Enoch Turner

Enoch Turner (1792-1866) was a native of Staffordshire, UK, who came to Toronto in the early 19th century. Here he established a brewery on Taddle Creek at Front and Parliament Streets. Around 1832, he had to rebuild following a disastrous fire. The York Circus even gave a benefit performance for him. As a successful businessman, Turner helped many worthy causes. In 1849, he contributed generously to an endowment fund establishing the University of Toronto as a non-denominational institution. Besides this and building the Turner Schoolhouse, he gave generously to many other institutions, including Little Trinity Church and Trinity College.

The 1839 assessment roll places him on the south side of Palace (Front) Street with a brewery valued at £100 and his home at £40. An 1854 plan by John George Howard shows a brewery with a stone cellar, a malt kiln, a granary, ice house, stable, kitchen garden, “grapery,” and paddock. The house measured 56’ by 46’ and had its own garden. As well, there were 12 separate lots. The entire value of the property was £6,651.

In 1848, Turner funded the construction of the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, the first free school in Toronto and the oldest schoolhouse still standing in the city. He wanted to provide basic education to the children of the many poor Irish immigrants in this part of the City, often called Corktown as many came from Cork in Ireland.

By 1854 Enoch Turner is listed as a gentleman, and the brewer was Samuel Platt. In 1855, he sold his property to Consumers Gas, which used the property for gas storage tanks.

Allandale, 241 Sherbourne Street

Turner resided near his brewery until 1856, when he moved to 241 Sherbourne Street (just north of Dundas Street). He named this house “Allandale” after local land owner William Allan. “Allandale” is now part of the Sherbourne Lanes housing complex at 241-285 Sherbourne. The property is identified on the City of Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties.

Turner remained active in the Corktown community, serving as a warden at Little Trinity Church. Although he married twice, Turner remained childless. According to historical descriptions, “in a period of grinding poverty he was regarded as a generous and compassionate man who loved children and animals. At the end of a hard day it is said that he would feed his horses beer” (Reed Scrapbooks).

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse

This building which was established by Enoch Turner in 1848, was Toronto’s first free school. It was intended to provide basic education for the children of the many poor Irish immigrants in this part of the City. While it was only used as a school from 1849 to 59, it has continued to be used until the present and, as one of the oldest, continuously operated buildings in Toronto, remains a unique architectural and historical treasure. Little Trinity Church used it as a Sunday School and Parish hall until the 1960’s. Little Trinity Church added the west hall in 1869. It was a Boer War recruitment centre in 1899 and during the two World Wars was a Servicemen’s home away from home. During the dirty thirties a soup kitchen there served 1500 people each week. In the 1950’s, Little Trinity Church Neighbourhood youth clubs met there. It was a temporary meeting place following the church fire. Concerts, community youth programs and performing & visual arts events continued into the 1960s; however, the building was very decrepit and in danger of being torn down. The building was saved and restored due to the foresight and efforts of architect Eric Arthur and other concerned citizens. It was opened as a historic site and museum in 1972 and was designated under Ontario Heritage Act in 2000.

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse is now a heritage building, important for both its history and its architecture. It is operated by a not for profit charitable foundation, which runs several programs there for school children and other citizens. Through role-playing, students experience first hand what school was like in the Victorian era: the wooden desks, the slates, the discipline and the starched collars and pinafores. Its program includes lectures, walking tours, and special events. It is a heritage resource and a living history museum, which is also available for rental. For more about The Enoch Turner Schoolhouse and its programs visit its website www.enochturnerschoolhouse.ca

Information for this page came from that website, from “A Glimpse of Toronto’s History” MPLS#183 and from other sources.