|Bowker Creek's headwaters are in an area of Saanich once known as the Cedar Plain -- flat, open grassland around what is today the intersection of Shelbourne Street and Mackenzie Avenue. It was part of Rosebank Farm, established by Scottish settlers John and Jessie Irvine, who built their home near the present-day intersection of Cedar Hill Road and Cedar Hill Cross Road on a 100-acre section of the land aqcuired in 1857. Rosebank grew to 300 acres and the Irvines farmed in the area for half a century.|
|The lower reaches of the creek ran along the southern
edge of John Tod’s farm. He had spent
several decades with the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Pacific Northwest before
retiring in 1851 to farm 200 acres of land in Oak Bay. The farmhouse he built still stands on Heron
Street, a short walk from the creek.
Learn more about John Tod Bowker and his family by clicking on the picture.
|In this era, the creek was rather grandly known as the Thames (admittedly, the water levels were certainly higher then). Lady Jane Franklin, widow of the famous arctic explorer, saw the creek when she visited Victoria in the spring of 1861. During their visit, James Douglas escorted Lady Franklin and her niece, Sophia Cracroft, who recorded this impression, out into the Oak Bay countryside:|
According to Stuart Stark, a Victoria heritage consultant, there was a small country hotel called the Richmond located on the stream, (presumably the street is named after it) where Victorians would come for tea at “Richmond-on Thames”.
It was not until some years later that the creek acquired its present name -- for John Sylvester Bowker, whose farm bordered the creek. He acquired the land when he married Mary Tod, daughter of John Tod. Much later, the street where they lived in Oak Bay was also named for Bowker.
Before any Europeans settled in the area, there were of course First Nations peoples living in the vicinity for generations. They would have used the creek as a year round source of drinking water, and to obtain annual supplies of salmon. The creek was also near the shellfish beds along Willows Beach. In Fireman Park there is a midden from which many artifacts have been discovered.
Today, over 50 percent of Bowker Creek is buried in underground culverts. When we bury the creek, we bury and destroy our heritage. Help us reverse this trend and restore the creek and our communities.
What is your future vision for the Bowker Creek watershed? How will our treatment of Bowker Creek today be viewed 50 years from now?
Read about the Oral History of the Bowker Creek Watershed Lands. This document includes descriptions of historic features in the Bowker Creek Watershed like the airflield where Landsdowne School is now situated. This pdf (40K) document can be downloaded here.