Seaton Hall – 89 King Street East, Colborne

(c. 1860s)
Roll No. 1411-012-030-08800 – Cramahe Township Ontario

Georgian

Seaton Hall, as the property at 89 King Street East in the village of Colborne is known, is one of the largest and most imposing homes in the area.

It is essentially Georgian architecture but like most of the century homes in Cramahe Township it is an amalgam of styles.

The square, solid facade also has an “L” shaped wing and entry to the East side and a single story rear “tail” that triples the footprint of the property.

It has the usual hip roof, four round head 2 over 4 pane windows per facade, a grand Georgian doorway with a round double door, sidelights and a glass transom. The double round head doors are echoed in the balcony door above. There is a charming little trimmed portico roof over a wrought iron balcony which provides another point of interest.

An historical photo of the house shows that it was originally the red brick common to Northumberland County, but it has been painted white with black trim, which, it must be said, gives it more presence as it sits majestically on top of its hill.

There are Italianate brackets around the main house but the most unique and surprising feature are the clearstory windows on all four sides of the house, just under the eaves. Triple front and back and double on the side facades.

The more modern “tail” has wall to wall glass, skylights, a rear balcony and multiple other features which conspire to make this one of the more interesting houses of its era, providing as it does the best of the mid 1800s and the best of modern times.

Sitting high up on a hill overlooking the York Kingston Road (Highway 2), Seaton Hall provides an elegant face as travellers enter and leave the village to and from the East.

History or Associative Value

Seaton Hall was built by John M. Grover, the land registrar and his wife, the former Elizabeth Goslee. It was originally planned as a young ladies’ school but that enterprise went to Whitby. The house was named for Sir John Colborne, lst Baron Seaton. It was occupied (1915-1954) by Dr. W. George Robertson, local dentist and MPP, whose son was also an MPP. At one time there was a canning factory in an outbuilding behind the house, one of many such operations when it was common to mix residence and commerce.

Additional Historical and Genealogical Information

As far as land ownership before 1921 is concerned, it is identical to the house just to the east at 91 King Street East (LINK). In other words, both properties are on Reid Lot 177 and that Lot wasn’t subdivided before 1921.

The earliest land ownership records for the southern part of Lot 30, Concession 2 are a bit confused. The Lot was granted by the Crown to King’s College on 3 January 1828. Scattered parts of it were then sold by James D. Goslee (1794-1865) (LINK) in 1846, 1847, and 1848, although no record has been found of a transfer from the College to Goslee. It might be assumed that this was simply a case of a missing Land Office record if it weren’t for the fact that all of the southern part of Lot 30, including the parts sold by James D. Goslee, were sold by King’s College (by then the University of Toronto) to James’ son George Goslee (1823-1882) on 28 September 1855. Apparently the University didn’t recognize the right of James Goslee to sell off property, although ownership titles to the properties sold by him were apparently valid after the 1855 sale to George (probably because George honoured his father’s commitments). Although there is no Land Office record of James Goslee acquiring the properties he sold in 1846-1848, there is a comment in a later document pertaining to some legal difficulties he had that he had acquired at least some of those properties from Joseph Keeler. There is a Land Office record of an “assignment of lease” from Moses Hinman (1784-1872) to Joseph Keeler in April 1810. It rather looks like Hinman rented the property from the Crown and transferred his lease to Keeler, who then passed it on to James Goslee. Either Hinman, Keeler, or Goslee, it is uncertain which, took upon himself the rights of ownership, even though they didn’t legally exist.

Reid Lot 177 was one of the properties sold by James Goslee during this period of confusion. He sold it to his daughter Elizabeth Grover (1817-1903) on 18 September 1847. George Goslee verified her ownership by granting it to her again on 4 March 1858. Elizabeth was married to John M. Grover (1815-1888), owner of J. M. Grover and Co., a general store, in 1851, but listed in the 1861, 1871, and 1881 censuses as the Registrar of Deeds for the East Riding of Northumberland County. The Grovers appear to have had four daughters: Mary Elizabeth (“Minnie”), Alice Georgina, Emily Gertrude, and Maude Grant. Recorded birthdates for all of these girls vary widely, but they were all born in the 1840s or 1850s. Elizabeth Grover is the woman whose 1900 reminiscence is the source of the Ann Schuyler/ Matthew Goslee story, Ann and Matthew having been her grandparents.

Elizabeth Grover’s second acquisition of Reid Lot 177 in 1858 is the last record for the property in the Land Records Office. Unless there are missing records, Elizabeth and her heirs owned the property through our 1921 cut-off. Elizabeth died in 1903 but at least two of her daughters (Mary and Emily) were still living in Colborne at that time. Probably one or more of the girls took over ownership of the property when their mother died.

This conflicts with the statement in “How Firm a Foundation” (Argyris 2000) that Seaton Hall was owned by Colborne dentist William George Robertson (1873-?) from 1915 to 1954. Robertson was married to Annie McGlennon (1878-?), daughter of James McGlennon (1841-?) and Annie Shaw (1844-1920), who owned most of Reid Block F adjacent to Reid Lot 177. Although he purchased some farmland just to the north of Reid Lot 177 from his parents-in-law in 1906, there is no record that he ever owned Lot 177 itself. Again, unless there is a missing Land Office record, it looks like he may have leased the property next to his wife’s parents home from the Grover family.

This house was known to have been the residence of the Grover family at least until Elizabeth Grover died in 1903. It is also known that William Robertson lived there after 1915.

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