View of the balcony and clock in Strachan Hall

Strachan Hall


High Table and Oriel Window in Strachan Hall

Trinity College opened its doors on Hoskin Avenue in 1925, in a new building designed by Darling and Pearson. Strachan (pronounced ‘stron’) Hall was added in 1941, along with the Senior and Junior Common Rooms, a recreation room in the basement, a modern kitchen, an infirmary, and three new residence units. The new buildings were designed by George & Moorhouse, who also built St. Hilda’s and the Toronto Stock Exchange on Bay Street (now the Design Exchange). Darling and Pearson’s original design for Trinity College, conceived before the First World War, had envisaged a larger college of multiple quadrangles in a ‘Collegiate Gothic’ style. The 1941 addition marks a return to that vision of college life, and a move away from the Elizabethan architecture of both the Queen Street campus and the original Hoskin Avenue building. The stone walls and roof slates were chosen to match the original building as closely as possible, and came from the original quarries. Strachan Hall is forty feet wide and ninety-six feet long with a hammer-beamed trussed roof of British Columbia cedar. Its walls are paneled in oak to a height of ten feet to the bottom of the windows. On the north wall the paneling goes to twenty-one feet. For many years Strachan Hall could accommodate the entire Trinity community at dinner. While that is no longer the case, it continues to be the heart of College social life.

Bishop John Strachan

Bishop John Strachan was an important figure in the history of Canada, particularly Toronto. A graduate of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, he came to Kingston, Upper Canada in 1799 as a teacher, was ordained as a deacon in 1803 and became a priest in Cornwall in 1804, where he immediately set up a school. In 1807 he married Ann Wood McGill of Montreal and through his family contacts he was influential in the founding of McGill University. In 1811 he was offered the rectorship of York (Toronto) and the chaplaincy of the garrison. He was also appointed to the Legislative Council where he became well-known as an active participant with conservative views who supported education and commercial initiatives. He arrived in 1812 and played an important role in negotiations with the Americans during their two seizures of York in 1813. In 1822 Strachan became president of the newly established General Board of Education. He travelled to England in 1826 and returned in 1827 with a royal charter for Upper Canada’s first university, the University of King’s College. In 1839 he became Bishop of Toronto. King’s College opened in 1843, but quickly came under the control of non-Anglicans and in 1848 he resigned as president. The next year the college was secularized and brought under government control, becoming the University of Toronto in 1850. The University of Toronto considers Strachan to have been its first President. Strachan immediately set out to create an Anglican university and again visited England to raise funds and to seek a Royal Charter. The cornerstone of the University of Trinity College was laid on Queen Street West in 1851 and classes started in 1852.


The heraldic designs in Strachan Hall are the work of A. Scott Carter (1881-1968), one of Canada’s pre-eminent heraldic artists. An Englishman, Scott moved to Toronto in 1912 and his work can be found on many Toronto public buildings. At Trinity College he is also responsible for the lovely ceiling in the Lady Chapel and heraldic pieces in the Quadrangle marking the various residences.

North Wall: Above the tapestry is elaborate gilt cresting incorporating the arms of John Strachan. The Latin inscription within the band of colour is from Psalm 121:7. “Let peace be in thy strength: and abundance in thy towers.”

Gallery and Coat of Arms: At the south end of the Hall there is a minstrel’s gallery, and above that the Royal Coat of Arms of Queen Victoria (added in 1946) to mark Trinity’s founding by Royal Charter.

Clock: On the face of the gallery is a clock flanked by the arms of the University of Toronto (top), St. Hilda’s College (right), and the old Trinity Medical College (left). The legend below is an English translation of a Latin inscription written by William Cowper in 1788:

Slow comes the hour, its passing speed how great!
Waiting to seize it – vigilantly wait.

Fireplace: Over the fireplace the coats of arms of Provost F.H. Cosgrave, the College, and Gerald Larkin. A. Scott Carter is also responsible for the stone carvings on the mantel.


Tapestry in Strachan HallAt the north end of the Hall, a 17th century Flemish tapestry is flanked by two portraits. The tapestry was a gift from Gerald Larkin shortly after the Hall was completed. It measures approximately 5.3 x 4 meters and depicts the moment that the Queen of Sheba arrives at the court of King Solomon. A tapestry with the same border is in the Civic Museum of Milan; they have identified the studio of Michiel Wauter as the creator of the tapestry, and Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596-1675) as the creator of the cartoon from which the design was taken. The tapestry was cleaned and restored during the summer of 2012.

Stained Glass

The east wall of Strachan Hall is notable for its stained glass windows. In the south-east corner of the room is the “Oriel Window”, which incorporates the arms of academic institutions that have some connection with Trinity’s history. The design of the Oriel window, and its placement in the hall, is modeled upon Trinity College, Cambridge.

Along the east wall are five large stained glass windows commissioned by Gerald Larkin, designed by Ellen Simon in 1947 and executed at Yvonne William’s studio in Toronto. From north to south these are:

  1. David – representing the Hebrew world
  2. Sophocles – representing the Greeks (unfinished)
  3. Von der Vogelweide, a German knight, poet and musician – representing the Medieval period
  4. Petrarch – representing Humanism (unfinished)
  5. Shakespeare – representing the Renaissance


Beginning at the left of the tapestry and continuing clock-wise around the room, these are:

  1. The Rev. George Whitaker (1811-1882), Professor of Divinity and first Provost of Trinity College.
  2. The Honourable and Right Reverend John Strachan (born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 1778; died in Toronto in 1867), founder of Trinity College.
  3. The Rev. Charles William Edmund Body (1851-1912), second Provost from 1881 to 1894.
  4. The Rev. Edward Ashurst Welch (1860-1932), Professor of Divinity, third Provost and Vice-Chancellor of the College from 1895 to 1899.
  5. The Rev. Thomas Clark Street Macklem (1862-1944), fourth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1900 to 1921.
  6. The Rev. Charles Allen Seager (1872-1948), fifth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1921 to 1926.
  7. The Rev. Francis Herbert Cosgrave (1880-1971), sixth Provost from 1926 to 1945.
  8. The Very Rev. Reginald Sidney Kingsley Seeley (1908-1957), seventh Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1945 to 1957.
  9. The Rev. Derwyn Randolph Grier Owen (1914-1997), Professor of Religious Studies, eighth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1957 to 1972.
  10. Dr. George Ignatieff (1913-1989), ninth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1972 to 1978.
  11. Sir John Beverley Robinson (1791-1863), first Chancellor of Trinity College, from 1853 to 1862.
  12. Dr. Frederick Kenneth Hare (1919-2002), tenth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1979 to 1986.
  13. Dr. Robert Hilton Painter (born 1932), eleventh Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1986 to 1996.
  14. Mr. William Thomas Delworth (b.1929), twelfth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 1996 to 2002.
  15. Dr. Margaret Olwen MacMillan (b.1943), thirteenth Provost and Vice-Chancellor from 2002 to 2007.


– Sylvia Lassam, Rolph-Bell Archivist