Prince Regent


Regent Street was part of a large survey laid out by Toronto developers John Arnold and James Lukin Robinson. It runs east from the south end of Bay Street and ends at King Street. 

The developers named Regent Street in Stratford after Regent Street in Toronto. Regent Street in Toronto had been named after Regent Street in London, England, which was named for Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. The word Regent is used to describe one who serves during the absence or disability of a ruling sovereign or monarch.

George Augustus Fredrick was born "a strong large, pretty boy" in 1762.  Though the king and queen wanted only the best for their young prince, their influences seemed to have had an adverse effect on the boy. When the prince was 12 years old, the King complained about his son's "bad habit of not speaking the truth." Misrepresenting the truth was perhaps the prince rebelling against the royal efforts "to cast him in a princely mould." It was not long before he burst out of that mould. 

Even as a young man, Prince Regent thrust himself into an extravagant lifestyle, one that revolved around feasting, drinking, women and gambling. The Prince of Wales seemed to ignore his mother's advice to "abhor all vice," and declared himself "rather too fond of wine and women." He soon gave up all pretense of living up to his father's standards.

As the prince came of age, the gulf with his father widened. He not only hated his father, he ignored him. He and his brother Frederick led lives of debauchery. The prince secretly married his latest mistress, the twice-widowed Maria Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic. For the prince, that union was in defiance of two laws; namely he was not yet 25 years old, and he needed his fathers consent to marry a Catholic.

In 1788, when the King fell ill, it was believed he was suffering from porphyria, a disease that poisons the nervous system. In 1810, his illness became severe, and he lapsed into delusions. For the 10 years of the King's so-called insanity, the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent. He became King on the death of his father in 1820. 

It was during this time that he commissioned the architect John Nash to design the West End of London: the Regent's Canal, the Royal Mile, Regent's Park and Regent Street. 

Prince Regent's also chose John Nash to design the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. It was one of the few crowning achievements of the prince.   By Stanford Dingman

Royal Pavilion, Brighton U.K.

Sir Casimir Gzowski, was on first GTR passenger train in 1856. Source: Wikipedia

Stratford's first train and railway station, 1856

Stratford's first railway station received its first train on Sept. 3, 1856. The station was on Regent Street at the south end of Queen Street, which it faced. It remained in service for about 11 years, until 1867. 

But before it was torn down, it received the Prince of Wales when he stopped in Stratford in 1860 on his cross-Canada tour. He became King Edward VII (see Shakespeare Street). 

After that station was torn down, the GTR built a new one east of Nile Street and south of the present station.  

Dean Robinson described the First Train Station  as a "small box-like building" in Railway Stratford Revisited, and noted  that a "locomotive pulling just one coach chugged up to the small station" on that eventful September day.

 The drawing below of the wooden structure is courtesy of Nancy Musselman. The Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) had arrived in Stratford and it was here to stay.  

There was, however, no fanfare and no celebration because the arrival was unannounced. Sir Casimir Gzowski, who was a partner in the building of the line from Toronto to Sarnia, was anxious to see the work completed thus far, and ordered a train to take him to Stratford.  

Stan Dingman, in his articles on the Streets of Stratford in The Stratford Beacon Herald in the early 1980s noted that "the first train to arrive in Stratford carried an inspection crew and Grand Trunk officials, who arrived on Sept. 3, 1856. Because this was the first Iron Horse, in Stratford, the date has come down in history as the official arrival of the first railway."

The drawing below of the first train station from 1856   Stratford-Perth Archives

Sir Casimir Gzowski, builder of the Grand Trunk Railway west of Toronto, was one of the officials aboard the first passenger car to arrive in Stratford on the Grand Trunk Rail line on Sept. 22, 1856. Regular passenger service started on Oct. 1, 1856. 

Dingman also wrote that, "A civic banquet was held on Oct. 8, when more than 200 guests sat down to a luncheon in the new station house. MPP Thomas Daly proposed a toast to the engineers and conductors of the GTR. The longest railway in the world was now open, and Stratford’s future as an important railway centre was assured. That's how Railway Avenue got its name." (see Railway Avenue). 

Gzowski  had won the race to reach Stratford by rail though the Buffalo, Brantford and Goderich Railway (B B and G) was later refinanced and renamed the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway (B and L H) had turned the sod for its line at the corner of St. David and Erie Streets three years earlier, in 1853. There is still an overpass at that site on Erie Street. The B B and G arrived two months later than the GTR, on Dec. 8, 1856.

One of the dignitaries on that first B B and G train in December Edward B. Chandler of New Brunswick. About 11 years later he would be better known as a Father of Confederation. Sources: Stan Dingman, Streets of Stratford;  Dean Robinson Stratford Railway Revisited and Casimir Gzowski - Wikipedia;  Edward Barron Chandler | The Canadian Encyclopedia  

 *  Stratford has had six train stations during its history. See Stations Timeline

Locomotive no. 2, known as Toronto was one of the first to make a run to Stratford in 1856. The full story on the building and history of the locomotive can be found here.  A Locomotive Called Toronto - Toronto Railway Museum 

Workers pose with Toronto, from left: W. H. Adamson, John Broughton, Joseph Benson, Daniel Sheehy, James Armitage, Joshua Metzler, James Phillips, John Harvie, Charles Storey and Thomas Peters. Source: Toronto Public Library 

the 1993 stamp to honour the Toronto locomotive, 1983 

In the 1850s, some Canadian railways began building their own locomotives to meet North American conditions and standards. Among those was the Toronto, the first locomotive manufactured in Canada West. It was built in Toronto in 1853.  Source: Stampsandcanada 

A remembrance from Vince Gratton

This railway station (no. 1 in Stratford) on Regent Street, facing Queen Street, was moved (dragged) over to lot 750 on Romeo Street, beside the railway tracks, which at that time angled across lot 751 that entered Stratford from the east and headed north towards Milverton. 

This old station became the home of the Hatch boys, who were grandchildren of the Hatch who moved it there. A few of those boys and a sister were born in that former railway station. It was used as a house until the late 1930s. Then it was used by numerous businesses and storage etc. It was dismantled in 1978 to accommodate the expansion of Gratton Auto Collision at 397 Romeo St. S. (see A Lifetime in Stratford).

In my early years the Hatch boys told me stories about their boyhood home. They showed me where the outhouse was, and told me about brick well and other tales. They all were born in the 1920s. The frame building was literally sitting on the dirt with a post supporting the roof. In the top photo of my shop, you can see the frame remains behind what was the new front wall for my addition. I had to do that to get around a bylaw that would have made me put the new building farther back if I had leveled its footprint. The original frame building was slightly wider than the newer block building. I would put the station at about 33 by 33, which was a common measurement years ago. Thirty-three feet equalled half a chain.  Vince Gratton