"We encourage you to check this site often. New information will be added monthly"

Current News

Welcome to our website!

news The Friends of the Schoolhouse web site will keep you informed about The Old Britannia Schoolhouse and the activities and events planned by the Friends' organization. We encourage you to check this site often. New information will be added monthly.

Groundhogs Special Day

Children attending the Old Britannia Schoolhouse would not likely have celebrated Groundhog Day. The tradition, which was long an event in Pennsylvania, was not introduced in Canada until 1956 when the town of Wiarton introduced Wiarton Willy. The Britannia schoolhouse was closed in 1959 three years later so there might have been some awareness of this tradition.

Having a groundhog, originally a badger, predict the weather in the coming months, began with the community of immigrants who came to Pennsylvania from the German speaking regions of Europe. In their homeland, February 2 was celebrated as Candlemas and was also known as Badger Day. People would gather to watch the badger emerged from its den. If the sun was shining and it saw its shadow, a long winter would follow. Over the years the Pennsylvanian groundhog became known as Punxsutawney Phil.

People were interested in the animals that emerged from their dens in February. Bears, marmots, gophers and other hibernating animals were observed. An early leaving of the den might predict an early Spring.

In Canada there are several groundhogs that predict the weather, Wiarton Willy in Ontario and Balzac Billy in Alberta, Groundhog Harvey in Oil Springs, Ontario; Fred la marmotte in Val d'Espoir, Quebec; Two Rivers Tunnel on Cape Breton Island; and Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia. The emergence of the groundhog early in the morning is often a festive occasion. Wiarton holds a large Winter Festival to celebrate Groundhog Day.

Groundhogs are not the only celebrated predictors of the weather. Lucy the Lobster does the prediction in Barrington Pass, Nova Scotia and hosts the lobster festival. According to tradition, she emerges from the water to "see" her shadow. It's unclear how this can happen, but it's a good excuse for a lobster boil and good fun.

Enjoy Groundhog Day and remember, it's also Candlemas so you can burn a few candles to celebrate.

February Family Day

Family Day is celebrated in several provinces in Canada; New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. It occurs on the third Monday of February and is a day for families to enjoy a special time together. Our 21st century lifestyle allows little "down time" fo enjoy being with other family members. Work, often long commutes, children's sports and other activities can frequently prevent the whole family from spending more than a few hours together, let alone a whole day.

Family life was different during the late 1800s. Britannia was a farming community and for most families work centered around the home and farm. Spring, summer and fall were busy seasons with planting, tending crops and animals and harvesting, leaving little time to spend together other than working. The winter season was different. Animals still needed tending, equipment might need repairing, but there was much more time to spend in family activities. On long dark days at home children and parents would play games like marbles, card games, checkers and other board games. Reading was always a good activity and if the family had a piano, a sing song passed the time. There was lots to do together outdoors. Winters were cold and snowy. Ice skating, snowshoeing, sledding and building forts were popular activities. There might be a local hockey rink, outdoors, where families could gather to watch a game and children could practice hockey skills.

While we can't recreate the kind of family time of the late 1800s, we can at least set aside one day a year to get together as a family with no interruptions.

Coming Events

No events are planned during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Time to Renew Your Membership

Our membership year runs from January to December. Membership forms for renewal or new membership are on this website. Click here to get the form.

Echoes of the Past

This book, written and published by Friends of the Schoolhouse, documents the history of all of the rural one room schools that existed in Peel County.
Full colour, 208 pages, $30
It is available at all our events or from any member of the Friends of the Schoolhouse Executive.
There is a $10 charge for mailing.

Book Talks

Since the book, Echoes of The Past, was published in May 2016, the writers have been giving illustrated talks to historical societies and other interested groups. We talk about the book and tailor each presentation to suit the audience and the one room schools that were in their local area.
If your group would be interested in having a presentation, please contact Daryl Cook dlcook@rogers.com for further information.

Come and Join Us

If you have a couple of hours a month or only a few hours once or twice a year you could help us support the schoolhouse and its programs. The executive committee meets on the second Tuesday of the month from September to June to conduct the business of the Friends of the Schoolhouse and to plan programs and events. Our meetings are from 4 to 6 in the afternoon at the schoolhouse. Volunteers help on an occasional basis with our events and in the gardens. Not only do we support a worthwhile cause, we have a lot of fun doing it. Email our Executive Director Shirley Hoad at shoad@bell.net, if you have a few hours to spare and an interest in helping preserve a community treasure for future generations of children.

Mark Your Calendar

To see a list of our year's events go to the Events page.

Researching our Roots

There is still much more to discover about the Old Britannia Schoolhouse and other early one room schools. Read below for a wish list of "Wanted" items that will help us learn more about our historic schoolhouse.

WANTED

For use in a book on one-room schools in Peel County:
  • Minute Books
  • Cash Books
  • Class Photos
  • Report Cards
  • Prize Ribbons
  • Medals
  • Certificates
  • Shields
  • Contracts
  • Trustee Memorabilia
  • Teacher Memorabilia
  • Newspaper Clippings
  • School Registers

Your contribution will be acknowledged. Materials supplied will either be returned to you or donated to the Peel County Archives on your behalf.

SLATE Group

SLATE stands for So Let's All Talk Education (in a one room school), or as one witty person suggested, being truly Canadian, So Let's All Talk Eh! Each year for a day in the spring people involved in working or volunteering in living history one room schoolhouses get together to exchange ideas and learn from each other. We meet at a different schoolhouse location each year which gives everyone the opportunity to experience how living history is presented in a setting different from their own.

If you are a staff member or volunteer in a living history one room schoolhouse and would like more information about SLATE, contact:

Christine Chapel
The Old Britannia Schoolhouse
5576 Hurontario Street
Mississauga, ON
L5R 1B3
905-890-1010 ext 2911