It was a warm, sun-dappled afternoon along the South Arm of the Fraser River in Richmond. But although the wide gravel trail fringing the glittering waterway was bustling with smiling strollers and friendly dog walkers, I was about to cross over the road and step back in time at London Farm.
Complete with a beautifully preserved yesteryear farmhouse, the four-acre site includes verdant grounds, flowering gardens and red-painted vintage barns. And although it’s been open to the public as a free-entry heritage attraction for many years, it still feels like a hidden gem that lots of locals and out-of-towners have yet to discover.
Recently spruced up and enhanced with several improvements, this was my first visit in more than five years. But it wasn’t long before my camera was working overtime as I explored the site and rediscovered what life was really like for some of Richmond’s olden-days rural residents.
The pioneering London family began farming here in the 1880s. They grew wheat, oats, tree fruits and more, while also building and modifying the gabled home that remains to this day. The family thrived here for several decades, but the site was acquired by the city in the 1970s and transformed into a unique historic attraction centered on a fascinating farmhouse museum.
Spread over two floors, the farmhouse is lined with antique furnishings and nostalgic nik naks that recall how these early Richmondites lived more than a century ago. Among the first rooms you see, the table in the dining room is laid with elegant crockery, while the adjoining parlour houses a piano and a comfy-looking velvet sofa.
Climbing the creaking staircase, the bedrooms look as though the residents have just stepped away. A child’s room includes well-worn toys and storybooks, while the room of an older daughter evokes an independent young woman, complete with a Sunday-best outfit displayed on a dressmaker’s form.
The framed photographs throughout the house are even more evocative. There’s a huge photo showing the busy farm in 1908, while several other images depict steely-eyed men with extravagantly voluminous beards. Upstairs, there are lively photos of bright-eyed London children as well as the hardworking (but still smiling) young adults who lived and toiled here.
Outside the House
Exploring the grounds tells you even more about life on the farm. Walking the pathways, I found several information panels with facts about early Richmond plus colourful passages that pretend to be written by past residents. My favourite describes the early lack of running water here––and the bats you had to avoid to visit the farm’s outdoor washroom during the night!
The grounds also house preserved barns where old farm tools, rusting agricultural equipment and a hulking, dangerous-looking threshing machine are on display.
There’s even a chicken coop where you can watch a gaggle of colourful chooks, plus a collection of white-painted beehives that were busy with buzzing residents on my visit.
A new wooden bridge has also been recently installed, traversing the large, tree-fringed pond where ducks and occasional swans hold court. And alongside the house, a delightful flower garden––a highlight for many visitors––was filled with fragrant roses and dahlias on my visit. Nearby, several apple and pear trees were also laden with luscious fruit.
The fruit from these trees is put to good use at London Farm. Returning to the farmhouse, I checked out the little shop in the reception area. Alongside charming handmade children’s dresses and some lovely teapots and teacups, the store’s top-sellers are the delicious jams and jellies made with own-grown fruit.
Strawberry is a favourite, but others are added throughout the year as seasonal fruits and berries become available. I spotted tempting jars of blackberry and raspberry, while a friendly staff member told me that pear would be arriving in the shop soon. Add a package of the farm’s London Lady tea blend, and you’d have the perfect gift for a friend.
Even better, you can sometimes book Afternoon Tea here. Complete with baked treats, scones with cream and jam and London Lady tea, I learned there’s no regular schedule for these––you can call the farm at 604-271-5220 to find out when the next one is and to make reservations. As I picked up my strawberry jam purchase and headed home, I was already planning my next visit––and Afternoon Tea was definitely on my wish list.
If you go:
London Farm is located at 6511 Dyke Road. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk. The farmhouse is open daily from July to early September and on weekends-only from early September to December as well as from early May to June. The farmhouse is closed between January and early May. Entry to the farmhouse and grounds is free. For more information, visit the London Farm website.
Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Tourism Richmond