The poor house on West Gore Street Stratford Historical Society

The poor house

The name Gore refers to the triangular or tapering section of Downie Township which lies between the extensions of Downie and Erie streets. The Perth-Oxford boundary forms the third side of the triangle.

On the 1857 map of Stratford, the only part of the street called Gore Street between Erie and Downie streets, which had formerly been part of the Gore of Downie Township. In fact, the words "Gore of Downie" appeared on the 1857 map, beyond what is now Lorne Avenue.

In 1857, the part of Gore Street, west of Erie Street, was named Galt Street in honour of John Galt, founder of the Canada Company. Galt Street did not go beyond the John-Galt intersection. In 1857, the part of Gore Street east of Downie, was called South Street, probably because it was once the southern boundary of the built-up part of the town.

So, what is today called Gore Street (East and West) was once known by three names: Galt Street, Gore Street and South Street, and there is a fourth name still to come. Today, East Gore Street runs east from Downie, or east of the road which leads to the Gore of Downie. Downie Street was originally called Downie Road. East Gore takes a slight jog at Taylor Street and ends just past Borden Street at the Canadian National Railways tracks.

West Gore runs west from the new Perth District Health Unit to the Stratford Water Pollution Control Plant on the lower Avon River. That facility was once referred to as the sewage disposal plant, and before that "the sewer farm." It was well named, because in the early days it turned the Avon into an open sewer. Though Stratford began laying sewer pipes in 1885, the same year itg became a city, the sewage went into the river untreated.

John Idington QC, one of Stratford's most prominent citizens, who later became a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, owned a beautiful farm by the Avon at the west end of West Gore Street. He sold 53 acres of it (at $80 per acre) to the county and the city as the site of the Perth County House of Refuge, which opened in 1896. The large Victorian building, with its imposing eight-sided tower, was built for $17,000.

Though not a prison, it did have one corridor of iron-barred cells in the basement for restraining "inmates." That was before tranquilizers were available to calm those who became too difficult to handle. Sometimes the house of refuge was called the poor house, but more often the "old peoples' home" or the "home for the aged."

All that came to an end in 1957, when the name was changed to Spruce Lodge in recognition of the beautiful Norway Spruce trees which surrounded the old home and still grace the property. A modern single-storey addition had been completed in 1951 as a first step towards a new building which was finally started in 1964. In 1965, Spruce Lodge residents were moved into the partially completed building, and the old one was demolished to make way for further construction.

The new Spruce Lodge, which was officially opened in July 1966, cost $1.25 million to build. It is ideally situated among the old Norway Spruce trees, on sloping ground overlooking the Avon valley. With notes from Stanford Dingman

A Midsummer Night's Dream by Lois Burdett

Lois Burdett, teacher extraordinaire

Lois Burdett made Shakespeare fun. Not for high school or university students; her charges were in grades 2 and 3 at Hamlet Public School at 315 West Gore St.

She literally rewrote Shakespeare in a series of books titled Shakespeare Can be Fun. Her style was rhyming couplets, to stir the performance juices in students as young as seven. Among her rewrites were Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

She and her students became fully engaged with Shakespeare and his life and times. They wrote letters and drew pictures of the characters and their situations. With some help, they created costumes and dramatized the actions of the story and even asked characters to go on dates.

Samples of the pages in Mrs. Burdett's books are below.

Illustrative pages from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Lois Burdett

A Midsummer Night's Dream for Kids, written in rhyming couplets, is suitable for staging as a class play, as well as for reading aloud. It's a voyage of discovery that brings the Bard to life!

Lois Maureen Burdett, received the Governor General's Award for Meritorious Service, Civil Division, in 1996.

Mrs. Burdett, a primary school teacher, has had a dramatic influence on the personal and educational development of children. This exceptional and dynamic educator brings to life the essence of Shakespeare by helping her students rewrite his plays and by transforming her classroom into an Elizabethan theatre. Since 1985, the students have also performed on the Stratford Festival stage, local television and at the University of Southwest Texas Children's Festival. Source: Mrs. Lois Burdett | The Governor General of Canada

Lois Burdett with Grade 2-3 class, in costume, at Hamlet Public School, 1996. Bing images

Arthur H. Wright, home child and soldier

The book here was a Bible owned by Arthur Wright. It was presented to him by the British Foreign and Bible Society to as he boarded the ship Tunisian (see below) bound for Canada. He was a home child and, given the handwriting in his Bible, might well have spent time at the Annie Macpherson Home (see Avon Drive) in Stratford.

Wright was one of more than 100,000 Home children who were sent from Britain to Canada between 1869 and 1932 through assisted juvenile emigration. In 1936, according to Vernon's City Directory of Stratford for that year, the occupants of the house, which may have been a duplex, at 71 East Gore St. were Eldon Thompson and John Nicoll.

Staff at the Stratford Perth Museum found this book in their archives and on its inside cover discovered the Stratford address of his wife, Margaret. They were then able to find information to verify that Wright had enlisted in Staffa, Ont., to fight in the First World War. At age 18, he was killed in action at Passchendaele in Belgium on Oct. 26, 1917. He was with the 58th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment) and was buried in Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelkapelle, West Flanders, Belgium.

Residence: 71 East Gore St.

The Tunisian – British home child 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. Over a period of 21 years, she carried more than 2,000 British home children to destinations in Canada.