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Victoria’s Craigdarroch Castle reveals restored Dunsmuir-era kitchen

Craigdarroch Castle executive director John Hughes in the newly restored Dunsmuir-era kitchen. Ella Matte / Victoria News photo

It began in 2017 when Victoria’s Craigdarroch Castle staff started work to restore the castle’s kitchen.

Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir for his family, the Victorian-era Craigdarroch Castle is now a meticulously restored National Historic Site that gives visitors a glimpse of privileged life in the 1890s. However the kitchen had never been restored – until now.

“We are excited to share the culmination of years of dedication, meticulous work and a shared passion for preserving the past,” Craigdarroch Castle executive director John Hughes said in unveiling the new space.

“A kitchen is a place that attracts us all and has a universal language. In our surveys, 86 per cent of visitors to Craigdarroch Castle expressed a desire to experience the kitchen, and to learn more about the servants’ activities and food preparation in the Dunsmuir era.”

John Hughes arranges furniture in the newly restored kitchen on the diorama. Ella Matte / Victoria News photo

To restore the kitchen, the castle received $280,000 from Heritage BC and the provincial government to support the upgrades. “We as a province are so pleased to be able to support this project,” said Tourism Minister Lana Popham.

“People who come whether they’re from Victoria, the Island, or anywhere else around the world. It’s an important story to tell and you need to have all the pieces in place.”

READ MORE: Victoria’s architecture steeped in history

Before the kitchen was restored, the castle’s museum gift shop was occupying the space, but now that area will be relocated to the castle’s visitor centre.

The smoking room in the Craigdarroch Castle, a National Historic Site in Victoria’s Rockland Neighbourhood. Ella Matte / Victoria News photo

Working on the kitchen was not a piece of cake.

It included the restoration and replacement of shutters, new wainscoting and mouldings around windows and doors, repair and painting of plaster surfaces and installation of flooring.

“There’s a lot of what happens with an infrastructure project that ends up under your feet, behind the walls and our visitors don’t necessarily understand what is going on,” Hughes said.

Popham said she’s also thrilled about the job opportunities to come for British Columbia in the tourism industry.

“The tourism investments we’ve made in regions throughout the province are creating a more vibrant British Columbia for everyone, and Craigdarroch Castle is an incredible example of how spaces like this create welcoming, educational and fun experiences for residents and tourists,”she said.

The Craigdarroch Castle parlour. Ella Matte / Victoria News photo

This restoration marks the completion of the first phase of the kitchen’s upgrades.

Now the Craigdarroch Castle staff is asking the public what they want to see when they visit the kitchen.

“In the kitchen we actually have a little notepad and ask people what they want to see in the kitchen. The No. 1 thing people want is to see food,” Hughes said.

“There’s some thought that we could use technology. For example, there are some really wonderful image generators, where if you step in front and you move your hand, you can move your hand to a pot on a stove or a plate on the table.”

A chandelier hangs above the stairwell in Craigdarroch Castle. Ella Matte / Victoria News photo

If you go:

  • Craigdarroch Castle is a historic house museum with no ramps or elevators, so is not wheelchair accessible. Visit from Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25, 26, and Jan. 1)
  • Purchase self-guided tour tickets in the Visitor Centre upon arrival at 1050 Joan Cres., in Victoria’s Rockland neighbourhood, about 10 minutes from Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Exploring the castle takes about 60 minutes and staff are available to answer questions.
  • Plan your visit at or call 250-592-5323.

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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