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Eaton Hall

Seneca author takes readers inside the history of Eaton Hall

Kelly Mathews’ fascination with Eaton Hall began the moment she laid eyes on the massive 72 room, 35,000-square-foot Norman château.

The self-described history buff heard and enjoyed many conflicting stories about the origins of the castle-sized mansion that sits firmly on the grounds of King Campus and was once home to Canada’s prominent Eaton family.

“Every place has a story,” Kelly says. “I felt this story needed to be researched and shared.”

exterior of hall

Kelly, who works at King as the manager of community recreation, camps and the Outdoor Education Centre, started an online Pintrest board to catalogue all the images and information she found about the historic home and its famous residents.

Called “Eaton Hall: Canada’s Downton Abbey,” the site attracted interest from like-minded history enthusiasts, including an author from the U.S. who met Kelly one summer for a tour of the Hall and grounds.  As luck would have it, that meeting turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.

mantle reliefs pergola roof detail main stairsexterior of hall zodiac ceiling painting
  • Kelly Mathews in the Eaton Hall library.
    Kelly Mathews

A few weeks later, Kelly received a call from the author’s publisher, who pitched her on writing a book. Kelly’s answer was, “yes,” and the result is Eaton Hall: Pride of King Township. The book hits shelves this month and takes readers back in time inside this iconic residence that became the centre of life for the Eaton family and many King residents.

“Every place has a story,” Kelly says. “I felt this story needed to be researched and shared.”

As a first-time writer, Kelly admits she struggled with where to start — given the amount of information she collected and the short turnaround time for the completed manuscript. In fact, she only had five months to complete the book.

Her parents gave her good advice to “write the book you want to read.”

“That made so much sense,” she says. “I did exactly that.”

The book is filled with many interesting facts about the history of Eaton Hall and all the properties that made up the estate. Kelly also investigated why the family eventually sold their home and its accompanying acres of land to the College. The $1.5 million sale was completed in 1971 and was described by the media at the time as “the deal of the century.”

Readers will also be surprised to learn that the Eaton’s had one condition in place that the College had to adhere to before they signed on the dotted line. Seneca had to promise never to take down Lady Eaton’s portrait or that of her husband Sir John Craig Eaton. Needless to say, the College kept its word and both portraits have remained on the wall in a prominent place inside Eaton Hall ever since.

History at a glance
  • The two original farmhouses that were on the property when the Eaton’s purchased the land in 1920 are both still here on the site today (both were relocated by the Eaton's).
  • Eaton Hall was converted into a convalescent hospital during WWII for the Royal Canadian Navy and filled the role as hospice for injured seamen.
  • Sir Henry Pellatt of Casa Loma is the person that motivated the Eaton’s to purchase the King Farm – he eventually sold them 400 acres which now make up 57 per cent of the current King Campus grounds.
  • Lake Seneca has been known by at least six other names: Ferguson Lake, Lake Jonda, Eaton Lake, Heart Lake, Lady Eaton Lake and Lake Au-Large.
  • The Large Cattle and Horse Barn (present day Farm Office) experienced two fires (1937 and 1966). What remains today represents only 1/3 of the total original facility.
  • Many members of the British Royal family have visited King Campus including Princess Alice, Princess Anne and Princess Margaret.

“If after reading any chapter, or the entire book, you find yourself saying, ‘Interesting – I didn’t know that,’ then this book has succeeded, ” Kelly says.

Eaton Hall: Pride of King Township is available on and and in stores.

Contact Kelly

Kelly welcomes your Eaton Hall stories, pictures and questions and can be reached at or you can also follow her on Twitter @EatonHallEstate or @AllThingsRegal.