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Town site photo

Remains at Horaceville

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Hamnett Pinhey was already a wealthy man when, at the age of 36, he decided to retire, leave England and begin a completely new life in the unsettled wilds of Upper Canada.

British born and educated, Hamnett had been involved in a variety of business ventures, primarily in the Baltic and South America. These included mercantile trade and the brokering of ship insurance. His business exploits were highly successful and he made a fortune. During the Napoleonic wars, he served as a King's Messenger and in turn received a 1000 acre land grant on the Ottawa River. Whatever propelled him to leave behind a life of gentlemanly comfort is impossible to say, but following his arrival in Canada he took possession of his land, settled in and never looked back.

Shortly after he arrived in 1820, Hamnett began construction of his home, located on the west shore of the Ottawa River. His immediate concern was the comfort of his wife, Mary Anne, and their four children. The original cottage, completed in 1821, was a two storey, clapboard covered log cabin with a verandah and separate stone kitchen. Once the family was comfortably settled, Hamnett began construction of a two storey addition, the ground floor of which was to become the grand parlour. One curious touch was the addition of seven small cannons standing guard alongside the river.

In the meantime, other projects were on the go. These included a grist mill and sawmill, a lime kiln, an ash house, assorted farm buildings, a granary and malt kiln, along with housing for the growing population of Pinhey workers. Construction of Hamnett's pride and joy, St. Mary's Anglican Church, commenced in 1825, when the addition to the house was in the final stages of completion. The first service was held on October 7, 1827.

In true aristocratic British tradition, Hamnett named his estate Horaceville, after Horace, his eldest son, who was poised to inherit the entire operation upon Hamnett's passing. Although well liked and respected, Hamnett ran Horaceville in the full tradition of a feudal British Lord. He owned the entire community and provided housing for people who lived and worked on the estate on a permanent basis. The remaining workers were hired from nearby farms as needed.

By 1832, Hamnett's little fiefdom was under complete control and he decided to enter politics, running as a candidate for Carleton County in the Upper Canada Parliament. His political career at the federal level was short-lived but he continued to serve at the local level as a councillor for the Township of March. In 1845 he was elected as Warden for the County of Carleton Municipality, a position he held for the next seven years. In his earlier days, Hamnett had served a period of time as a medical apprentice. In addition to his other pursuits, he was frequently called upon to assist in medical emergencies when there was no doctor was available. He charged nothing for his services and was said to have saved many lives.

As young Horace matured, Pinhey began to plan ahead for his eldest son's future marriage and takeover of the estate. In 1841 a third wing was added to the Pinhey home which included a hall-kitchen and grand staircase leading upstairs to a dining room and a bedroom. Horace married Kate Greene in 1847 and Pinhey commenced work on the fourth and final phase of his home, adding a library, pantry and drawing room on the ground floor. Upstairs he added several bedrooms and an indoor privy which he called "sanctum sanctorum." After the new addition was completed in 1849, Horace and Kate moved into the older part of the house while the remainder of the family relocated to the new section.

Following its completion in 1827, St. Mary's church ran into serious opposition from the ruling bishop of Québec. Early supporters were divided on whether to build the church along the river or further inland. Pinhey wanted the church built as quickly as possible and volunteered to erect the church and donate a portion of his own land for burial grounds. His only condition was that other residents would agree collectively to pay the sum of 100 pounds while he would bear the remainder. Colonel Lloyd contributed 50 pounds, churchwarden Captain Street chipped in 20 pounds and the remaining 30 pounds was donated by Captain Monk. The total cost for construction was 700 pounds.

In 1827, the riverside church was opened with a considerable amount of fanfare including a seven gun salute from Hamnett's seven cannons however the bishop was not pleased with the location. He felt the church would have been more accessible to the masses if it had been built inland and in turn refused to consecrate it. The impasse was finally settled in 1834 when Col. Lloyd agreed to finance the building of another church, St. Johns South March, which opened in 1840.

In 1852, following Mary Anne Pinhey's death, Hamnett took a more active interest in the church's maintenance and upkeep. He had a family plot walled off to the rear of the building, constructed a vestry and successfully managed to convince the neighbours to enlarge the burial ground and enclose it with a stone wall. He arranged for acacias, lilacs and firs to be planted in the cemetery. Pinhey himself died at his home in 1857 and was buried along with his wife at the rear of the church. The Pinhey family remained active in the church and assisted in raising funds to expand the graveyard in 1883.

After cracks were discovered in the foundation wall, St. Mary's underwent a series of major repairs in 1891. Unfortunately as time wore on, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the building was suffering from serious structural instability. In 1907, Mrs. Monk donated a piece of land on the Sixth Line and plans were drawn up for a new St. Mary's. In a strangely prophetic statement made to the bishop in 1826, Hamnett had declared "and tho'... this edifice may become a modern ruin; its walls will stand for ages as lasting monuments of the efforts of its founders ..." In time the roof and one of the walls both collapsed.

The twentieth century was not kind to the Pinheys. Although building improvements and new construction continued to take place until the 1920s, the family was both aging and shrinking in size. One-by-one various wings of the house were closed while many of the other buildings deteriorated into a serious state of disrepair. Both the original cottage and kitchen were dismantled in the 1970s due to dangerous structural problems.

Miss Ruth Pinhey was the last family member to occupy the great mansion. Following her death in 1971, the Pinhey's Point Foundation was established to preserve, study and develop the property as both a recreational area and historical site.

Excavation of the Horaceville grounds has been ongoing since the 1970s. Today visitors can find a detailed interpretive display on the second floor of the mansion, which includes papers, artifacts and photos. The bulk of the Pinhey estate is now owned by the City of Ottawa which offers a busy roster of varied events and exhibits throughout the summer months. Sadly the one notable exclusion is the ruins of St. Mary's church which sits on a privately owned road just south of the estate. The church is accessible but only with permission from the museum staff.