Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre, "A History of Transformation"
The Capernwray Bible Centre Main Building, an impressive white Tudor style building, with contrasting red roof, dormer windows and jutting tower, stands in sharp relief against the expansive sweep of green lawns, proudly accepting the salute of the colourful flags representing the various countries from which its guests have come! The building, the predominant feature visible on one's approach to Thetis Island by ferry from Chemainus, is located on the site known as "Capernwray Bible Centre".
Capernwray Main Building
The history behind this strikingly beautiful location is intriguing and interesting.
The location was settled by a Henry Severn who arrived in 1886 and bought up Lots 4 through 10 (which originally included the three islands of Hudson, Dayman, and Scott facing Thetis Island in the Stuart Channel).

Capernwray Bible Centre Beginnings: Henry Severn

Severn proceeded to build a log cabin and partially completed a frame house before drowning on a return trip from Chemainus in his rowboat - the only form of transportation at that time connecting the two tiny islands of Thetis and Penelakut to Vancouver Island.

Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre Historic Preedy Hall

Two years after Severn's death, Mr. and Mrs. H. Burchell arrived at Thetis Island in an old, flat-bottomed boat with camping blankets as their sail. They purchased the property from Severn's estate and promptly joined the two existing structures together.

Many additions were made until it evolved into the well-known "Preedy Hall" named after the Bay it was located in - "Preedy Harbour". It was one of the largest and finest buildings in the Gulf Islands, housing, in addition to regular living quarters, a spartan-looking but functional chapel as well as a ballroom.

Capernwray Harbour and the Fire of 1926

The Burchells developed this property into a self-sustaining farm, with cows, pigs, sheep, orchard and sawmill. The sawmill cut most of the lumber on the Island and many of the buildings were then constructed from it. Mixed farming comprised approximately 130 acres and the balance was used as a poultry plant, with students coming from England (the Burchell's native land) to learn poultry farming in order to help them be able to start on their own. Although the poultry farm flourished for a while, difficulties in marketing and eventually World War 1 put a stop to this plan.

Mrs. Burchell, among her many other varied duties, ran a small store with the chief customers being First Nations people who were at that time still resident on Thetis.

There were various entertainments at Preedy Hall - the Preedy Regatta, picnics, swimming and festive parties where the girls wore their best evening gowns and the men, "tails, and white tie".

In 1926, after the death of Mrs. Burchell in 1924, the property was sold to a Mr. Hans Hunter, who was part Japanese and a world traveller. Hunter employed a Mr. and Mrs. Gaitskill to be caretakers of the house. In the year of their possession, tragedy struck. As a result of the poor design of the chimney, a fire started and although this was quenched, unseen embers smouldered and the fire eventually consumed the whole building.

Capernwray Main Building Constructed

The present structure which Capernwray Bible Centre now uses as its "Main Hall" was built in 1926 following the fire. It houses the dining rooms, kitchen & guest suites.

Hans Hunter sold the property to the Storeys who were responsible for subdividing the property. Later, the property transferred ownership again to the Alberti's, an American couple, who had intended to establish a cattle ranch. This, however, never materialized. The Alberti's sold to the Marine Medical Mission in 1953. The name was changed in 1972 to the North America Indian Mission, an organization which originally had established a base on Thetis Island to offer technical training to First Nations people. However, this mission made some major strategy changes in it's ministries and so began closing down activity on it's facilities.

Capernwray Main Hall
Capernwray Founders Charlie and Marlene Fordham

Capernwray Bible Centre Founders Arrive

In the Winter of 1979, through a unique series of events, God led Charlie and Marlene Fordham to Thetis Island, BC, Canada. They arrived on the property with their 2 children, Christopher and Jessica and soon formed a Board of Directors, signing a "lease to purchase" 99 acres from NAIM. Less than $100 in pocket and absolutely no promise of support from anyone they determined not to go out "begging" for support for something that God was going to do! If God would do it, then "why would any man have to beg for human support?" was the Fordham's question! God has always supplied all that is needed including God-anointed Staff, students and guests who came from around the globe to learn from God's Word during both the Bible School year and the Conference season.

For over 30 years Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre has had students from 10-15 countries receiving Bible training. Steadily, both outdoor and indoor facilities have been improved and beautified. Both are 2 completely different venues of "classroom" used for teaching and training young and old alike to be involved in "full time Christian service...regardless of occupation!" The development has been by the hands of many willing individuals over the years, the transformation utterly through the wisdom, competence and faithfulness of our eternal and all-sufficient God

Capernwray Bible School Students

Capernwray Bible Centre is one of 25 Torchbearer centres in 20 different countries (see sidebar "Who We Are") where Christ is proclaimed as "the Christian Life by His resurrected, indwelling Life"...many lives have been transformed and many have come to believe in Him year after year!

Our purpose and that of Torchbearers International is to proclaim our risen, redeeming and indwelling Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour, Lord and our very Life, eternally!


Capernwray Staff: exciting, challenging, purposeful positions

United in one purpose: to share the Life and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ with those we are privileged to serve. Check here to learn more about us!

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Capernwray Founders Charlie and Marlene Fordham

Charlie and Marlene Fordham attended Bible School at Capernwray Hall in the early '70's, then through a unique series of events, God led them to Thetis Island and the property was purchased.

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Capernwray History on Thetis Island

The history of our property is maintained in the Royal British Columbia Museum archives, in images and documents outlining the early days of settlement of Thetis Island.

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Capernwray Harbour Bible School Graduation Picture

Keep in touch by checking in on our Harbour Happenings Online Newsletter! All of our current and back issues are now online.

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