Furnishings — Memorials to the faithful departed, donated by loved ones.
This building is the second Anglican (Church of England) church in Salvage. A smaller structure 34 foot by 20 feet was built in 1826. Salvage was first visited by missionaries stationed at Bonavista and Kings Cove. In 1862 Salvage became the centre of a new mission. St. Stephen's was begun in 1859 and the first recorded service was the baptism of William Moss, son of John and Emma on April 28, 1861. St. Stephen's has been a physical and a spiritual beacon in Salvage. It is a prominent landmark and the most important heritage structure in the community. It stands as a living memorial to its builders and forbears who have maintained it. The church has been the main social organization and bond of community life in Salvage over the years. It is a temple of the Lord and a place of meeting for those who worship in the Anglican tradition.
St. Stephen's is the fourth oldest wooden Anglican Church in Newfoundland. Its simple though elegant design evokes the truly vernacular nature of its wooden construction. Built from timbers cut within a mile of its site, this edifice is very little changed from its original form. It displays some remarkable handiwork and possesses great integrity as an historic structure. Visitors should lake special note of the wooden pillars, arches and roof braces, and the broad floor and wall boards. These materials were cut, sawn and shaped by hand. The furnishings, pulpit, font cover, lectern and high altar were all hand carved by local residents.
St. Stephen's is one of the few wooden churches in Newfoundland built after a Gothic Revival style. The hallmarks of this style are a compact rectangular volume for the nave, a small chancel area, a gallery and a central bell tower topped by a steeple at the west end. The bell tower has a porch which serves as the main entrance. The replacement of the spire steeple by a modest pyramid cap in 1970 represents the major change to the exterior, unfortunately one that greatly diminished the visual impact and the aesthetic appeal of the church as a landmark. Gothic details include the tall and slender lancet windows with pointed tops, the arched braces of the roof and the chancel opening.
Architecturally St. Stephen's is a splendid example of a village auditory church, designed especially so that worshippers could hear the minister reading or preaching in a natural voice. This was regarded important for congregations that followed the Evangelical or Low Church tradition of Gospel preaching, teaching and music. Oral tradition indicates that, in the good old days, St. Stephen's was often filled to capacity especially for evensong services and that hymns were sung with great passion and vigour. The enlargement of the chancel in 1902 and the installation of the high altar renovated the building more along the Catholic tradition of Anglicanism. Nonetheless St. Stephen's remains faithful to its more humbler Evangelical roots.
St. Stephen's is a major cultural symbol of Salvage. The church bespeaks the English origins and Anglican traditions of the principal families. In the last century the church served families surnamed Brown, Oldford, Dyke, Lane, Moss, Hunter, Burden, Squire, Hapgood, Babstock, Garrett, Troke, Stead, Durdle, Bradley, Hancock, Handcock, Dunn, Sturge, Rogers, Ralph, White, Heffern, Napper (Napier), Bull, Crisby/Martin, Ilalleti, King, Samson, Shute, Denty, Trim, Butt, Mesh, Tulk, Baggs, Hunt, Lang, Thurman, Muggridge, Holloway, Crocker, West and McDonald. New families of this century include Feltham, Chaytor/Cheater, Barfett, Fowlow, Vatcher, Saunders, Rusted, Morgan, Smith, Penney, Parsons and Baird. Almost all these families originated in the West of England, in the counties Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Hampshire. The church building strongly resembles structures from the English countryside of family origins. Its form, however, was neatly adapted to its new environmental setting and to the community it served. The same workmanship that built boats, wharves, stages and the homes of fishing families also raised this place of worship.
Since 1865 St. Stephen's has welcomed more than 2200 persons into the Congregation of Christ's flock through the sacrament of baptism. Meanwhile about 750 individuals were committed to the perpetual care of the Lord. St. Stephen's has also witnessed the solemnization of over 500 marriages. These outstanding facts bear some testimony to the enduring and complex social and spiritual bonds that have united this historic building and the community it has served.