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St. Ambrose Anglican Church


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Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
St. Ambrose Anglican Church is an early twentieth century, one and one-half storey building built in the Gothic Revival style. Located on two lots in a residential district in the Town of Redcliff, St. Ambrose was constructed using clinker bricks and features pointed glass windows and a circular rose window on the main facade.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the St. Ambrose Anglican Church, constructed in 1914, lies in its architectural significance as an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style. The use of local clinker bricks also contributes to the site's heritage value not only as a fine Albertan example of the use of that material, but also as a testimony to the brick production industry in the development of the Redcliff community.

During the Victorian era, Gothic Revival became the style of choice for ecclesiastical architecture in England, due to the efforts of such arbiters of style as John Ruskin and the Ecclesiologists. The Ecclesiologists promoted the Gothic Revival style as quintessentially English and as representative of a period of church architecture that was particularly admirable. Across Canada, the Gothic Revival style was adopted by Protestant denominations that had their origins in England. Alberta was no exception to this, and Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches in Alberta displayed their ties to the mother country by almost universally employing some form of Gothic Revival architecture. The St. Ambrose Anglican Church has the steeply sloping gable roof, buttresses and pointed windows characteristic of the Gothic Revival style. Rather than emulating more complex urban models, this church is patterned on village churches typical of rural England. The building appears massive and plain, with simple window and door openings that leave large areas of wall unbroken. Inside, the simple open space spanned by wooden trusses carries on the impression. The variety of Gothic Revival architecture seen in the St. Ambrose Anglican Church is not common in Alberta, and is particularly linked with the Anglican Church. Other examples include St. Luke Anglican Church in Red Deer (1898-1906) and the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer (1904) in Calgary, both of which are built of sandstone.

The community of Redcliff had flourished in the early twentieth century due to the booming brick production industry. The Redcliff Clay Products Company, one of the largest producers of brick in the area prior to 1914, provided all of the clinker bricks for St. Ambrose Anglican Church. Because they had been overfired, clinker bricks were often considered undesirable. Their irregular and burnt appearance, however, found favour with some creative designers, architects, and bricklayers. The striking umber, sienna, and cadmium colours of this brick type commended its use to many more. Although likely selected for their ready availability, the clinker bricks used to accent the exterior of St. Ambrose also evoke the flint cobbles found in many English stone prototypes. The application of this material, so central to the early growth and prosperity of Redcliff, is imaginative in its evocation of Gothic Revival English church architecture.

Source: Alberta Culture and Status of Women, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: DES 1379)

Character-Defining Elements
Character-defining elements of the St. Ambrose Anglican Church include such features as:
- elements of the simplified yet sophisticated Gothic Revival style that emulate the features of rural English parish churches;
- size, form, and massing;
- Gothic arched doorway featuring decorated sandstone extrados and keystone;
- original Gothic-style entry door;
- the steeply sloping gable roof, buttresses and pointed windows;
- datestone featuring cross design and "LAUS DEO AD MCM XIV";
- decorative stained glass rose window on the west front;
- concrete and sandstone elements in the decoration of the buttresses;
- original wood-screened vestry at the rear of the nave;
- the use of clinker bricks;
- brick baptismal font;
- original fir flooring;
- exposed wooden beams in the interior of the nave;
- stained glass windows featuring scenes from the lives of the four evangelists and St. Ambrose.


Street Address: 505 - 5 Street SE
Community: Redcliff
Boundaries: Lots 19 and 20, Block 1, Plan 3042AV
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
9 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
3042 AV
3042 AV

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.070208 -110.781409 Secondary source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2008/10/15

Historical Information

Built: 1914 to 1914
Significant Date(s) 1914 to 1955
Theme(s) Building Social and Community Life : Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Current Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Religious Facility or Place of Worship

In 1906, with the population of Medicine Hat growing, the Stoner Land Company, which owned land along the South Saskatchewan River northwest of town, incorporated the Redcliff Brick Company and began to make bricks for the many buildings going up in Medicine Hat and elsewhere along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) line. In 1907, a town site was subdivided and a water and sewer system was installed. With people arriving to engage in the brick industry, and its related service industries, Redcliff was soon incorporated as a village. With the demand for brick growing, and the red clay off the South Saskatchewan providing an excellent product, Redcliff also continued to grow. The plentiful supply of natural gas was another inducement for industry as well as people, and Redcliff was referred to as 'Smokeless Pittsburgh'. In 1912, with its population listed at 3,000, Redcliff was incorporated as a town. By this time, three major brick plants were in business, along with an iron works, a truck-manufacturing plant, and the Dominion Glass Company.

With the population increasing so rapidly, and many of the people being of English descent, it is not surprising that pressure grew for an Anglican church. At the time, Redcliff, like Medicine Hat, was encompassed by the Anglican Diocese of Qu'Appelle. The newly appointed minister was H.C. Gibson, late of Maple Creek, and formerly of Bournsmouth, Hampshire, England. In early 1913, he was able to get the Redcliff Realty Company to donate four lots in the town for a church, manse and parish hall, if they could be constructed within two years. The estimated cost of 7,000 dollars, however, could not be raised from the district, and, so, just the wood frame manse was built that summer. In the meantime, Reverend Gibson embarked on a fundraising tour of England, seeking assistance mainly from the parish of St. Ambrose in Bournemouth. Here, he found success, for his father was still the parish priest. The younger Gibson thus returned to Redcliff in the spring of 1914 with 6,200 dollars for his project there.

Work on the St. Ambrose Church in Redcliff was begun in July 1914, the contract being awarded to the W. Wolfe Construction Company of Redcliff. Clinker brick was supplied by Redcliff Clay Products for 7,000 dollars per thousand. Work proceeded rapidly, and, on December 13, 1914, St. Ambrose Church was consecrated by Bishop Lord of Qu'Appelle. This was not too soon, for World War One brought a recession to the urban areas of western Canada, and it is possible that funds would not have been raised in England with the war in progress. Many businesses in Redcliff closed down, and Redcliff itself saw a decline in population. St. Ambrose managed to survive, however, and, in 1987, it was designated as a Registered Historic Resource.


The historical significance of St. Ambrose Anglican Church in Redcliff lies in its provision of structural evidence of the rapidly developed town of Redcliff prior to World War One. As the province's major centre for the manufacture of brick, and itself being a clinker brick structure, it also provides structural evidence of the brick industry in a community significant for this product. It is also important as a pre-World War One Anglican parish church, built in a community that was largely of British, and particularly English, descent.

(D. Leonard, June 2005)



St. Ambrose was constructed in 1914 to house an institution that has been an important part of the social history of Redcliff from its early years as an urban community to the present day. The town of Redcliff was established in 1910 by Stoner Land Company. One of the town's principal economic functions was the production of bricks that were manufactured by the Redcliff Brick and Coal Company. Like the majority of Alberta's urban communities, it rapidly expanded between 1910 and 1914.

The organization of an Anglican Church congregation began in the summer of 1912 when a group of residents in the town decided that a congregation of the Church of England should be established. The first Minister was Reverend H.C. Gibson from Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. In 1913, the Redcliff Realty Company offered to give the church four lots on the condition that a building worth 7,000 dollars is erected within two years. The required amount, however, could not be raised with the result that the congregation opted to build a manse for the minister.

In the fall of 1913, Reverend Gibson went to England and while there, appealed for funds to his friends and through his father, who was Dean in Bournemouth. He returned in the following spring to announce that he was able to raise 6,200 dollars. The contract for the new church was let to W. Rolfe of Redcliff and the first sod was turned on July 1, 1914.

The church was dedicated to St. Ambrose, the Saint of the Parish Church in Bournemouth, Hampshire, England, whose generous gifts had made the church in Redcliff possible. Both the structure and its use of materials produced by a notable local industry, and the congregation, are deeply rooted in the region's history. St. Ambrose is part of the early phase of the Gothic Revival in Alberta that was strongly influenced by the design of rural English parish churches. It has an overall squat appearance with a minimal amount of decoration and is basilican in plan.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0599
Designation File: DES 1379
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 24976
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1379)
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