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Beechwood

Beechwood
Plaque no. 6
Date of plaque unveiling
10 December 1970
Speakers
Dr. Fred Armstrong
Location
80 Ridout Street South, London, Ontario

This building was demolished in 1972 and this plaque is now mounted in the Ivey Family London Room, Central Library, London Public Library, 251 Dundas Street, London, Ontario.

Take a tour of Beechwood on HistoryPin

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History

One of London’s finest nineteenth century estates, Beechwood once contained a fine grove of beech and sugar maples.

John Birrell, who built the house in 1854, was born in the Shetland Islands in 1815. He arrived in London in 1840 and became a leading dry goods wholesaler (his business being valued at $150,000 at his death in 1875). He was a director of the London and Port Stanley Railway, president of the London, Huron, and Bruce Railway, and founder of the Board of Trade. He helped in the construction of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, was president of the local Conservative Association, and a founder of the Huron and Erie Savings and Loan Society.

With his wife, Maria Louisa Sunley, he raised ten children. Birrell died of heart disease in 1875. As evidence of his popularity, there were 167 carriages in the funeral procession.

In 1891, the house was purchased by Colonel William Moir Gartshore, who came to London in 1873 as manager of the London Car Wheel Company. In 1876, he married Catharine McClary, whose family’s stove company played a major role in London’s development as a manufacturing centre. Gartshore was the longtime manager and later president of the McClary Manufacturing 1970 Company.

Gartshore was also an officer in the Queen’s Own Regiment, served in the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, and was later Commander of the First Regiment of Cavalry (later the First Hussars). A director of the Western Fair and chairman of the Victoria Hospital Trust, Gartshore was also briefly mayor of London in 1916, until a vote recount indicated a tie, which was broken in his opponent’s favour.

In 1951, Beechwood passed to Gartshore’s widowed daughter, Edna Cleghorn, and in 1967 the property was left to Victoria Hospital. The house was demolished in 1972.

The Gartshore Estate Apartments now occupy the site.