victoria Memorial Square (Toronto Public Library r-2851)
1913 – Looking northwest from Portland Street. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 52, Item 192.
1950 – City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257

References

Government of Canada, Veterans of Canada site

The Daily Hive

1 Comment

  1. David

    Love this! Parks are so important to the life of a city.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 TO Cityscapes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Subscribe to TO Cityscapes

Subscribe to TO Cityscapes

Join my mailing list to receive an email alert when I publish a new post.

You have successfully subscribed! Check your email for further info.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!