Victorian couple sits in living room

My Victorian day

Today’s post comes from Eva Paleczny, Learning and Education Specialist at Ontario Parks.

Ever wondered what life in Ontario would have been like during the turn of the 20th century, or felt that you were born in the wrong era?

Staff member tending to the pumpkin patch

Are you drawn to books and shows like Alias Grace, Anne of Green Gables, Murdoch Mysteries, or Wind at My Back (for those old enough to remember that show)?

Would you enjoy dressing up in Victorian attire for a day or two?

Do you like gardening, baking, crafting, wood-working or some other handicraft?

Do you like (or love!) Bronte Creek Provincial Park?

If you answered “YES!” to one or more questions, you might want to consider volunteering at Bronte Creek Provincial Park during one of many heritage festivals!

Next up is the Harvest Festival and the park needs your help to bring Spruce Lane – an historic farm in the heart of the park – to life!

Last fall, I ventured from Peterborough to Bronte Creek Provincial Park to volunteer at the Harvest Festival, a two-day event hosted by the Friends of Bronte Creek.

The transformation

I arrived first thing in the morning to find staff and volunteers dressed in Victorian attire, setting up a variety of interactive stations (including a cider-making mill, quilting frame, and rope-making station).

woman wearing Victorian clothing

I was soon whisked into the stone basement of the farmhouse where I was fitted with a Victorian dress, complete with a petticoat and apron.

At 9:30 AM we gathered around the Senior Park Interpreter, who gave us the run-down for the day, and from there dispersed to our assigned posts to greet visitors as they arrived.

Before the event, volunteers had participated in a separate orientation and training session (required for all events) and were all set to go.

To my delight, I spent the morning making strawberry jam on a woodstove. I had made jam many times before, but never on a woodstove! Our biggest challenge was keeping the stove hot enough.

By the time we finished the first batch of jam, we overheated in our layered dresses, but had managed to successfully set and seal all but one jar! Not bad for our first go.

During this process, visitors could watch and even participate by helping us crush the strawberries. It was challenging and fun!

A tumble through time

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to see the cider mill in action, try my hand at quilt making, and facilitate some turn of the century children’s games.

Woman in Victorian clothing is handed a plate with a pastry

I also played some old-time fiddle tunes (a personal hobby of mine) for visitors stopping for a snack of apple blossoms (mini apple pie/pastry) and cider.

I think perhaps the most memorable part of my day was tripping up the basement stairs in the farmhouse!

Victorian dressed woman holding quilt

I soon learned that walking up stairs while wearing a Victorian-era dress required one hand for holding my skirt off the ground; leaving me with one hand to carry canning jars and fruit from the basement to the kitchen!

With modern electricity in the farmhouse I thankfully did not need to carry a lantern too. But it put the pulley system leading from the basement to the kitchen into perspective – people at Spruce Lane in Victorian times literally had their hands full!

I’ve always been fascinated by people’s past lives and have often gravitated towards books, movies, and museum displays that help me to imagine and understand what life was really like back then.

I can honestly say that tripping up a set of stairs and overheating while cooking jam on a woodstove (among other things) really immersed me in the past in a completely new (and perhaps more meaningful) way!

Sound like your cup of tea?

The Harvest Festival is coming up fast (September 28-29, 2019). And soon after that, the park will be looking for volunteers for Victorian Christmas (December 27 – January 5, 2020)


A full listing of events happening at the park in 2019 can be found here.

Ready to sign-up? Have questions? Call 905-827-6911 ext. 231 or send us an email.

Join the Friends of Bronte Creek mailing list to be notified of future volunteer experiences.