“Who would have built such a grand home?”
That’s what I wondered on that first day when — having become lost on an obscure country road — I sat in my car, gawking at Ebor House.
Frederick Farncomb would have.
And he did.
1867 was a great year. After years of debate, Canada’s separate parts became one country under God and queen.
East, west, north and south.
Former adversaries. Aboriginal, French and English. Different languages. Different back-stories. Different customs and beliefs.
Starting in 1867, confederation brought these parts together under one national ‘roof’.
And the glory of that moment inspired many Canadians to reach higher, dream bigger.
Some of Canada’s finest residences were built in the period just before, during and after 1867.
At the Bond Head Harbour, east of Toronto, a customs officer named Frederick Farncomb had ambitions for a roof of his own. But not just any roof.
Orphaned at 7 years of age, Frederick left England for Canada as a young man. He married Jane Robson, also of British background. Together they had 7 children.
Bond Head Harbour (also called Port Newcastle) thrived, as ships plied their trade with various cities in North America.
Cargoes of wheat, oats, flour and lumber sailed across Lake Ontario.
Frederick’s uncle Thomas Farncomb, the wealthy Lord Mayor of London, England, was also a merchant and ship owner. After he died (in 1865) Frederick inherited a large amount of money from his estate. In 1867, Frederick hired a Toronto architect to design a house for his family on land he already owned and within 18 months, the 17-room house was completed.
Some of the furniture was from Jacques & Hay, who made furniture for Canada’s wealthiest citizens and British royalty.
York, England, had special significance for the Farncomb family and they called their home Ebor House. In Latin, “Ebor” means “York”.
Frederick was influential in his community and church. When local Anglicans built St. George’s Church, Newcastle, (just up the road from Bond Head) it was “patterned from a church near Leeds, England, the old parish church of Frederick Farncomb, a member of the building committee and an avid supporter of the new church.
“When the design was accepted and the building commenced, money was raised from far and near. Even the Lord Mayor of London, Mr. Farncomb’s uncle, contributed generously to the fund.”
The Farncombs were undoubtedly one of the most prominent families in the Bond Head-Newcastle area. When son Alfred became a doctor and John became “Reverend Canon John Farncomb” at St. George’s Church, their influence grew even more.
One of the biggest symbols of the Farncombs’ success was their beautiful lakeside home. With its stately rooms and beautiful grounds, Ebor House was the perfect setting for family weddings, dinner parties, picnics and important social events.