travel writers tales home pagenewslinkscontact Jane Cassiesign up for travel writers tales newsletter
travel articles
sign up to receive our email newsletter
freelance travel writers
 

 

AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS
Three Lower Mainland heritage homes celebrate the holidays
by Margaret Deefholts
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

What was Christmas like over a century ago here in the Lower Mainland? To find out, I drive out to three heritage homes at the Yuletide season. I don’t get all the answers, but gain a wonderful insight into the lives of some of the families who lived here in the mid-1800s.


1. Stewart Farmhouse in the Snow

Stewart Farm on Crescent Road in Surrey is a-bustle when I get there in mid-December. The farmhouse is silhouetted against a flannel-grey sky, its windows a-twinkle with lights. Inside, the rooms are dressed in holiday array. A little girl tugs at her Mom’s arm as she points to the kids’ craft area. Hot-spiced apple cider is ‘on tap’ and I sample woodstove oven-baked Christmas treats.

3
. Stewart Farmhouse living room


4. Stewart Farmhouse oven


5. Stewart Farmhouse kitchen

What was it like when John Stewart and his wife Annie lived on this typical Victorian style home in 1894? Both their sons grew up here on the farm that boasted a herd of dairy cattle, pigs and horses, a vegetable garden, orchard and a cellar large enough to store two hundred cans of fruit.


6. Stewart Farmhouse bedroom


7. Stewart Farmhouse child’s nursery

After all the present-day visitors leave, do the family ghosts reappear from the shadows, I wonder. Does the dining room carry whispers of long-ago conversations, and does the parlour echo to the faint sounds of Victorian ballads and a tinkling piano?


2. Stewart Farmhouse in spring


8. Stewart Farmhouse tea room

* * * * *

London Farmhouse on Dyke Road in Steveston when I arrive, is resplendent in all its Christmas finery. The house itself is bright and airy, and the furnishings are all carefully selected to match those existing at the time the farmhouse was built, between 1880 and 1890. However, the charm of London Farmhouse is not only its rooms, but also the welcoming warmth of the tea room, and the very English scones and tea served every afternoon.


9. London House

Today, as I sit at a prettily appointed table, the aroma of fresh baking from the nearby kitchen wafts into the festively decorated tea-room. We all join in an enthusiastic Christmas carol sing-along session, accompanied on a 100-year old piano which was once owned by the London family.


12. Antique Piano at London House


10. Carol Singers at London House


14. Charming Tea room at London House

After tea I walk through the house and read about what life was like at the turn of the century. Those years are brought to vivid life by May (neé London) Mack as recounted to her daughter, Mary Grant. “At Christmas,” she says in her narrative, “our parents would be up very early making the carrot puddings and Pa would stuff the goose for dinner at five o’clock.”


13. Festive corridor at London House


15. Living Room and Gramophone at London House

Walking through the Farmhouse today, May’s descriptions of the parlour, the dining room, hall and bedrooms warp me back to gentler era. I look in at the living room where I fancy I can hear Harry Lauder singing Roamin’ in the Gloamin on the wind-up gramophone. However, a robust chorus of Jingle Bells from the tea-room across the hallway drowns my imaginary singer.


11. Gift shop at London House

Before leaving, I visit the gift shop with its tempting array of exquisitely designed china, needlework, hand-spun shawls and a variety of one-of-a-kind items by local artists and craftsmen. Their home-made jams and jellies are a delicious tea time or breakfast treat.

* * * * *


16. Irving House, New Westminster

Irving House in New Westminster has its own unique vibe. The place carries a strong evocation of the life and times of its original owner, Captain Irving and walking through the rooms is like visiting a home where the family have merely stepped out for a while.


17. Festive mantelpiece, Irving House


18. Bedchamber, Irving House

Much of Irving House’s fascination lies in the many authentic items of furniture that grace the rooms. Today it is elegant in all its Christmas finery: a fireplace mantel with holly and cedar boughs, and a splendid Christmas tree in the formal parlour. I linger in the dining room with its festively decorated table, and peek at the bookshelves in the library. The distinctive original wallpaper in the hallway and the ceiling plasterwork with its Scottish thistle and rose motif at the top of the staircase are special features of this historic home.


19. Festively decorated dining room, Irving House


21. Christmas tea table, Irving House


20. Kitchen Irving House

My hostess dressed in period costumes, shares engrossing anecdotes about the family, as well as the history of Irving House itself. Captain William Irving first moved to Victoria from Portland, Oregon, in the mid 1800s at the height of the gold rush; his wife Elizabeth walked with the pioneers along the Oregon trail from Missouri to Portland where she met and married Captain Irving. In 1865 the couple moved to this house in New Westminster, where they raised a family of five children, and where Captain Irving owned a fleet of sternwheelers that transported goods along the Fraser River.


22. Captain William Irving (Wikipedia)

The house passed through three successive generations of the Irving family before being acquired by the City of New Westminster in 1950 for eager visitors, such as myself, to enjoy.

_________________________________

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Stewart Farm: www.heritage.surrey.ca and follow the links.

London Heritage Farmhouse: http://www.londonheritagefarm.ca/homeE.html Self guided tour pamphlets, May (London) Mack’s memoirs and other information leaflets are available at the reception area. Their Christmas craft shop offers exquisite handmade gifts, and a selection of excellent home-made jams and jellies.

Irving House: https://www.newwestcity.ca/services/arts-and-heritage/museums-and-archives#irving-house

Admission to all the above heritage homes is by donation.

PHOTOS: by Margaret Deefholts unless otherwise attributed.

1. Stewart Farmhouse in the Snow
2. Stewart Farmhouse in spring
3. Stewart Farmhouse living room
4. Stewart Farmhouse oven
5. Stewart Farmhouse kitchen
6. Stewart Farmhouse bedroom
7. Stewart Farmhouse child’s nursery
8. Stewart Farmhouse tea room
9. London House
10. Carol Singers at London House
11. Gift shop at London House
12. Antique Piano at London House
13. Festive corridor at London House
14. Charming Tea room at London House
15. Living Room and Gramophone at London House
16. Irving House, New Westminster
17. Festive mantelpiece, Irving House
18. Bedchamber, Irving House
19. Festively decorated dining room, Irving House
20. Kitchen Irving House
21. Christmas tea table, Irving House
22. Captain William Irving (Wikipedia)

Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com

 


travel articles by travel writers featuring destinations in Canada, Europe, the Caribbean Islands, South America, Mexico, Australia, India, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Islands and throughout the United States
travel writers tales mission
partnership process
editorial line up
publishing partners
contributing writers
writers guidelines
travel articles
travel articles archive
travel themes - types of travel
travel blog
travel photos albums and slide shows
travel videos - podcast
helpful travel tipstravel writers tales home page

 

freelance travel writers Jane Cassie and Margaret Deefholts

All material used by Travel Writers' Tales is with the permission of the writers and photographers who, under national and international copyright law,
retain the sole and exclusive rights to their work. The contents of this site, whether in whole or in part may not be downloaded,
copied or used in any manner without the explicit permission of Travel Writers' Tales Editors, Jane Cassie and Margaret Deefholts,
and the written consent of contributing writers and photographers. © Travel Writers' Tales