When Colleen Lowe noticed a small hole in her backyard, she had no idea what she could have fallen into.
She cut back a layer of grass and earth that had grown over the opening, revealing a four-metre-deep hole, remnants of a water well, which most likely accompanied Saanich’s oldest home.
Lowe, who owned the property for 12 years before noticing the hidden landscape feature at the beginning of May, was at first concerned that it was a sinkhole created by improper drainage. A visit from Saanich public works dispelled that theory. Driller David Slade later confirmed the hole appears to be a well, either partially drilled originally or partially filled over the years – as in some 150 years.
Saanich archivist Caroline Duncan was thrilled to hear the news, given the well’s location to the original site of Saanich’s oldest home on what was once property of Saanich pioneer Capt. Charles Dodd.
Dodd, an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, had built the home in 1859 on the southwest corner of his 109-hectare property, on what is today the 1700-block of Kenmore Road – next door to where Lowe’s house is now.
In 1978 when a new property owner chose to develop the land, the Dodd house was transplanted to Lambrick Park, where it remains today, adjacent to Gordon Head Recreation Centre. It’s owned and rented by the municipality of Saanich.
“The position of the well would have fit very nicely with the position of the house,” Duncan said. “We don’t know for sure if the well is related to the Dodd family when they were there, or a later resident of the Dodd house, but it seems to have a strong connection to the original Dodd property.”
Duncan is curious to learn if other residents of the neighbourhood have made similar discoveries.
“It’s a fabulous thing because even though the house was moved, there are still features of the landscape from the original site that are still there,” Duncan said. “In all of Gordon Head there were only about three other houses (from the 1850s) and I’ve always wondered why they chose that corner when they had all that beautiful coastline … but there was an old stream that ran near there.”
On May 17 Lowe had the hole filled. She hopes to mark the site, perhaps with a commemorative wishing well, she said.
“It’s a fascinating piece of history in our own backyard,” Lowe added.