Welcome to the Point Ellice House Blog

This blog is a space to share stories and updates about our work here at Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens. We hope you enjoy reading and that it encourages you to come see the site for yourself – maybe it will inspire you to get involved with helping us tell the many stories of this site. Welcome!...

Chamber Pots and Slop Buckets

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens In the earliest days at Point Ellice House there were no flushing toilets or showers. Before the 1880s, a set of jugs, basins, bowls, and pots were an essential part of personal hygiene. These toilet sets, of which there are several at Point Ellice House, included a chamber pot, a washbasin, a water jug, a slop bucket, as well as a soap dish, sponge bowl and a toothbrush holder. Each piece had its own role to play in the daily routine; people did not often fully submerge themselves in water when they bathed,...

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House of Crows

Point Ellice House and the families that lived here have inspired a number of authors over the years. The latest writer to draw inspiration from the historic house and the O’Reilly family is Edeana Malcolm; she has contributed this guest post about her latest book, House of Crows. Edeana Malcolm The inspiration for my historical novel, House of Crows, came to me while I was visiting Point Ellice House some years ago. I was fascinated by the story of Kathleen O’Reilly, the young woman who lived there. In 1891, she was engaged to marry a naval officer who was...

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Artifact Spotlight: Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York (PEH 975.1.7768a-b) is a game from the 1880s; it was one of the first mass produced games, resulting in its spread to Canada. The game is a structured narrative in which Peter Coddle (a ‘country bumpkin’) makes his way to New York. There are various blank spaces in the narrative that allows players to insert amusing words or phrases to fill out the story. It is very similar to modern games such as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity in that cards are intended to be...

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Artifact Spotlight: Violets! (Perfume, Soap, Toilet Powder)

Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens Violets were fashionable during the Victorian era for their delicate aroma, further popularized by Queen Victoria whose journals frequently repeat her adoration of the tiny blossoms. At the time, different meanings became associated with different flowers; violets signified faithfulness and modesty. Due to its popularity, the violet was frequently used in perfumes and toiletries – fresh cut flowers were also tucked into hat brims or openly worn in button holes. There are numerous bottles of violet perfumes in the Point Ellice House collection; these were often imported from France where the blossoms were...

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Artifact Spotlight: Top Hat and Travelling Case

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens   This fine hat (PEH 975.1.9654) is made from felted black beaver fur and, according to the milliner stamp on the inside, came all the way from Wright and Oxley hatters on Sackville street in Dublin. This hat likely came with Peter O’Reilly to British Columbia in 1859 (you can see his name engraved on a small brass plate attached to the lid strap of the case). Beaver fur top hats faded out of style not long after this particular one was manufactured. Beaver fur was a popular material as it was somewhat...

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Artifact Spotlight: Porcelain Pitcher

Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens Point Ellice House has an extensive china pantry and this week we are featuring a white porcelain pitcher (PEH 975.1.349) from the collection. According to the records in our database, it was likely purchased sometime between 1883 and 1893. The design of the pitcher is interesting as it shows intertwined rose, thistle, and shamrock which are the respective flowers of England, Scotland, and the O’Reilly family’s native Ireland. These floral motifs are often seen on coat of arms, as well as the general iconography of the United Kingdom. The mark on the bottom...

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Artifact Spotlight: Spectacles

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens By the end of the 19th century, spectacles or eyeglasses became a more common accessory. As knowledge of the eye increased and other societal changes took place – such as reading for pleasure – there was new demand for better aids to improve vision. In the Point Ellice House collection we have many different types and styles of spectacles, including several meant for reading, as well as tinted folding glasses. We don’t know exactly which family member these glasses belonged to, though many of our eyeglasses were designed for women and it is...

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Artifact Spotlight: A Scottish Brick

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens As part of our south garden rehabilitation we have been uncovering various pieces of historical archaeology – particularly bricks, which the O’Reilly family used to create walkways and line borders and paths. Most bricks uncovered so far have not had any markings, making it difficult to identify the manufacturer and date. This week, however, we found an fully intact brick with the marking “GARTCRAIG.” GARTCRAIG bricks were manufactured near Glasgow, Scotland between 1876 and 1927. Victoria had a number of brickyard during this period, so how did a brick from Scotland find its...

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Exhibit Planning During a Pandemic

Dr. Kelly Black, Executive Director Since the Vancouver Island Local History Society took over management of Point Ellice House in 2019, our approach has been to look beyond the house itself and connect the site and families with the wider history of Victoria, British Columbia, and the British Empire. When we drafted our business plan for the site, we highlighted the prominent role the Wentworth Wallace and O’Reilly families played in the city and province, and noted the many stories that could be told through these familial connections, museum collection, and the Point Ellice House landscape. Victoria has many...

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Artifact Spotlight: Pickle Fork

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens Our modern kitchens are filled with various tools for specific tasks – garlic peelers, avocado slicers, and grapefruit spoons, to name a few. This triple pronged tool from the Point Ellice House collection (PEH 975.1.4966) also has a very specific purpose: to fetch pickles from the bottom of the jar. The pickle fork even has a second handle with a ball on the end to help push your tasty snack off the end so you do not touch the food with your fingers. The Victoria and Albert Museum reminds us that specialized dining...

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