Pioneers settle in Hyde Park Corner in 1818 –
Eight years before London’s first settler arrived
At least eight years before the first log cabin was built along the Thames River to mark the start of London, settlers started arriving in Hyde Park Corner in 1818. The Hyde Park Corner community started to develop around the intersection of Gainsborough Road (the former Concession 4 London) and Hyde Park Road.
In the same year, Thomas Routledge, his wife Margaret, and their nine children arrived from Cumberland, England and named their new home Hyde Park – after a famous green space in London, England. In 1836, Duncan MacKenzie, another pioneer, of Ruthven, Inverness, settled the northeast corner, where he built his home, Dalmagarry Cottage, directly across from the Routledges on the northwest corner.
Other early settlers included Truman Hull, who settled the southeast corner, and John Barclay, who built a home on the southwest corner. Since London still had not been established, these early pioneers had to travel 15 miles to St. Thomas to do their trading.
The area now occupied by Hyde Park village was mainly a swamp, where children played on rafts in summer and skated in winter.
In 1839, John Barclay donated land at the southwest corner for the erection of Hyde Park School. The same lot would later see two more schools. In 1854, the fourth S.S. 17 was a frame building set on the west side of Hyde Park Road, midway between Gainsborough Road and the United Church. In 1867, another school, this one a brick building, was built for $1,500.
Churches also sprung up to serve the spiritual needs of the growing Hyde Park Corner community. Methodist preachers had been conducting occasional services in the schoolhouse as early as 1845, and the services continued to be held for the next 30 years. In May, 1870, Edward Attrill donated a site for a church to the east of the intersection on the north side of the road
William Lamely, a local merchant, died in 1875 and left in his will a large part of his estate to build a Wesleyan Methodist Church. This was to take effect within three years after the death of his wife, should she outlive him. Lamely died January 28 and his wife died four days later. In September of the following year, the Lamely Memorial Methodist Church opened on the designated site, at a cost of $1,023.
In the winter of 1875-76, plans and materials were gathered for the proposed Hyde Park Presbyterian Church building. John Barclay donated a land site on his lot, south of the school, and on November 1, 1876, Hyde Park Presbyterian opened. Anglican services were also held in the schoolhouse until 1888 when R. Shaw-Wood donated land for a church building on the east side of Hyde Park Road, just south of the main intersection. In December of that year, The Church of the Hosannas opened for worship services.
Hyde Park’s first cemetery was on the southwest corner near the school. A new cemetery, St. George’s, was opened to the west of the intersection on the south side of Gainsborough Road.
The railway came to Hyde Park in 1854, when the tracks for the Great Western Railway (later the Grand Trunk and still later the CNR) were laid to the south, within a mile of the hamlet. With the railway’s arrival, land speculation started and many farms were subdivided into village lots. In 1875, the London, Huron and Bruce Railway line passed to the east of the village. In 1888, the CPR ran parallel to the CNR, with the tracks being only a few feet apart at Hyde Park. The CNR built a station south of the intersection where the tracks passed over Hyde Park Road. Now as a railway shipping point and passenger depot, Hyde Park was transformed into a business centre.
Alexander Forsythe built a hotel, The Hyde Park House, on the northwest corner in 1855. A public hall over its horse sheds was used for dances. Charles Woods later established another hotel known as the Old Countryman’s Inn, on the southwest corner.
Hyde Park’s first merchant was William Lamely, followed by Elijah Lampard, and later by John Reeve. The first blacksmith was a Mr. Murch, followed by Samuel Sanders. George Tremeer had a carriage shop. As well, a dressmaker at that time went from house to house, earning 25 cents a day sewing.
Before Hyde Park had its own post office, settlers had to go to Hall’s Mills (Byron), or Kilworth for their mail. But January 1, 1859 saw the opening of the Hyde Park community’s own post office.
Hyde Park also saw the formation of many clubs and social groups in the late 19th century and in the early years of the 20th century. A temperance society called the Royal Oak Lodge started in 1859 with 21 members. In 1891, William Fuller organized a fraternal society called the Woodmen of the World, with Peter McNames as “Council Commander.” The Woodmen reportedly financed the building of a Town Hall for Hyde Park in 1906. Since it had no pillars or supports on its ground floors, it served as an ideal dance hall. A Farmer’s Club was founded in 1907 and a Women’s Institute Branch opened in 1909.
In 1911, a large fire destroyed the Hyde Park House and all of its outbuildings. The fire also consumed the nearby home of William Routledge. Members of the Women’s Institute who were meeting in another house nearby, managed to salvage almost everything in that house.
Hyde Park Corner has seen many changes over the years. By the turn of the century, R. E. Morris had converted the Old Countryman’s Inn into a home and built a garage next to it. In 1923, the village welcomed hydro, and two years later the roads were paved. In 1925, the Presbyterian and Methodist Congregations joined to form Hyde Park United Church. The Presbyterian Church become home to the dual congregations, while Lamely Methodist was closed and converted into a house.
In 1948, the old Hyde Park School was abandoned and the cornerstone for a new one was laid west of the intersection on the south side of Gainsborough Road. The new school was opened in 1949.
The word “Corner” was dropped from the name of the community on February 1, 1963. By 1993, the City of London had annexed the village of Hyde Park.
A strip mall stands on the site of the old schools and the Old Countryman’s Inn at the southwest corner of Hyde Park and Gainsborough roads. Across the street at the northwest corner on the site of the old Hyde Park House is a Langs School Bus parking lot.
Further to the north of the main intersection, on the west side of Hyde Park Road, is Routledge Street, built on the former Routledge farm. To the west of the main intersection is the newest Hyde Park School, and farther west is St. George’s Cemetery were many of Hyde Park’s nineteenth century inhabitants are buried.
Source: Vanished Villages of Middlesex by Jennifer Grainger, published by Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc., P.O. Box 95, Station O, Toronto, ON M4A 2M8. www.naturalheritagebooks.com