A few weeks ago we went to a Strawberry social which is the most popular event in the Summer on PEI. Orwell Corner Village is or was a real village until 1963. When I first moved to PEI, I thought that it was named after the author George Orwell, not so. The village dates back to 1890, populated with Scottish Highlanders. It was a name place since 1766 in honour the British Minister of Plantations Sir Francis Orwell, during the reign of King George III.
Following Trans-Canada Highway 1 out of Charlottetown by crossing the Hillsborough Bridge you will arrive within 20 minutes at Old Uigg Road follow the road to Orwell Corner Village. Since the people of this village moved out in the 60’s the buildings have been perfectly preserved and the old cemetery is still in use to this day. People did not move far away some only a mile down the road.
The village boast, the old one room school, the old austere Presbyterian Church, the Clarke’sgeneral store and post office with the Clarke’s grand house attached, a blacksmith shop, a carriage house full of old carriages and a hearse, a machine shed, a shingle mill, a community hall, and several farm buildings with animals. All of it in operation during the Summer Season and lots of volunteers do a wonderful job of showing you around.
It also has the famous guest house built by Sir Andrew MacPhail for his dinner and visiting guests. The house is currently undergoing restoration and it quite beautiful and grand, hard to imagine that this house was built only to house dinner guests or day visitors who could not make it back to Charlottetown. In those days it took a day by horseback to return to the Capital on bad roads or through forests. The guest list of famous people who were friends of Sir Andrew is interesting, Rudyard Kipling, Canadian Author Stephen Leacock, Lucy Maud Montgomery amongst others, stayed at the house.
The Homestead of Sir Andrew was just a half mile away. Sir Andrew was very eccentric like all men used to the grand life, he was a famous medical professor at McGill University in Montreal, an author of many books and erudite in many topics, he only came home to PEI in the Summer. He would entertain lavishly but his guests had to stay/sleep at the guest house not in his house. So he would have a carriage and horse ready to ferry them the short distance. The guest house had servants etc. so it was quite nice. The guest house is known as the Stewart-Lindsay house, named after his daughter Dorothy Lindsay and her own daughter Meg Stewart and was lived in until about 50 years ago. It has grand formal rooms, salon, dining room, study, a large kitchen, a grand staircase and a servants staircase in the back and bedrooms for guests and in the attic several servants rooms. It also has a large glassed in sun porch. If you visited Sir Andrew you would have your breakfast at the guest house and then be summoned to come and see him for lunch or dinner. Lots of music of course, walks around the beautiful estate and conversation on books and other topics.
Part of the restoration project is to clear the brush on the slope that goes down to the Orwell river to give the house the view it had once. This project will take years to complete it is all done on donations from the public but the volunteer association is hopeful for a government grant.
Personally I think that this is a site that is worth its weight in gold given who came to visit and the village and scenery. Orwell Corner Village also sits at the intersections of the old country roads that once took you to Charlottetown and other settlements and towns. The roads now disused are still clearly marked.
The guest house/Lindsay-Stewart House in need of restoration. It has brand new concrete foundations and new roof. The interior needs a good cleaning up otherwise all is good.
The Old Presbyterian Church where services were conducted in Gaelic and English.
The old one room school house
The old road intersection indicating where the nearest town was. Belfast is an anglicized name from the French, Belle Face.
The back of the Clarke’s home with the general store at the front.
The original Island Road to Charlottetown
The old original Island road to Belfast (Belle Face)
Jason who has been working with the PEI Museum for many a years and gives an excellent description of the life of the general store and its clients.
The Clarke’s general store in Orwell Corner Village.
If given a choice between visiting Cavendish and Anne of Green Gables or Orwell Corner Village, I would prefer the later simply because it is real and real people actually lived here until recently and their descendants are all around, including the Family of Sir Andrew MacPhail, many of whom are scholars.