A Model City

45. Berkeley House
Berkeley House

Seventeen years before James Small stood as John Ridout’s second in a duel between him and Samuel Peters Jarvis [site 37], his father John Small had duelled with John White over Small’s wife’s virtue(1). Unlike Ridout, Small was victorious in his duel and was found not guilty of murder. The death of Attorney-General White, though it theoretically vindicated Mrs. Small, did not in practice alter society’s outlook of her.

Major John Small (1746-1831) of Gloucestershire, England came to York in 1792(2). Small, similar to Peter Russell [site 24], was part of Simcoe’s entourage of former military men turned government executives in the founding of York. He became the Clerk of the Executive Council, a position which he held until his death.

Small sought a home in York for his family to settle. In 1795 he bought George Potter’s log house, making his home one of the earliest domestic buildings in the region(3). Named Berkeley house, on the southwest corner of King and Berkeley Streets, Small’s home was a typical example of simple Georgian architecture. It was a low hewn timber building with a central portico and two-gabled wings(4). The thirteen-room English manor was enclosed by a yard and garden, making the total size of the estate one acre.

Small improved several times on his home, as did his son Charles in later years. One problem particular to his property was that it encroached on the land reserved for Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe’s Government House(5). This was because Small bought his land prior to the government’s setting out of property lots and street plans. The house was demolished in 1925(6).

1 Armstrong, A City in the Making, p.230.
2 Firth, p.6.
3 Arthur, p.21.
4 Scadding, p.137.
5 Robertson, I, p.21.
6 Scadding, p.137.