St. Thomas' Church dates back to the year 1836, when the need was felt for a second Anglican Church in St. John's to service the growing population in the east end of the city. The first Anglican place of worship was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. An early painting of St. John's shows the original St. Thomas' as a little church with a prominent tower. This tower is still part of the present church. The church was used as a garrison church by the British soldiers stationed in St. John's until the late 1870s, which led to its nickname, "The Old Garrison Church".
The church escaped the ravages of the great fire which destroyed much of the town in 1846. A change in the wind direction caused the fire to veer off in another direction. The same year, a violent storm is said to have moved the whole building six inches. In an effort to stabilize the structure, the wings, which characterize the present building, were added five years later. In 1874, the increase in the number of parishioners led to the lengthening of the church by thirty feet. The church was again enlarged in 1883 by extending the chancel and adding a vestry and additional space for the organ. The last alteration to the building was made in 1903, when the chancel was again lengthened to provide seating accommodation for over 1300 people. A second great fire in 1892 led to the destruction of the Cathedral but again St. Thomas' was miraculously saved, though most of the city was destroyed.
For a long time, many of the pews in St. Thomas' were rented, and on some of the pews the old Victorian number plates may still be seen. Many memorials are found in the church or in the basement museum, the oldest of which are the wall tablets, some of which date from the mid-nineteenth century. A set of tubular chimes, which are still used, were placed in the tower as a memorial following the First World War, and an electronic chime system was installed after the Second world War. The oak doors and paneling at the west end of the church were placed as a Second World War Memorial. Originally, the inside of the church was very plain, and heated by coal stoves.
In the late 1800s, Canon Wood Church Hall was built next to the church to provide an area for meetings and gatherings. Later, a school was built between the Hall and the Church (1927). In 1966 the Church Hall was destroyed in a fire and in 1974 when the St. Thomas' School was closed the building became the "new" Canon Wood Hall.
In 1936, St. Thomas' celebrated it's 100th Anniversary, and, as shown to the left, the outside of the church was decorated with flags for the occasion. St. Thomas' is one of the largest Anglican parishes in Newfoundland with an active congregation of approximately 550 families. It is a vibrant parish with an outreach extending into many areas of life whose people reach out to the community in their worship and service to Jesus Christ.
Over the years, with the various extensions and many beautiful stained glass windows, the inside has changed dramatically. In 1922, in an area beneath the church, a space was dug out by hand for a small chapel for the Brotherhood of St. Andrew's, a men's service group. This chapel was restored and re-dedicated in 1982. In recent years the congregation has worked to update the interior of the main church for the current needs of the worshipping community without destroying its historic beauty or integrity. A children's play area has been added at the rear of the church, pews have been removed from the front and back, making a more welcoming and fluid atmosphere, and an overhead screen for texts for worship discreetly added.
2010-2011 will mark the congregation' 175th anniversary. We are reminded that St. Thomas' Church is the worshipping congregation of the parish and the beautiful building we have been given is to be used by the congregation for the glory of God and the mission work of His Church in this and every day.