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 4:00 p.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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Saanich police officer in an unmarked vehicle stopped a driver going 70 km/h over the speed limit in front of the police department. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver caught going 70 km/h over the speed limit in front of the Saanich Police Department

Officer in unmarked car issues $483 ticket, week-long vehicle impound

Victoria police ticketed and impounded the vehicles of two drivers after they were caught speeding through a school zone. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two drivers caught doing nearly triple the speed limit in Victoria school zone

Almost $1,000 in fines, vehicle impounded for each motorist

BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau says British Columbians face a choice between “false majority government” and a “more cooperative, collaborative” form of governance during a campaign stop in Saanich North and the Islands Monday (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
BC Greens leader makes pitch for minority government during stop in Saanich North and Islands

Sonia Furstenau calls on British Columbians to reject ‘false majority government’

The Skeena Queen, serving the Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route has been out of action since early Wednesday morning, forcing BC Ferries to cancel eight sailings connecting the Saanich Peninsula and Salt Spring Island. It is not clear when service will resume. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
UPDATED: BC Ferries cancels additional sailings to Salt Spring Island

With repairs to Skeena Queen underway, it is not clear when service will resume

Saanich police are investigating a break-in that occurred at the Liquor Plus in the 3800-block of Quadra Street sometime overnight on Oct. 20. (Google Maps)
Investigation continues after overnight break-in at Saanich liquor store

Small wood panel removed, multiple items stolen

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Chris Istace campaigning in Crofton. (Photo submitted)
Green Party’s Istace apologizes for remark about First Nations gaming grants being a ‘handout’

Island candidate determined to do better in thinking and communicating matters of reconciliation

Sails down, masks up for Ron and Sherry Pryde, who completed a 119 day journey that was supposed to be 70 days. (Zoe Ducklow)
Coast Guard towed rudderless sailors to Port Hardy hours before a powerful storm

Rudderless for a month, the couple zigzagged most the way home with “a few donuts and lazy-eights”

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Most Read