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

Annie Macpherson

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.

Between 1869 and 1939 about 100,000 child immigrants, casualties of unemployment and poverty in Britain, were uprooted from their homes and families. With hopes of giving them new lives in Canada, British agencies sent children to receiving homes like this one. From there, a few of the younger children were adopted into Canadian families, but most were apprenticed as agricultural labourers or domestic servants. Often deprived of education and the comforts of family life. Home children suffered loneliness and prejudice. Their experience reveals a poignant chapter in Canadian immigration history.

*  See the power point presentation of the British Home Memorial Quilt by the Stratford-Perth Archives

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. 

British home-child trunk

An Annie Macpherson trunk–bound for Stratford, Ontario

This box held all Arthur Oiley's belongings when, at the age of eight, he was shipped from England to Canada aboard the SS Tunisian in 1908. He was a British home child and had been living in an institution for vagrant children in London, England, since 1906. The lettering on the box says A. Oiley, GTR (Grand Trunk Railway), No. 21, Miss Macpherson Stratford Ontario Canada (the receiving home where he stayed for two months before a farmer picked him out of a lineup of boys to work on a farm). 

Also, Arthur Wright boarded the Tunisian to stay at the Annie Macpherson House (see Gore Street).

A two by one foot Box.  A. Oiley G.T.R shown on the British Home Child Trunk 

Edwardian high-style home     63 Avon St.

George H. and Eda Kalbfleisch

This house was built for George H. Kalbfleisch and his wife, Eda, in 1917. The building was planned by Mr. Kalbfleisch's brothers, Henry and Emil (see St. Patrick Street).


The house is built in the Edwardian classical style. In contrast to the complexities of the Queen Anne style of architecture, Edwardian classical style is simpler and more formal.

Queen Anne style houses took decorative elements from everywhere, but Edwardian style was more restrained. Perhaps the most decorative area of an Edwardian building is its front entrance, or portico, which is embellished with elements from the classical tradition, such as columns and shaped, cantilever-type brackets. This portico is set against a monochromatic exterior brick finish. The style was an attempt to rein in, to some extent, the exuberance of the Queen Anne style.

Edwardian Classical Style flourished in Ontario from 1900-1930. The 63 Avon St. house is one of the best examples in Stratford of this dignified style. Edwardian elements present in this house include an oriel window on the east wall, unadorned, rugged brick walls with fine joints, cantilever- type brackets along the roof line and large-paned sashed windows. Also, there is a selective stone dressing for the water table, under sills and lintels.

Interior elements of interest are stained-glass windows, leaded and bevelled windows, oak panelling, curved ceilings and an oak staircase, all in good condition. Other interior features of note are the murals which cover the area above the panelling on all of the walls of the entrance foyer. Research indicates these landscape paintings are similar to murals in the Majestic public house in Baden, Germany. The murals are dated 1919. These paintings are an interesting and important interior element of the house. Originally, murals were painted in three rooms of the house, including a series of Dutch scenes in the living room. Eventually, all these murals were painted over, except for those in the entrance foyer.

The house is in good condition, both inside and out, and the proportions, scale and details, within the context of the architectural style, are excellent. The building has retained a large part of its integrity in the maintenance of the early materials and craftsmanship that went into building it.

The house was associated with the Kalbfleisch family (see St. Patrick Street) for more than 54 years and is a conspicuous and familiar element in the neighbourhood. It is an important part of the streetscape in the area of Stratford where it is situated, an area once known as "The Hill." Source: Stratford-Perth Archives

The 63 Avon St. home is  operated by owners Rhonda Lee and Tony Read as a bed and breakfast destination, called Avonview Manor.  (2023) They wrote the book seen here.