The Story of a Fence


Near Colborne Lodge, the 1837 home of John George Howard who originally owned the estate that is today's High Park, there is a large tomb.

The tomb was designed and erected by Howard in 1875 two years before his wife Jemima Frances died and 15 years before his own demise at age 87. The vault, carved from Vermont marble, was surrounded with granite boulders piled up to create a huge cairn topped with a Maltese cross.

Look closely and you will see something unusual - a poem engraved on a thick brass plate wrapped around the gate post of a magnificent forged iron fence that fronts the site. The poem reads:

Saint Paul's Cathedral
For 160 years
I did enclose
Oh! Stranger look with reverence
It was thou who caused the severance.

Howard, an early architect and engineer in Toronto learned from his brother-in-law in London England that the courtyard railing from Saint Paul's Cathedral was being torn down. The next day Howard wired his brother-in-law to purchase the railing, which had been designed by the cathedral's architect Sir Christopher Wren in 1714.

Howard Tomb in High Park
Flavio Belli

So, as the poem states, after having stood in London for 160 years, the heavy railing was transported across the Atlantic. All went well until the ship sank in the St. Lawrence River. Howard, not to be deterred, and after two years of preparation, had a portion of it raised from the river bottom at an expense greater than shipping it from London. Sadly, some of it was lost, with only enough for one side of the tomb being preserved and installed on November 18, 1875.

Today, 297 years after it was created and 136 years after it was installed in High Park, all we have to tell the remarkable story of the fence and possibly lament the irretrievable loss of a portion of it, is an enigmatic poem probably composed by Howard himself and barely visible to park visitors.

Compiled by Flavio Belli, 2011

See also Park History

See reference in 1912 guidebook

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Content last modified on December 07, 2017, at 02:26 AM EST