A little piece of Canada in Devon

There is both a Devon and a Somerset Island in Canada. Devon Island was discovered and named by the English navigator William Baffin whereas Somerset Island was named by Lieutenant William Parry who hailed from Bath. But neither Devon nor Somerset can lay claim to owning a piece of Canada. There is, however, a little piece of Canada in Devon.

Drive the Honiton to Dunkeswell road in the Blackdown Hills and you might spot the Canadian flag on some of those brown road signs directing drivers to places of interest. Explore further and you’ll find more Canadian flags on road signs, some so small they’re easy to miss. Tucked away in the woods along a road too narrow for Google Map drivers to negotiate is Wolford Chapel, which is technically a part of Ontario, Canada.

Canadian flag, Wolford Chapel, Blackdown Hills, Devon

The red maple leaf flies proudly above the small chapel which is the last resting place of Lieutenant-General John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806). In 1791, Simcoe was the founder of what was known as Upper Canada (Ontario). As well as overseeing the construction of roads and a programme of building in the province, he established legislation outlawing slavery. Although only spending four years there, he made such an impact his portrait is still on display in legislative buildings in Ontario. In 1796 he returned to his family home at Wolford Mansion. A plaque, draped with both Canadian and British flags, inside the chapel commemorates his achievements.

a little piece of Canada in Devon

The chapel and immediate surroundings were gifted to the Premier of Ontario, John Robarts, in 1966 by publisher Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth who’d purchased the Wolford estate in 1923.

It’s a tiny, tranquil out of the way spot, and there’s not a lot to see, but for those of us who enjoy quirks, it’s fascinating to spend a brief time on Canadian soil in the middle of Devon’s Blackdown Hills.

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