The Priory
The hall was built in 1873 as the administrative centre for the township of Thurlow, which is now part of the City of Belleville.
The following news snippet recorded the progress of the building in the Daily Intelligencer, dated August 26th, 1873:


"The Township Clerk of Thurlow writes us that the new Town Hall in that Township is rapidly approaching completion, and that the work is very substantial and neat, and gives very general satisfaction."

The shield-shaped plaque on the front of the building notes that it was built by J.A. Northcott. John Northcott was born in Lapford, Devon, England in around 1805.

He was a carpenter who came to Canada in 1853 and settled in Belleville, where he entered into partnership in with fellow Devonian, Walter Alford.

They worked on a number of houses and other buildings in the town up to 1876, when Northcott retired.

He died on December 26th, 1881 and the Daily Intelligencer obituary noted that he "was a true type of the better order of Englishman – outspoken, independent, yet concealing a heart as tender as that of a woman under a bluff exterior, and withal as honest as the day."
With amalgamation of the City of Belleville and the Township of Thurlow on January 1st, 1998, the building became available for use as the headquarters of the Hastings County Historical Society.

A plan of the building was drawn up in October 1998 by Gerry and Susie Boyce, with the help of Carson Cross. This item was donated to the Community Archives. The plans carry an intriguing section labelled ‘Mystery Area’. This area was identified by the difference in measurements between the inside and outside walls of the building. Belleville’s Mayor of the time, Mary-Anne Sills, used a hammer to open up the wall and investigate the space.
This was not the first time that the internal walls of the building have been under attack: in February 1961 the wall of the vault was broken through by burglars looking for cash in the vault. The Ontario Intelligencer reported on the crime on February 7th, with photographs of the damage caused.

Ironically, the robbers could have saved themselves some work, as the vault was not locked at the time. Nor did it contain any cash, according to the Intelligencer’s report.

From an archivist’s point of view, it soon became apparent that the old building is far from ideal as a store for the unique materials which have been collected over the years by the Hastings County Historical Society.

The other key problem with the building was the space available to the Community Archives: the building had no barrier-free access and the shelves were all full-to-overflowing.

In September the community archives had to empty the former Irish Hall of records when that building was sold. Their colleagues at the Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives came to the rescue, taking in over 50 boxes of material temporarily until they could move them into the new purpose-built archival storage in the Belleville Public Library.
In March 2016 the archives were carefully moved to their new home.

The new community archives of Belleville and Hastings County opened with fanfare and ribbon cutting on April 7, 2016. Located in downtown Belleville at 254 Pinnacle Street (the library building), the state-of-the-art research and archival storage facility adds another positive cultural activity in the heart of the capital of Hastings! The public area has been named the Gerry Boyce Reading Room, in honour of Gerry Boyce, author, historian and repository of many of Belleville's best-kept historical sagas.

The building was put for up sale by the city of Belleville in February 2017 and was immediately purchased by a local company called The Priory Inc.

External renovations and internal upgrading was undertaken to modernize the inside of the building while at the same time keeping the original charm & character on the outside.

Today the property enjoys a new lease of life and has been renamed The Priory. It operates as a Wellness Centre, housing Psychologists who provide much needed care to the military, veterans and also to the general public.

© 2017 The Priory Inc.
154 Cannifton Road N, P.O. Box 159, Cannifton, Ontario K0K 1K0.