A new memorial gate will greet visitors to Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria and highlight the property’s historic past in time for its sesquicentennial year.
While March 2023 will mark the cemetery’s 150th anniversary, there is currently no formal entrance or signage denoting its name or use, according to the Old Cemeteries Society (OCS).
The society says it has been working with the City of Victoria for “a number of years” to build a memorial gate at the Stannard Avenue entrance and is now ready to put the shovels in the ground.
“The cemetery currently doesn’t have any signage or any formal gates, so we’re going to try and correct that,” said Wilf Bruch, Project Manager at OCS.
The centuries-old cemetery in Fairfield, located on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen-speaking Indigenous Nations, opened in 1873 and today contains 30,000 interments sprawled over 27.5 acres.
According to the OCS, the cemetery’s headstones provide “a physical record of local, regional and provincial culture and history” and help solidify its title as “the most important heritage cemetery in British Columbia.”
“This cemetery is a museum of over one-hundred years of the province’s most historical figures, such as Sir James Douglas, Matthew Baillie Begbie, and Emily Carr,” the OCS said.
The OCS says that the site has the oldest surviving formal landscape design in the province.
Because the property is a designated heritage site and on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, the society says it obtained a Heritage Alteration Permit for the gate project to move forward.
“Our plans include brass plaques to show the [cemetery’s] name and a brief history,” it added, noting construction begins this month and wraps up in January at a cost of nearly $100,000.
Ross Bay Cemetery is on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking Indigenous Nations. We honour and acknowledge their dedicated stewarding of these lands for thousands of years.
After the Douglas Treaties of 1850 the land was acquired by Isabella Ross and James Douglas. Ross sold part of her farm to Robert Burnaby. In 1872 he sold 13 acres of it to the City of Victoria for the cemetery which opened the following year. In 1900 part of the Douglas estate was added, on the west side, and in 1906 a part of the Ross estate was added, on the east side. The cemetery now comprises 27.5 acres and contains about 30,000 interments. It is owned by the City of Victoria, is a designated heritage site and is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
Erected by the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, 2022