One of the oldest streets
Avon Street is one of the oldest streets in Stratford, appearing on the 1848 Map of the village. It takes its name from the Avon River which was first called the Little Thames and then changed to reflect the Shakespearean flavour of Stratford. Avon is a Celtic word meaning river or water and also appears in Welsh as Afon. There are several rivers in the British Isles and in parts of Europe by this name. Our Avon River and thus Avon Street are named for the Upper Avon which flows through Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire in central England. It is sometimes called the "Shakespeare Avon" in England because of its associations with Stratford.
Famous beauty spots on the Avon include Warwick Castle, Stratford and Evesham. Famous Shakespearean theatres in both England and Canada are located on "the banks of the Avon." By Stanford Dingman
Annie Macpherson Home: friend of neglected children
51 Avon Street Photo: Fred Gonder
The Annie Macpherson Home is a two-storey, buff brick residence constructed in about 1870, at 51 Avon St. The property was designated for its heritage value by the City of Stratford in 1987.
The home is associated with Miss Annie Macpherson, who founded the Matchbox Makers Mission for destitute children in London, England, in 1866.
Annie Macpherson was born in Scotland and educated at the Home and Colonial School Society's Training College on Gray’s Inn Road in London, England. There she became aware of the terrible conditions for poor children in the East End of London.
By 1869, Miss Macpherson had opened the Home of Industry in London to house and educate children she found living on the streets. In Canada, she opened three homes for the distribution and care of children. The first group of 100 boys under Annie Macpherson’s care, to be transported to Canada, set sail on May 12, 1870. They were generally referred to as “home children.”
In 1872, two additional homes were added in Cambridge, Ontario and Knowlton, P.Q. Miss Macpherson brought children from her Home of Industry, while other children came from the London workhouses. The Cambridge home was used by Miss Macpherson until 1883. At that time she moved her work to 51 Avon Street in Stratford. Miss Macpherson attended the official opening of the house in Stratford on Oct. 18, 1883, and gave a short history of the movement.
Miss Macpherson's sister Rachel Merry and her husband Joseph Merry, managed the establishment during Miss Macpherson’s absence in England. Soon, their son, William Merry, and his wife took over the management of the Home.
Though the home went under a number of different names over the years, including “Miss Macpherson’s Boys’ Home – for the distribution and care of English children emigrated through Miss Macpherson,” and “The Annie Macpherson Home of Industry,” locally, it was simply known as the “Merry House.” Children were escorted from England to the Stratford home for more than 30 years. The First World War made it dangerous for children sailing overseas and the last "home children" to live at 51 Avon St. arrived in about 1916. The Stratford home was used until 1919. It is estimated that 8,100 boys and girls of the approximately 100,000 children who were sent to Canada spent time at 51 Avon St.
Stanford Dingman reviewed a book by Kenneth Bagnell called "The Little Immigrants," which is about orphans coming to Canada. It paints a sad picture of how many of the orphans were treated. The book gives scant mention of Stratford and the thousands of orphans who were received at the Annie Macpherson home. Children who came to the Stratford home worked in local industries, or on farms, or as domestics in family settings.
Built in about 1870, the Macpherson home is a good example of the Italianate style of architecture with a Second Empire- style mansard roof. Typical of the Italianate style is the detailed frontispiece and the basic rectangular plan of the building. The residence has two large, detailed bay windows on the first floor and three round-arched dormers on the roof. Source: Historic Places and Stratford and District Historical Society
Picture Source: British Home in Canada Source for photo of Annie Macpherson: Birt, Lilian M., "The children's home-finder: the story of Annie Macpherson and Louisa Birt" (1913). DR note: Lilian M. Birt or Louisa Birt ???? The McMaster Collection. A list of children who came to the Annie Macpherson Home can be found here: Library and Archives DR note: IS McMASTER COLLECTION McMASTER UNIVERSITY?
Immigrant girls arriving at the Stratford train station in about 1908
Immigrant boys arriving at the Stratford train station in about 1908
Historic Sites and Monuments Board plaque at 51 Avon St.
Home Children Plaque: Photo Fred Gonder
The Tunisian – a British "home child" ship
Many child immigrants came to Canada on this ship.
Built in Glasgow, the Allan Line’s Tunisian made her maiden voyage in 1900, travelling from Liverpool to Halifax and Portland, Maine. A month later, her first of many trips to Quebec, Montreal, Halifax and Portland began. In a period of 21 years, she carried more than 2,000 British "home children" to Canada.