Avondale Cemetery    Photo: Fred Gonder

Avondale Avenue takes its name from the cemetery which was purchased and laid out by the city in 1870. It was originally called Avondale Street. The Avon part of the name comes from the Avon River which flows past the cemetery. A dale is a small valley and in this case refers to the Avon River valley.

In 1870, for $3,000, the Town of Stratford bought 47 acres from the Thomas Cawston farm on Lot 3 Concession 1 in Downie Township. On that lot the town built its first public hospital, south of the Avon River. The land between the hospital and the Avon's southerly bank became the Avondale Park. Gradually, it was more commonly known as the "old grove." Today it is officially called the T. J. Dolan Natural Area, named after long-time newspaperman Tom Dolan. 

Between the Grand Trunk Railway line and the north side of the river, the town created Avondale Cemetery. Avondale was Stratford 's first dedicated park, well before there was a parks board or parks commission and well before there was a Lake Victoria. By:  Stanford Dingman

Avondale Cemetery

The public cemetery laid out by the Town of Stratford in 1870 comprised about 25 acres, in a style worthy of a place of much greater pretensions. It is to a great extent used by all denominations. Already a large number of handsome monuments - works of art - have been erected to commemorate the names of many of Stratford's illustrious dead. At the principal entrance to the cemetery is the spacious lodge and office of the superintendent, and in the summer months the ground presents a pleasing picture. Source: Stratford Corporation 1882

* Click here to view a Cemetery Heritage WalkMany of the names on the grave makers are on the street signs.

Avondale Park

Across the river from Avondale Cemetery is our public park, in the west end of which stands a grove of the original forest trees. They are of large size, and the entire grounds embrace about 25 acres, forming a pleasant resort for all our citizens, especially on holidays during the summer months. Here, on the Queen's Birthday, Dominion Day and on other public holidays, Stratford and "his wife and family" disport themselves to their heart's content in innocent games and amusements, while our town bands discourse sweet music. Source: Stratford Corporation 1882

Andrew Pyper, author

Born and raised in Stratford, Andrew Pyper has developed an international audience for his dark, psychological thrillers. His first novel, The Lost Girls, won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel in 2000; his newest title, The Demonologist, won the 2014 International Thriller Writer’s Award, and has been optioned for a movie with Robert Zemeckis of Universal Pictures. Andrew attributes Avondale Cemetery in Stratford as an early influence on his writing:

“ . . .  the older part of Avondale Cemetery, through the gates, (and the adjacent woods). In my day we called it the Old Grove. We would go there as kids to hide, (and) tell ghost stories among the weathered headstones. It was part of my gothic education growing up, a place of beauty and ghosts, the past of Stratford literally under my feet.”  Source: Stratford Literary Walking Tours. See: Andrew Pyper bio

The Stratford Concert Band

The Stratford Concert Band performs regularly at Avondale United Church and in Upper Queens Park.

The band was born in 1907 when James Malone, a noted Stratford conductor, founded the Grand Trunk Railway Employees' Band. When the GTR was absorbed by the CNR in 1923, the musicians became the CNR Employees' Band.

In the early '60s, after more than 50 years affiliated with the GTR and CNR, the band began an association with the Royal Canadian Legion, and became the Stratford Royal Canadian Legion Concert Band.

Since 1992, the Stratford Concert Band has been an independent group, and in 1994 it became a registered charitable organization. The band has built a reputation as one of the best community bands in Ontario. At the 2005 Stratford Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts, where it took first place in both the march and concert competitions, the judge called the group “one of the finest bands I’ve ever had the privilege of adjudicating.”

​In 2018 the band participated in the local Kiwanis Festival, for which the band was asked to submit a recording to the Ontario Music Festival Association. The Stratford Concert Band took first place.

 In addition to Stratford, the band has members from Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Wellesley, Goderich and London.   Source: Stratford Concert Band    

* For a great story on the band, visit 125 Years of the Stratford Concert Band, Stratford-Perth Archives.

* Click below to hear an example of a piece the band performed, Sleep, by Eric Whitacre. Thanks to Laurence Gauci, conductor of the Stratford Concert Band for this suggestion.      

02 Sleep (Version for Wind Ensemble).m4a

Stratford Concert Band at the bandshell in Upper Queens Park:  Photo: Fred Gonder

Stratford Symphony Orchestra

The Stratford Civic Orchestra was founded in 2004 by educator and arts manager, Yootha Neller. Her goal was to establish a fine orchestra within the Stratford community, to present excellent performances with a broad stylistic range. Since that time, the SSO has presented an annual season of live performances of classical and contemporary music, with a special emphasis on Canadian composers. 


Through its Emerging Artists Concerto Competition, the SSO put the talents of young musicians on public display. Each year, aspiring local and area artists compete for the opportunity to appear with the symphony as a featured soloist. Concerts are performed in Avondale United Church.

William Rowson

William Rowson, conductor

The current (2020) principal conductor with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra is William Rowson. 


An active composer as well as conductor, his Fanfare for Canada’s 150th was premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard, in 2017 (to hear, click You Tube video below). In June 2018, he composed and conducted the music for the feature-length film Brotherhood. A strong advocate for music by Canadian composers, Rowson has conducted the premieres of more than 60 new works.


He grew up in a musical family, in his hometown of Saskatoon. At age 3 he took up the violin. He began conducting while a student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Source: Stratford Symphony Orchestra

Stratford Symphony  Orchestra  Photo provided by Craig Thompson.

Click on picture to listen to Canadian composer William Rowson's "Fanfare", a "Sesquie" in celebration of Canada's 150th Anniversary of Confederation.