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 11:00 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

The Jordie Lunn Bike Park officially opened in Langford on June 22. (Kiernan Green/Black Press Media)
Tires hit the dirt for Jordie Lunn Bike Park opening in Langford

Legendary local rider remembers by family, friends

Swanwick Ranch in Metchosin, featuring an award-winning home on 67 acres of property overlooking the ocean, recently sold for a record-setting, yet undisclosed amount. (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada photo)
Sale of oceanfront property in Metchosin yields new record for Greater Victoria

Listed at $14.1 million, Swanwick Ranch sold to an undisclosed buyer

Esquimalt businesses will be no longer be able to provide single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter come August as the municipality looks to curb the volume of soft plastics winding up in the landfill. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prepares to launch plastic checkout bag ban this summer

Bylaw takes effect Aug. 16, businesses will be unable to provide single-use plastic bags

Sandy Oliver, owner of Sidney’s Star Cinema, said a hardware problem delayed the theatre’s re-opening, pushing it to Monday, June 21. The theatre had planned to re-open June 18. (Black Press Media file photo)
Projector problems push re-opening of Sidney’s Star Cinema

Theatre re-opened Monday with screening of A Quiet Place II

The price of gas is way up in many parts of Greater Victoria after a Monday afternoon surge sent it to 162.9 cents per litre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gas prices surge to 162.9 cents a litre at some Greater Victoria stations

Prices jumped up more than 10 cents Monday afternoon

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

This map outlines the area affected by the open burning prohibition. Via Coastal Fire Centre
Vancouver Island open fire prohibition takes effect June 23

Ban applies to both public and private land, includes fireworks

Most Read