By Ursula Maxwell-Lewis
If you haven’t spent an afternoon sipping London Lady Tea, nibbling fresh baked herb scones and chatting with friends at Richmond’s London Heritage Farm House Tea Room, I’d like to recommend adding it to your summer day-trip list.
Picture me (or you) liberally spreading thick cream and fresh farm raspberry jam on scones while admiring the Monet-style garden vista of roses, peonies, and shrubs through the wood frame window.
Sampling assorted sweet treats, including shortbread and noteworthy fluffy cheesecake tarts, relaxing and savouring the Victorian dining room surroundings are a must.
Located on the banks of the Fraser River in Richmond, London Heritage Farm is a fine example of Lower Mainland pioneering history. The entrepreneurship and courage of early settlers, coupled with the dedication of 21st century volunteers, still makes this a landmark operating farm.
Charles Edwin London (16), and his brother William (17), were clearly two farsighted lads. Three years after arriving in British Columbia from Ontario in 1877, they purchased 200 acres of property on the banks of the Fraser River for $2,000, cleared and drained the land and built a small farmhouse.
The white frame farmhouse admired by visitors today began in 1888 when Charles married Henrietta Dalzeil, an immigrant from Dalbeattie, Scotland. The house (built in two stages) was completed in 1898.
Assorted buildings, including a general store and post office, soon followed. A new wharf ensured easy access to supplies from New Westminster which allowed the flourishing farm owners to ship out milk, oats, hay and vegetables.
The Londons sold the farm in 1919, but Lucy (the eldest of eight children) and her husband, Herbert Howse, repurchased it in 1921 and raised their family here. The City of Richmond eventually bought it in 1978.
After tea, Shelley Niemek, London Heritage Farm Society Administrator, toured the gardens and farm with us.
Beehives thriving in a corner of the property offer teaching opportunities, but will also mean an onsite honey supply for the farm.
Weddings and special occasions can be accommodated if booked well in advance.
Admiring the large assortment of fruits, vegetables and flowers in the farm’s eclectic public garden allotments, Niemek tells me they can be rented, but most people prefer to ‘pay’ by volunteering a mandatory 10 hours at the site.
Clearly the potting shed is a busy place. Donated pots (any size and type) are welcomed and stored here. Volunteers fill them with plants from the farm, and sell them as fundraisers at special events during the year.
Maureen McGovern, Tea Room and Gift Shop Manager, told me she volunteered because her allotment required it, but fell in love with the property and the family history.
London Heritage House is now a museum housing family history, as well as much gleaned from the surrounding area.
The well-stocked gift shop, once the kitchen area, offers organic local jams, smocked children’s dresses, embroidered cotton nighties, collectables and other handmade gifts.
McGovern and Niemek, who shared their stories with me at UrsulaTravels on YouTube (https://bit.ly/2LPjiod), would also like to remind readers that donations of assorted tea cups, saucers and small plates for the tea room are always welcome. Bring them with you (along with those unused garden pots) when you visit.
London Heritage Farm, 6511 Dyke Rd. Richmond, BC, is open year-round from dawn to dusk. House hours vary so check the website at www.londonheritagefarm.ca or call 604-271-5220.
Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a BC-based journalist and photographer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org