Heritage Register

923 Burdett Avenue
Angela College; Angela Hotel; Mount St. Angela

Built 1865; 1912

For: Anglican Diocese of British Columbia

Architects: John Wright & George Sanders
Contactor: J.J. McCready

923 Burdett


This unique building plays a pivotal role in the Christ Church Cathedral precinct –even though only about one-third of the original plan was completed. Designed as a girls’ school in the neo-Gothic ecclesiastical/collegiate tradition, it is arguably the best surviving building left by Victoria’s first significant architectural firm. (Wright & Sanders also designed Emanu-El Synagogue (Downtown), Woodlands (140 Government St, James Bay), Fairfield (601 Trutch St, Fairfield), Emily Carr House (207 Government St, James Bay), and the Fisgard Lighthouse, but in 1866 transferred their business to San Francisco, where most of their buildings were later destroyed by the great earthquake and fire.)

The 3-storey octagonal tower, originally intended to be secondary to a much taller bell-tower and steeple, anchors the front façade, leading the eye to the strong 2½-storey front gable extension with its shaped parapet silhouette. The architects planned this extension, with steeply pitched roof and flared eaves as one of a pair. A shallow box bay in the centre of this unit has stone columns leading up to a stone canopy that becomes the lintel for a two-light window with several decorative stone elements, including a central column with capital, springs, keystones, and trefoils. A simplified version of this two-storey window assembly appears on the right side of the front façade. These windows also have decorative surrounds that use moulded brick, to emphasize depth.

The gable on the right end mirrors the front gable extension in size and outline, but has a dominant octagonal stone window bay with a pierced stone balcony above. Originally, the kitchen and servants quarters were in that wing.

Multiple Tudoresque chimneys emphasize the overall verticality of the design, but this would have been alleviated if the full 120-foot-wide front façade had been built as intended. (On the plan, the main entrance was designed to be on the left side, rather than through the tower.)
By contrast, the 3-storey 1912 extension seems prosaic, only relieved by the use of matching red brick and several full-height angled bays. During this expansion, the original attic was opened up as a third floor, and traceried circular louvers were expanded into large shed-roof dormers. The porte cochére was added at the same time. The whole structure is built on a stone foundation with a full cellar.


The foundation stone for this imposing building was laid in 1865 by Georgina Kennedy, wife of Vancouver Island’s Governor Arthur Kennedy. Perhaps Mrs Kennedy was seen as symbolic of all the young ladies who were to be educated here, since the governor, in his address, said that he believed that the education of women was of “vast importance for the future well-being of the country.”

Financing for the college, which cost $2000, was provided by Lady Angela Burdett-Coutts of a famous banking family in England (1611 Quadra, North Park). Determined to spread Protestantism to the New World, she gave some £500,000 to establish an archdiocese on the Island, including this Anglican school. She was made a Baroness for her philanthropy. The school’s original name of Collegiate School for Young Ladies was changed to Angela College, in recognition of its benefactor. Miss Susan Pemberton, sister of J.D. Pemberton, was the first principal, followed by Emily Crease, but most subsequent principals were the wives of clergy. The new Bishop taught religious studies.

Enrolment grew quickly and there were more than 90 pupils by 1869. But operating costs were high, and grants from London dried up. This, and the eventual introduction of public schools, led to the college closing around the turn of the century and it was vacant by 1905.


In 1908 the building became a residential hotel, owned and managed by Capt. Norman W.F. Rant (1879-1945). He moved to Victoria after his marriage to Anna Maria Grant (1875-1955). The 1912 3-storey rear extension increased the number of hotel rooms to 42, with a lounge, sun-room, dining room, kitchen and bathrooms.

Capt Rant, was born in India in 1879, came to BC c.1894 with his parents. His father held government posts during the Klondike Gold Rush, and appointed his son Norman as the first mining recorder. In 1926 Norman Rant became co-owner of the Rockholme Garden Shop. Rant, an expert on alpine plants and rock gardens, was a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society and wrote a garden column for the Daily Colonist in the 1930s.

Rant sold the hotel in 1934. It was then managed by Paul G. Koop, followed by Arthur W. Harvey. A 1942 Colonist advertisement named Mrs A.W. Harvey as manageress of the Angela Hotel which claimed to provide a “Comfortable, quiet, home-like atmosphere (with) first-class cuisine.” By 1942 Mrs Harvey was a widow. Norman Isherwood (1898-1954) purchased and managed the hotel until his death. His widow Elizabeth (Drysdale, 1903-1970) continued the management of the hotel, while living at 924 McClure St (Fairfield). She sold it to the Sisters of St. Ann in 1959.

The sisters converted the Angela Hotel into a retirement home for their order, but made very few structural changes. One was the division of the large dining room to create space for a chapel. The sisters renamed the building Mount St. Angela, and had it designated heritage in 1992. In 1993 they won a Hallmark Society Award for their restoration of the building. They acquired three adjacent properties - 929 Burdett to the east, 913 Burdett Av on the west and 924 McClure St below on the hillside. In 2006 the Isherwood family bought back Mount St. Angela and acquired the other properties, except 913 Burdett which was to continue as a retired sisters’ residence.

The college building has been leased to the Vancouver Island Health Authority but in 2009 the owner proposed constructing a 5-storey tower beside it.

House GrantsHeritage Houses Resources & PublicationsNews & EventsBuilding CommunityAbout