Archive for Trafalgar Castle

Open Doors

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes another door opens…”, and people have been quoting these words ever since. Often, those “open doors” lead to interesting and exciting opportunities or adventures. Such is the case across Ontario this season. Doors Open Ontario 2016 offers you the opportunity to discover the story behind every door.


Each year from April to October, the Ontario Heritage Trust invites you to explore Ontario’s heritage treasures at  free public events across the province.

“For 15 years, the Ontario Heritage Trust and its partners have provided opportunities for Ontarians to learn about their rich history and diverse cultures by experiencing our heritage at Doors Open Ontario events. This year, we are shedding light on places associated with medical science and innovation. Hospitals, universities, laboratories, medical schools and museums are participating in Doors Open Ontario and telling the story that medicine has played in our lives. We invite you to explore these and other engaging aspects of our history, identity and cultural heritage at events across the province!” – Thomas H.B. Symons, Chair, Ontario Heritage Trust

“Since it began, Doors Open Ontario has allowed millions of people to glimpse into some of our province’s most fascinating cultural sites. Not only does the program boost local economies, but it also raises awareness of and interest in heritage conservation. I encourage Ontarians and visitors to get out and discover the unique story and experience waiting behind every door.” – Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport

This year we are fortunate that four of the 43 free events happen right here in the Durham Region.

Saturday May 7th, 2016 found Whitby opening doors to sixteen historical sites including The Carnegie Library Building, Intrepid Park – Camp X Memorial  and Station Gallery. You may recall that even Trafalgar Castle School allowed Mincom Jo access to its hallowed halls.

Trafalgar Castle

Clarington opened its doors on June 11, 2016 to fifteen diverse locations. The Massey Building, Ebor House and the Durham Masonic Lodge were all part of the event.  Mincom Jo was able to take in three locations – Richard Varcoe House, St. George’s Anglican Church and Rosemary’s Gardens. Contrary to what one might have expected, no ill came of Jo entering the church. It was worth the risk to see the two Tiffany of New York windows, at each end of the church.


Mincom Jo & Her Aunt Pat Were Moved To Tears By The Tiffany Windows In St. George’s Anglican Church

Rosemary’s Gardens was perhaps our Jo’s favourite stop. Located at 215 Mill St. South in Newcastle, it would be easy to pass by and comment on what a lovely home and garden this is without really knowing the secret beauty hidden behind the gate. These gardens have twice won top recognition for Ward 4 in the Clarington Blooms contest.

Rosemarys Garden 1

Rosemarys Garden 2

Rosemarys Garden 3

It’s not too late to cross over some mysterious thresholds in the Durham Region. Both Ajax and Oshawa will be unlocking doors on Saturday, October 1st, 2016. Click on the town names to find out what is available and make a day of it. Go behind doors that may normally be closed to the public and satisfy your curiosity. Doors Open Ontario is letting you in!



Storming The Castle

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away (we’ll call it the Durham Region), there lived a wee Princess named Mincom Jo. Now Princess Jo was a very happy Princess, but she longed to spend her time whiling away the hours wandering around a beautiful castle while her faithful subjects brought her food, mail and the remote. This little Princess knew all about castles and came from a very long line of castle experts who had handed down the knowledge for generations: a person’s home was their castle no matter what the size or curb appeal. So, although visions of turrets and moats danced in her head, she was not above enjoying a good “bouncy” castle.

I am a Princess. My Mother is the Queen. This is my Castle.

I am a Princess. My Mother is the Queen. This is my Castle.

Fortunately for Princess Jo, there actually exists a real castle in the Durham Region. The castle, in Whitby, has been a school for many a young maiden for over 140 years and although Princess Jo did not study there, Trafalgar Castle School “allows” her to visit a couple of times a year.

Trafalgar Castle

The Castle was built in 1859 by the Sheriff of Ontario County, Nelson Gilbert “Iron” Reynolds , as his private residence.  Joseph Sheard, the Toronto architect, designed the castle in an Elizabethan style built with limestone, stone and 15 towers. Remarkably, the castle cost $70,000 to build.

1 Exterior

Unfortunately, due to financial difficulties, Reynolds had to sell his castle in 1874, receiving only half of what it cost to build. For the price of $35,000, the Methodist Church of Canada purchased the castle including the land and turned it into Ontario Ladies’ College. In 1979 the school was renamed Trafalgar Castle School.

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There have been many upgrades and state of the art improvements over the years, but the integrity of the original castle has always been kept intact. The attention to detail is evident when you venture inside during an open house.

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2 ceiling interior

3 ceiling interior

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1 bench interior chair

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When the school first opened it had 25 residential students. It now has over 200 students including 70 boarders. It boasts the “World-Best Curricula” including Latin, Mandarin, the highly regarded Singapore Science & Math, Robotics, English Writing and I-Think. “Since 1874, well before the world openly accepted educated women, we’ve been inspiring our students to think progressively and innovate in the face of social challenges…Girls at Trafalgar excel in every discipline.” In fact 100% of the school’s graduates are accepted by the universities of their choice.

Princess Jo’s favourite time to visit Trafalgar Castle School is when they hold their annual May Court Festival. This year marked their 109th traditional dance around the May Pole.

Trafalgar Castle School Photo

Trafalgar Castle School Photo

The festival marks the official arrival of spring. Traditionally, graduating students who best exemplify the School’s motto of truth, virtue and loveliness are elected as the May Queen and her Counselors.

1 Mayday 1 May Queen and Counsellors copy

Trafalgar Castle School Photo

This year’s formal ceremony included words from local dignitaries to mark the sense of tradition and history passed on year after year. Alumnae and locals from the community enjoyed the celebration including many cultural dances performed by boarding students from China and Mexico. When the formalities were finished it was time to enjoy some of the other activities available including Castle Art tours, dunk tanks and a Strawberry Social.

1 Mayday 1 Strawberry Social
Local vendors offered fun-fair food and freshly squeezed lemonade.

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LemonadePrincess Jo has yet to be invited to dance ’round the May Pole. It could be that she arrives after that part is over.

1 Mayday 1 May pole
That’s OK, she spotted a squirrel horses.It must be her Royal Horse Drawn Carriage arriving to take her for a spin.

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1 Mayday 1 Horse Drawn Carriage

She found a perfect spot to pick up a few new Princess dresses…

1 May Day 1 Princess Dress
and some royal jewelry.
1 May Day 1 Princess Jewelry

Our special little Princess was even able to connect with some of her loyal subjects. She had this lizard laughing his head off.

Laughing Lizards

It was a good day for everyone and Princess Jo was content to go home to her own castle to dream of next year’s visit, leaving everyone to…live happily ever after.

The End

Theatre Is Alive And Well In The Durham Region

Going to the theatre to watch a live performance is one of life’s great pleasures. It can transport you to a wonderful, magical world away from the realities of your everyday life.  The good news is, if you live in the Durham Region, you don’t have to go through the hassle of driving into Toronto to see quality theatre. A recent performance of  George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalian” at The Oshawa Little Theatre was more than enough proof of that.

Oshawa Little Theatre

Oshawa Little Theatre
62 Russett Avenue

Pygmalion Program

It was obvious from the second the lights dimmed that this performance would be one to be remembered. The sets, the costumes and the performers were outstanding.

(C)2012 Raph Nogal — with Kathy Knight, Emily Olivia Raine, Wade Minacs, Deborah Lobban, Paul Love, Erika Belanger, Tamila Vashchenko, Kelly Preeper, Lisa Lynch and Brandon Rideout

(C)2012 Raph Nogal — with Kathy Knight, Emily Olivia Raine, Wade Minacs, Deborah Lobban, Paul Love, Erika Belanger, Tamila Vashchenko, Kelly Preeper, Lisa Lynch and Brandon Rideout

After the performance,  Deborah Lobban (Jamieson), who played Mrs. Higgins for this production, shared some of her experience with theatre in the Durham Region.  Deborah has been acting since she was seven. She went on to earn her BFA (University of Windsor) and MA (U. of T.). She played Christopher Lloyd’s wife in the feature film “Dinner At Fred’s“, and had speaking roles in “A Map of the World” with Sigourney Weaver, and “Caveman’s Valentine” with Samuel L. Jackson. Remember Oatmeal Crisp TV commericals,

Deborah Jamieson

Deborah Lobban (Jamieson)

(c)2012 Raph Nogal — Deborah Lobban as Mrs. Higgins

(c)2012 Raph Nogal — Deborah Lobban as Mrs. Higgins

“It’s a bonny cereal, but it’s not oatmeal!” (said with a thick Scottish accent). Deborah played the server who brought the leading man and his father two bowls of milk for their cereal. (“That’s nay real oatmeal! Real oatmeal’s so thick, you couldna dent it with a five iron!) and was also in various commercials for Visa, Campbell’s Soup, Tim Horton’s,  House coffee and Nabob coffee. She also played Annie Wilkes in the North-American premiere of a British play based on Stephen King’s novel “Misery“. And yes, this is the role that Kathy Bates made famous…the ‘crazy nurse’ who tortures her favourite author. This was a professional production in Montreal in 1997 and she then went on to play the same role in a touring company in New Brunswick opposite C. David Johnson, star of Street Legal. Perhaps you would remember Deborah best for her role as Doris Bell, the school secretary in Degrassi Junior High.

Deborah explained some of the reasons that the “Pygmalion” production was such high quality.

“Kim Blanusa, who designed the set and costumes for “Pygmalion“, as well as supervising Hair and Makeup for the play, did a great deal of research to make the costumes, hats and hairstyles authentic. She based many of her designs on the fashions of the ladies who sailed on the Titanic. In fact, the final hat that I wore was based on a photo of a person who actually sailed on the Titanic! (Deborah showed me the photo!!)

When the director, Robert Calvert, sent out the call for auditions, he made sure that anyone auditioning had to know how to do the accents required (Cockney and upper-class English). I have a very good ear and have loved accents for many years, so I helped actors when I heard any challenges in their dialects, and Robert called in a friend who was also great with accents, to just ‘give a listen’ as well.

The calibre of actors in the Durham area is extremely high. I have been privileged to work with some great talents here, and we have had a wonderful time. In professional theatre, rehearsals are intense (maybe three weeks of rehearsals before a play opens, working almost every day). With community theatre, the rehearsals are extended over several months, since we work only three nights a week for the better part of those months. However, the same analysis of roles, etc., takes place and the reward is the same: being able to entertain an audience.”

Deborah’s Durham experience has included roles in Doubt (Durham Shoestring Players), Jane Eyre (Whitby Courthouse) as well as Cemetery Club, Arsenic and Old Lace, Play On! and now Pygmalion at the Oshawa Little Theatre. You will find her next at the Whitby Courthouse Theatre where she well portray Fraulein Schultz, the second female lead in the musical Cabaret. Directed by Debra Smith, Produced and with Musical Direction by Ted Niles, it opens January 31 and runs until February 16, 2013. 

For more information on any of the theatre productions in the Durham Region please click on their links below.

The Oshawa Little Theatre in Oshawa

Town Hall 1873 Theatre in Port Perry

The Herongate Barn Theatre in Pickering

The Whitby Courthouse Theatre in Whitby

On Stage Uxbridge Theatre in Uxbridge

Class Act Dinner Theatre in Whitby

The Regent Theatre in Oshawa

Driftwood Theatre Group – Trafalgar 24Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby, Ontario

Durham Shoestring Performers in Oshawa

Clearly there’s no shortage of terrific theatre close to home so forget about fighting the traffic and finding a parking spot that you won’t have to mortgage the house for. Stay right here in the Durham Region and wait for the curtain to rise.