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The historic Adamson Estate & Pet Cemetery is a treasure for Port Credit

October 2021

There are many historic homes in the Greater Toronto Area of southern Ontario. One that is the jewel of the Port Credit area of Mississauga is the Adamson Estate.

Situated along the shore of Lake Ontario, on land originally owned by Joseph Cawthra, the name-sake of Cawthra Road, in 1809, it was passed down through numerous generations of the Cawthra-Adamson family over the next 162 years.

Primarily used as a summer residence, the estate was passed on to Agar Adamson as a gift upon his marriage to Mabel Cawthra, on 15 November 1899. Adamson was a junior clerk of the Canadian Senate, as well as being an officer in the Canadian Militia. Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the Number 4 Company of the Governor General’s Foot Guards, he would later rise to the rank of Captain.

Adamson served in both the Boer War, with the 3rd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, and in World War I, with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), with distinction at Bellewaarde Ridge in 1915, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous bravery, and at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele in 1917. He was also awarded Mentioned in Despatches in 1916.

He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed commanding officer of the PPCLI from October 1916, until March 1918, when he relinquished command due to health reasons.

From there, Adamson would serve the rest of the war on the Canadian Corps Headquarters Staff, and after the Armistice, as a Summary Court Officer with the Army of Occupation at Bonn, Germany, until demobilized in 1919. Adamson and Mabel, who helped the war effort by working in London and aiding civilian refugees behind the lines in Belgium, returned to Canada, and their estate in Port Credit.

Once back in Port Credit, Agar Adamson designed and built a baronial mansion in the Belgian-style on the estate, in honour of his military service in Europe, replacing an old 1860s-era cottage that was previously his residence.

The two-storey mansion was actually two long gabled structures that are joined together and extended on the east by an orangey. The white stucco exterior walls were topped by a red tile roof, and multi-paned casement windows allowed sunlight into its interior. Cut stone adorns the peak of the gables and lakefront entrance, referencing Flemish bell-cast gables.

Also on the property was a wooden gatehouse, also known as a folly, that was built in 1904 as a summer nursery. Featuring green roof shingles, wood trim, a cream-coloured stucco exterior, an exterior staircase that leads to the upper floor and a wrap-around balcony, it’s one of only three follies in Canada of this design (the others are in Ottawa, at the official residences of the Prime Minister and the Governor General), and is the only wooden folly in Canada.

A large barn was also on the estate, built in 1870 with a foundation of field stones and mortar, near where the mansion would later be built. It’s one of the oldest surviving agricultural structures in the region.

Despite a promising post-war future back in Canada with his wife and a new, elegant mansion in which to live, Adamson’s life would sadly not turn out that way. As a result of his war service, Adamson was afflicted with “shell-shock,” now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This ultimately led to the breakdown of his marriage, although they did not divorce.

With the demise of his marriage, Adamson went to live in France in 1921, leaving Mable behind in Port Credit. He died on 21 November 1929 in London, England, as a result of ill-health caused by an experimental airplane crash the previous month, one that saw him exposed to the bitterly cold water of the Irish Sea for two hours before rescue.

Adamson’s Estate remained in the family until 1971, when it was acquired by the City of Mississauga, who then passed it on to the Credit Valley Conservation Authority in 1975.

The barn had been used as a 100-seat theatrical performance venue since the 1960s, something that continued for many years after the sold the property. It’s now used for storage.

The main house was used by Royal Conservatory of Music, starting in 1996, with the folly being converted into an art studio. Since 2013, the mansion has been occupied by Blyth Academy, a private high school with campuses throughout Ontario.

Pet Cemetery

One of the notable features of the estate is a pet cemetery. The Adamson family were very fond of their pets, and buried each on their estate when they died. A wrought iron fence with stone pillars surrounds a collection of time-worn grave stones with the names of the family pets. Although the pets don’t actually lie beneath the stones, as the graves were scattered around the property, what greets visitors to the estate serves as monument to the love the family felt for their pets.

Historic Victoria Cross connection

Although Agar Adamson didn’t win the Victoria Cross (VC) himself, as a Lieutenant during the Boer War, he recommended British-born Canadian Army Sergeant Arthur Herbert Lindsay Richardson for the VC. Richardson was serving with the newly-formed Strathcona’s Horse, a Canadian cavalry regiment, and was the first member of a Canadian unit awarded the VC. He was also amongst first three soldiers awarded the VC by the newly-ascended King Edward III, on 12 March 1901 at St James’ Palace.

Sources: Adamson Estate – Wikipedia, HistoricPlaces.ca – HistoricPlaces.ca, Agar Adamson – Wikipedia, Arthur Herbert Lindsay Richardson – Wikipedia, Biography – ADAMSON, AGAR STEWART ALLAN MASTERTON – Volume XV (1921-1930) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography (biographi.ca), A Look at One of Mississauga’s “Most Famous Warrior Sons” (insauga.com), Mabel Cawthra – Wikipedia, Blyth Academy Mississauga | A Private School in Mississauga (blytheducation.com).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-historic-adamson-estate-pet-cemetery-is-a-treasure-for-port-credit/

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