Col. Thomas Delamere

Donated 55 acres for parkland

Delamere Avenue was originally called Mornington Street on the 1872 Map of Stratford. The part of what is now Mornington Street, beyond James Street, was called Wellington Street, but  later changed to Mornington because of confusion with Wellington Street downtown.

What is now Delamere Avenue then became known as Idington Street. It was named for Judge John Idington QC, who owned all the land on the south side of Delamere, between James Street and Hillcrest Drive and running down to the river. Judge Idington built the large house which still stands today at 45 James St. and was later owned by Sam and Dorothy Douglas. The stream running through the property is still known as Idington Creek.

By 1916 the street was known as Delamere because it led out to the Delamere poultry farm. The first part of what is now known as the Delamere subdivision was laid out by Lt.-Col. Thomas Gillmor Delamere in 1920, and he made the name Delamere Avenue official.

Born in Toronto in 1892, to Lt. Col. Joseph M. and Mary (Denison) Delamere, Thomas G. Delamere came to Stratford as a young man in 1905. He remained in Stratford for 33 years and built two houses here. As a young man, Col. Delamere saw active service in South Africa with the Canadian Mounted Rifles during the South African (Boer) War (1899-1902). 

After the war, he joined the Bank of Montreal and was transferred from Brockville to Stratford. In 1905 he became manager of the Canada Poultry and Produce Co. Ltd., a poultry farm which occupied 55 acres on what is now Guthrie Avenue and the railway tracks running north from the Avon River to what is now Delamere Avenue.

Prior, for his bride Agnes (Morison), he had built the first house beyond James Street, whose address today is 98 Hillcrest Dr. Tom Patterson, founder of the Stratford Festival, lived in that house during the early years of the Festival.

Col. Delamere and his wife, a native of Winnipeg, had five children, three boys and two girls. Four of the streets in the subdivision are named after the boys (all old Delamere family names), but note the girls.

The five streets named by the colonel are Dawson, Delamere, Denison, Martin and Morison. Four of the children were born while the family lived in their first house, and the colonel thought they needed more space. So he built anew, in about 1913, on his poultry farm, facing the river. The large brick house still stands, at 480 William St. In those days there was nothing but farmland beyond the big house on James Street, and William Street was only a mud footpath beyond James. Delamere Avenue was a narrow dirt road with two or three farmhouses nearby, and there were no other streets.

Col. Delamere was commissioned in the Perth County Militia Unit, then known as the 28th Regiment. With the outbreak of the First World War, he volunteered for active service and went overseas with the First Division. In 1915, he was wounded in action in France. Promoted from captain to major, he was invalided home and was instrumental in recruiting and organizing the 110th battalion of Stratford in 1916. He was transferred with the rank Lt.-Col. to the Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment and posted to command Speedwell Military Hospital in Guelph, where he remained until retirement from active service in 1919.

Back in Stratford, Col. Delamere laid out the Delamere subdivision in 1920 on his 55-acre chicken farm, but it wasn't until well after the Second World War that the area started to develop. At the reorganization of the Perth Regiment in 1930, Col. Delamere held the appointment of second-in-command in the original slate of officers. In 1938 he left Stratford to go to the army ordinance depot at the Petawawa military camp, where he was employed as a civilian expert until his death at the age of 63, in 1945. He died in Pembroke, Ont., where he lived the last seven years of his life.

In addition to the five streets that Col. Delamere gave to Stratford, he donated all the parkland along the river, east of Guthrie Avenue to the northbound railway track. It was a magnificent gift to the people of Stratford, one for which he deserved recognition. It is unfortunate he did not live to see his subdivision built, or to see the beautiful Festival Theatre rise across the river from the parkland that he donated, the land on which his children used to play. He died on Oct. 27, 1945, at the age of 62.  With notes from Stanford Dingman

Tom Patterson, festival founder

Harry Thomas Patterson, was a  journalist who went on to found the  the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, the largest theatre festival in Canada.

He was a veteran of the Second World War and a journalist writing for Maclean's magazine in the early 1950s. From the time he was a teenager, he had thought his hometown of Stratford, Ont., should be home to performances of Shakespeare's plays. The town was suffering from industrial fade due to the declining fortunes of the railway industry. Patterson, with no experience in the theatre, proposed the idea of a theatre festival. In 1952, he invited the prominent British director Tyrone Guthrie (see Guthrie Avenue) to visit Stratford and help bring their idea of a Shakespearean theatre to fruition. When Guthrie accepted the offer to visit, national newspapers started to take notice. 

Patterson told The Globe and Mail he wanted to provide "Canadian acting talent the opportunity to work with top directors and actors without having to leave the country." For his part, Guthrie was interested in a venture that "offers a fresh advance in the production of Shakespeare."

With the support of Guthrie, Patterson persuaded the city council to get onboard, and rallied an enthusiastic committee of local citizens to play a part. Guthrie advised Patterson to hire a big name for the first production, so Patterson received a small loan from the city council so he could visit Alec Guinness and invite him to perform in the opening season. The festival has grown and expanded significantly since that time. Patterson served as the festival's general manager for the first season and worked in other capacities until 1967.

He also founded a touring company, Canadian Players, with actor Douglas Campbell (see Mornington Street) and helped establish a number of cultural institutions, including the Canadian Theatre Centre and the National Theatre School. Patterson was also the founder of the Dawson City Gold Rush Festival.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1967 and was awarded the Order of Ontario. He also received honorary degrees from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario. The new Tom Patterson theatre in Stratford is named after the Festival's founder, as is one of the islands in the Avon River. He was also honoured with a Stratford Bronze Star, placed in the sidewalk near the Avon Theatre.

For more on Tom Patterson, read his memoir, First Stage: The making of the Stratford Festival, co-authored with Allan Gould, published in 1986. Source:  Wikipedia.

The new Tom Patterson Theatre 2023 on the Avon River in Stratford  Photo: Fred Gonder