Steveston’s Historic Treasure
It is said that ladybugs bring good luck. If this is true, London Heritage Farm has good fortune on its side, as plenty of these well-loved insects are hard at work throughout the site.
London Farm Heritage Society administrator, Mary Lou Schootman, laughs when she refers to the ladybugs as her pets. Following field trips to the Farm, she has had children tell her that sighting the spotted bugs is one of the highlights of their visit.
It is a certainty that Stevestonites are the lucky ones to have this historic site on our doorstep. Surprisingly, some locals have yet to discover this spectacular treasure. London Heritage Farm is located on 4 acres overlooking the south arm of the Fraser River. It is only a 3-kilometre walk along the dike from Steveston Village yet when you walk down the driveway there is an immediate feeling of tranquility as your senses zero in on fragrant flowers and birds chirping.
The park-like setting contains the restored London family farmhouse and the Spragg family barn, heritage and herb gardens, old farming equipment, a small hand tool museum, chickens, bees, allotment gardens, large lawns, gazebo and picnic area.
Bruce Livingston, President of the London Heritage Farm Society, points out that our community is not very old. The heritage buildings that remain in the Steveston area are primarily wooden structures, and we have lost many due to development and fires. He says, “To have this original structure on the original site is pretty special.”
In 1877 Charles Edwin London and his brother William relocated from Ontario to British Columbia. Within three years the young men had purchased 200 acres of land for $2,000. They built a small farmhouse and began clearing and draining the land in preparation for farming. In 1888, Charles London married Henrietta Dalzeil and started building the farmhouse.
First to be constructed was the northern side of the house, which now contains the kitchen, gift shop and the upper floor where the children’s bedrooms and playroom are located. During the 1890s adding on the front section of the house doubled the square footage.
The farmhouse has been fully restored and furnished to reflect a snapshot of pioneering life in Richmond during the 1880s to 1930s. Six rooms display furniture, pictures, clothing, quilts, everyday items and photographs of the London family.
In addition to the house and farm, the London’s established a general store and post office, and they built a wharf (hence the name London Landing) from which they would ship produce to New Westminster.
In total the family had eight children, three of whom died in infancy. Roses are planted in the Memorial Rose Garden to commemorate the entire London family.
Charles London sold the farm in 1919 three years after his wife died and he moved the family to Marpole. In 1921 the London’s eldest daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Herbert Howse, bought the farm back and remained there until 1948. After a succession of rentals, the City of Richmond purchased London Farm in 1978. London Heritage Farm is owned by the City of Richmond. The London Heritage Farm Society is a non-profit organization and operates the Farm through fundraising, donations, and revenue from rentals, the tearoom and gift shop.
The Society is responsible for the care of the heritage garden and the allotment gardens. The heritage garden is designed in the style of an English country garden and features a gorgeous seasonal display of annuals, bushes, berries, herbs, perennials, trees and vines, which could be found in local gardens at the turn of the 20th century.
Seventy allotment garden beds are available for public use. There is currently a waiting list; however once you have a plot it is time to express your individuality. It is inspiring to stroll through the west garden and have a peek at how gardeners personalize their spaces and see what they are growing. Allotment gardeners are required to join the London Heritage Farm Society, pay a fee, and contribute a minimum number of volunteer hours per year to the operation and maintenance of the Farm.
The “Chicken Club” has an active roost of ten chickens and a rooster. Free-range eggs are available for sale, mainly on the weekends.
London Heritage Farm relies heavily on volunteers. From assisting in the gift shop, to front line work in the tea room and behind the scenes work in the kitchen, lending a hand with special events, giving tours of the site, and working in the garden, there are many ways to contribute to keep any potential volunteer happy.
Wedding season is here and the south lawn with its large gazebo is a popular spot to exchange vows. The heritage gardens are an ideal backdrop for wedding photos. This summer Schootman has already booked over 30 weddings, picnics and other special events.
Afternoon tea is highly recommended. Tables are set formally with linen, china cups, teapots, silverware and a dessert platter. Tea service is located in the home’s former dining room that also served as the general store, post office and a makeshift church.
You will enjoy the Farm’s own blend of London Lady tea, a large and very tasty home baked scone accompanied by jam or jelly made on site, in addition to three other baked goodies. This is also a unique location to host a bridal shower, birthday party or baby shower. Schootman reports some young girls enjoy dressing up for the occasion, decked out in dresses and fascinators.
The gift shop sells London Farm’s tea blend, scone mix, jams and jellies and an assortment of gift items. In addition, they sell scones that you can take home and pop in the oven.
Special events are celebrated year round at the Farm. Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are popular for afternoon tea – be sure to plan ahead for these special occasions with a reservation. A plant sale is held every year on Mother’s Day weekend. The house is decked in red and white trimmings to commemorate Canada Day. London Farm Family Farm Day in August is an event not to be missed. In November and December be sure to visit the house when it is adorned in Christmas finery.
They key message Schootman wishes to share is London Heritage Farm is a community resource. “Come and explore. Bring your friends and family. Pack a picnic basket. We love it when the site is used and enjoyed,” she says. And if good fortune is on your side, perhaps you will spot a ladybug.
London Heritage Farm
6511 Dyke Rd
Richmond, BC V7E 3R3