Historical Plaque Properties


John W. Penny - Painter
144 Water Street
Stratford, ON

The one-storey, red-brick house at 144 Water Street was built in 1891 for John W. Penny. The house can be considered a cottage in the Queen Anne Revival style.

John William Penny was born on April 27, 1860 in Southampton, on England’s south coast. He was the eldest child of George and Sarah Ann Penny. George was a coachman and within a year of John’s birth the family was living in Danbury, Essex, where three more children were born. Sometime after 1871 Sarah Ann died and by 1881 George had remarried and relocated to Paddington, London. At that time John was in London too, living with his father, step-mother and two-year-old half-sister. Also living there were two lodgers, young men John’s age who were working for his father as a groom and stable helper. John’s occupation was that of an apprentice to a picture-frame maker.

In 1888, lured no doubt by the prospects of betterment in Canada, John immigrated to Ontario and took up residence in Stratford. There he found employment as a house painter and soon met Sarah Elizabeth Hall.

Elizabeth, or Lizzie as she was sometimes known, was born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, on April 11, 1869. A few years later her parents, Francis (Frank) Hall and Mary Woods, moved to Mitchell in Perth County. Frank was a native of Somersetshire, England who had come to Canada as a child in the late 1840s, while Mary was born in North Gwillimbury Township in York County to parents of English background. By 1881 the Halls were living in Stratford where Frank made a living as a painter. It is possible that the young John Penny, also a painter, worked with Frank Hall and this led to his meeting Elizabeth.

In February 1891 John and Elizabeth were married in Stratford and later that year the newlywed couple moved into their new house at 144 Water Street. They had three children there: Delbert, Lena, and Austin. About 1899 the family moved to Dufferin Street and a second daughter, Nellie, was born.

For several years John was a partner with A.E. Cash in Cash and Penny, painters. The address of this business in 1896 was 34 Ontario Street.

The house on Water Street was first rented to Anthony Webster, a dispatcher with the Grand Trunk Railway, and then sold to Mr. Webster about 1903. At this time, likely attracted by opportunities in western Canada, which was then opening up (Alberta became a province in 1905), the Penny family moved to Calgary, Alberta. John found work there as a painter for a railway company.

Little else is known about the family’s time in Calgary. John Penny died there in October 1942 at the age of 82 and is buried in that city’s Burnsland Cemetery. Elizabeth died in March 1955 and is buried with her husband.