Historian Kate Humble

Historian Kate Humble

Walk reveals scandalous past

Take a peek into Oak Bay’s secret history with new tour

Oak Bay is known for being calm and genteel, but a checkered history of scandals, sensational deaths and the occult lurks behind the tweed curtain.

Those stories will be the subject of three upcoming Discover the Past’s Discovery Walking Tour of Oak Bay, led by historian Kate Humble. Humble grew up in Oak Bay and returned recently after spending 10 years in England and Toronto.

“I want to focus on the history in (Oak Bay) because it’s amazing,” she said. “There have been some incredibly interesting characters who used to live in Oak Bay.”

Francis Mawson Rattenbury, the architect behind the legislature building, the Empress and Vancouver Art Gallery, is one character Humble cited. Rattenbury, who also served on Oak Bay council, used to live in what is now Glenlyon Norfolk school on Beach Avenue. He designed the home and lived there with his wife and children until the late 1920s when he got involved with a younger woman. He would eventually meet a tragic end when his second wife took on an 18-year-old lover.

“It was a huge scandal,” Humble said. “He had to leave Victoria.”

Humble said Oak Bay also has a connection to the sinking of the Titanic and that in the late 19th Century, spiritualism was widely embraced by all and meeting for seances was all the rage.

“This was a huge thing in Victoria, absolutely enormous,” Humble said.

To prepare for the tour, Humble spent hours researching at the B.C. Museum and Oak Bay archives, reading old newspapers, going through microfiche and on the Internet.

The 1999 Oak Bay High school graduate has a PhD in history, specializing in medieval history. She worked at the Arms and Armoury Museum in England before returning home.

The Oak Bay walking tours are 90 minutes long and takes place on March 1 at 2 p.m., May 3 at 2 p.m. and May 18 at 10:30 a.m. Adults $15, students and seniors $13, cash only. Meet 15 minutes prior at Oak Bay Avenue and York Place.

Humble said if the walk proves popular, more will be added.

Find more about other walks, including one exploring the Uplands on March 15, go to discoverthepast.com.