Editorial & Photography By: Dr. Christopher Cooper
The tower of Annandale. Note the Gothic-Revival and Eastlake elements.
One of the ceilings in the tower.
When Tillsonburg Ontario’s first mayor, Edwin Delvan Tillson, decided to build his beautiful retirement home, Annandale, he chose a high-gothic brick villa straight from William M. Woolett’s pattern book “Villas and Cottages; or, Homes for All” published in 1876 at the height of the Eastlake movement started by English furniture designer George Eastlake. Examples of the movement can be found in the hardware and decorative structural motifs on the exterior and interior of the home.
The front view of the house.
A beautiful hand painted rose on one of the many painted ceilings throughout the house.
It was Oscar Wilde’s visit to nearby Woodstock, Ontario in 1882, however, which would guide the interior design of Annandale House and Wilde’s investment in the “Aesthetic Movement” devised by John Ruskin, William Morris, famed American painter James Whistler, and the flamboyant playwright, Wilde, himself. Edwin and Mary Tillson attended Wilde’s lecture at Woodstock Town Hall to hear that one should be inspired by the local flora and fauna to bring the beauty of the outdoors into one’s parlour in a layered effect of colour and material. Wilde also promoted the use of local itinerant artisans to execute the work.
Intricate stencilling on a bedroom ceiling
An interesting element of Annandale is that one of the second floor chambers has been left half restored, providing a snapshot of the task faced by the restoration artist.
The intricately stencilled and painted ceilings throughout Annandale were created by the itinerant painter James Walthew, and provide a wonderful record of this art form which was in high style at the time. Annandale has passed through very few hands during its existence and thus has not been subjected to too many indignities. The house was purchased in 1983 by the Annandale House Committee who began the ominous task of restoring it to its former glory. The ceilings have been meticulously restored by Restoration Painter Andrew Kwiecinski and is a model of inspiration for the restoration of like works.
The main entry hall has elaborate built-up frieze and cornices all elaborately decorated.
One of the many hand painted ceiling medallions.
Annandale House today serves as the Tillsonburg District Historical Museum and should be high on the list of all who enjoy finely restored examples of domestic architecture from this period, or by those who want to know more about the lovely town of Tillsonburg and its surrounding area.