The Tilley House, Elliston, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland

Built in 1858, the Tilley House in Elliston, Trinity Bay is a three-storey, wooden structure with a steeply pitched gable roof. Located near the water, the Tilley House is one of the cornerstones of the community of Elliston where it served for 50 years as a merchant shop. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.


The Tilley House is designated as a Registered Heritage District for its historic, architectural, cultural, and environmental values.

Built in 1858, the Tilley House remains one of the oldest standing structures in Elliston. Tilley House is valuable for its association with prominent 19th merchant planter, Robert Tilley and his son Arthur Tilley. The Tilley family moved to Elliston (formerly Bird Island Cove) in the 1850s and established a merchant shop by commissioning Allan Ryder of Bonavista to build the Tilley House. Robert Tilley operated a highly successful merchant business out of the shop until his death in 1872 when his son Arthur took over the family business until the 1890s. During this period, the Tilleys had an important influence on the activities of Elliston including politics, infrastructure and education. After the Tilley’s merchant business closed the shop was rented to two Bonavista firms, James Ryan Limited and Phillip Templeman Limited while they were setting up firms in Elliston. The Tilley House is a testament to the success of the merchant business and the Tilley family in Elliston.

The Tilley House is architecturally valuable because it is a good representation of 19th century vernacular architecture. A three storey mortise and tenon structure built of heavy woods such as pine and hemlock, the Tilley House has withstood over 150 years of weathering and is a testament to the quality of materials and craftsmanship during this period.

The Tilley House is also architecturally valuable for its association with Bonavista builder, Allan Ryder. Ryder also built a number of other buildings in the Bonavista region including St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Elliston which was partially paid for by the Tilley family.

Culturally, the Tilley House is the last remaining relic in Elliston that stands as a testament to the merchant way of life. Furthermore, it is provincially significant as a representation of the 19th century merchant/planter lifestyle. The only surviving relic from the community of Bird Island Cove, Elliston has been built around the Tilley House and is has been the centre of the community for a very long time.

The Tilley House is an important landmark in the community of Elliston. Located near the shore, the Tilley House serves not only as an important part of Elliston’s cultural landscape but traditionally inshore fishermen used it as a landmark for finding their fishing grounds.

The building is an important landmark; in fact, the community of Elliston appears to have been built around the structure. Inshore fishermen traditionally used it as a reference for locating their fishing berths.

It was declared a Registered Heritage Structure in December 1985.

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