Author Valerie Green holds a copy of Above Stairs: Social Life in Upper-Class Victoria 1843-1918

Author Valerie Green holds a copy of Above Stairs: Social Life in Upper-Class Victoria 1843-1918

Historian revisits Victoria’s high society roots

"When snobbery was rife, and when wealth, the right connections and an added touch of charm dictated one’s place in high society.”

  • Nov. 22, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Valerie Green has gone on a journey to Victoria’s past – to a time, she writes, “when snobbery was rife, and when wealth, education, the right connections and an added touch of charm dictated one’s place in high society.”

But if her knowledge of the area and its pioneers were first-hand, she’d be sure of one thing.

She would have much rather lived “above stairs.”

Green, author and former Saanich News columnist, has revisited high society in Above Stairs: Social Life in Upper-Class Victoria 1843-1918.

“I just love history and I wanted to do an upstairs-downstairs version of life in Victoria,” said Green from her home library, where she writes in the company of her maltipoo cross, Rupert.

The work about the city’s upstairs scene was originally released in 1995 by Sono Nis Press.

Five years later Green wrote Upstarts and Outcasts: Victoria’s Not-So-Proper-Past, an homage to those serving the rich and living “below stairs.”

In light of reader demand, and backed by publisher TouchWood Editions, Green has updated and rereleased Above Stairs with new material, including additional photos and added introductions to each of the eight families profiled in the book.

Each chapter now begins with vignettes set in factual situations, but written creatively from Green’s interpretation of her research.

“It was a long, long process, but rewarding,” she said. “It’s interesting that there’s still interest in the book 15 years later.”

Many of the descendants of the featured families have passed away in recent years. Others, such as the Creases and the Pembertons, remain prominent in the Capital Region.

While Green’s interest in the past is not limited by any means, the history of the O’Reilly family and their home, Point Ellice House, is of particular interest to her.

“I was always intrigued by Kathleen O’Reilly because she never married and she was a beautiful woman with lots of boyfriends and lots of suitors, but she remained unmarried until she died in that house in her ‘70s.”

Green also delves into the history of the Rithets, including one-time mayor of Victoria Robert Rithet. He bred race horses on a parcel of land owned by his family. This area would later be named Broadmead in honour of one of Rithet’s star steeds.

Althoug many of her readers assume she has the answer to every historical question about Victoria, Green suggests that anyone interested in the past can learn about it at the archives.

“It is rather like being a detective, tracing things back,” she said. “When a piece falls into place it’s a good feeling. Like a jigsaw puzzle.”

Above Stairs is available at Bolen Books, Munro’s Books, Cadboro Bay Book Co. and Tanner’s Books.

This month, Green also releases Mysterious British Columbia: Myths, Murders, Mysteries and Legends, a look at some of the province’s most curious tales (including the elusive cadborosaurus), available now through Chapters-Indigo and coming soon to local book stores.

What’s next?

Green is penning Vanished! – The Michael Dunahee story, to be released in 2012.

The story of Dunahee’s 1991 abduction is being done with the full co-operation of the Dunahee family, police and Child Find B.C.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

(Victoria Cool Aid Society/Facebook)
Victoria food drive aims to feed those also struggling with housing

Quadra Village furniture store hosting drive-thru event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Barriers to rental housing brought on by no-pet rules add stress to renters, says councillor. (Pixabay)
Saanich councillor wants to remove barriers to housing for pet owners

Motion calling for province to amend lease stipulations against pet ownership defeated in 5-4 vote

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Most Read