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About the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria

The Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria is a registered non-profit society in British Columbia. Our goal is to encourage the research, preservation and appreciation of Greater Victoria's heritage cemeteries. There are about 20 of these cemeteries including burial parks, columbaria and churchyards.  Many of these are listed in the CEMETERIES [enter] section with a description and photos where available.

Our members are involved in many volunteer activities, mainly at Ross Bay Cemetery. Our main activities are cataloguing, cleaning and restoring monuments, computerizing burial records, conducting historical research, combating vandalism and giving walking history tours. Membership fees, donations and proceeds from historical queries, books, t-shirts, field trips and walking tours assist the costs of this important work.

OCS Officers 2014

President: Gerry Buydens
Vice President: Vacant
Past President: Wilf Bruch
Secretary: Michael Halleran
Treasurer: Gudrun Leys
Directors at Large: Linda Richards
Sharon Welsh
Stewart Dashwood
Patrick Lydon
Drew Waveryn
 

Bente Svendsen



The Old Cemeteries Society (OCS) started informally in 1983. It brought together people from the Victoria Genealogical Society, several local monument makers and many private citizens who were interested in the preservation of Victoria's beautiful and historic cemeteries.

By 1984, these groups had formed the Old Cemeteries Committee under the sponsorship of the Victoria Historical Society. They wanted to present a united front to the Victoria City Council so they could request more action on such things as vandalism. From the first, the committee wanted to raise the awareness of neighbours of the cemeteries and of the local police to try and encourage a crackdown on vandals. The committee also formed volunteer patrols of the cemeteries at high-vandalism times such as Halloween.

In 1985, the committee decided that raising the public (and City Council) awareness of all the issues facing old cemeteries was essential to protecting the cemeteries. Later that year, the committee held a symposium that brought together researchers and conservation experts from all over the province and Alberta. This went so well that more symposiums were held, in 1987, 1995 and 1997.

In 1988 and 1989, vandalism was at an all time high in Ross Bay Cemetery. Because of increased public awareness, a huge public outcry resulted in large media coverage. The city imposed a curfew, set up paid security patrols and for the first time, funded the repair of damaged gravestones.

In 1990, the Old Cemeteries Committee formed its own society called the Old Cemeteries Society. The Old Cemeteries Committee decided that regular walking history tours were another good way to raise awareness of the cemeteries. Beginning in September 1987, volunteers of the committee began giving walking tours.

The Old Cemeteries Society continues the Walking History Tour Program, with tours attracting up to 90 people on any given Sunday. A small fee is charged for the tours to raise money for ongoing conservation and restoration work in Victoria's heritage cemeteries.

History Tours have expanded to include a School Program, Ghost Bus-tours of the city's haunted sites at Halloween and out-of-town bus excursions to more distant cemeteries and historical sites.

Ongoing projects include:

  • Cleaning and restoring of markers;
  • Recording and documentation of all the gravesites and markers in Ross Bay Cemetery;
  • Computerizing the 28,000 entries in the Ross Bay Cemetery Burial Registers.

Major projects and events have included:

  • 1988 Workshops in monument conservation; cleaning and restoration of monuments at Ross Bay Cemetery commenced;
  • 1991 Restoration of cast-iron grave fence around the grave of Charles Moss;
  • 1992 Moving some gravestones from the Old Burying Ground to safe storage and repairing markers and curbing that had been knocked over or damaged;
  • 1993 Restoration of cast-iron grave fences around the Douglas family plot;
  • 1997 Restoration and conservation of the Pritchard Tomb in the Old Burying Ground (Pioneer Square);
  • 2000 Ross Bay restoration Millennium Project - complete restoration and conservatiion work on 160 monuments;
  • 2002 Vandalism at Ross Bay Cemetery damaged 50 monuments;
  • 2005 Restoration of hand-worked wrought iron fence around the grave of Charles and hannah (Parker) Ball;
  • 2006 Old Cemetery Society received the Heritage Society of BC Outstanding Achievement Award for Heritage Advocacy;
  • 2007
  • 2008 Historical Fair - hosted participants and chaperones who attended tours, cleaning sessions and recording instruction at Ross Bay Cemetery;
  • 2009
    • A grant from the BC 150 Legacy Fund resulted in a burial database and self-guided tour guide for The Old Quadra Street Burying Ground;
    • Two bouts of vandalism at Ross Bay Cemetery - the first in August claimed about 13 stones and the second in December damaged another 50. The City of Victoria Parks staff authorized Mortimers Monumental Works to repair all the damage.
  • 2010 Ross Bay Cemetery Row Marker Project established a system for locating grave plots;
  • 2011
    • Office located at Ross Bay Villa;
    • Restoration of ironwork at Ross Bay Cemetery - after preparing a detailed inventory of iron fencing, gate features and curbing, 55 examples
      were cleaned, scraped and repainted. This ambitious project will add many years of life to these irreplaceable iron features.
  • 2012
    • Phase 3 of our Row Marker Project was completed thanks to the support of the Thrifty Foods Smile Card Fundraiser Program [go to link];
    • We also undertook the restoration and stabilization of the Houston Mausoleum. The damaged walls were stabilized and the iron gate was cleaned and painted. (P90/91WR)
  • 2013
    • Our restoration efforts in 2013 were concentrated on our Ross/Grimm project.
    • The project comprised of refurbishing the Isabella Ross marker, replicating the Alexander Ross marker and restoring the Grimm Family iron fence. This project was successfully completed in October at a cost of $3864.00.  See “current issues“ for pictures. Thank You to Thrifty Food for their support.
    • Other restoration efforts included, repairing 28 markers through out Ross Bay Cemetery, creating 8 new bases for broken tablet markers and installing them, retiling the Huston family plot and close to 100 hours of power washing curbing and bases at Ross Bay Cemetery.

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