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Changing Landscapes: London Parks

Springbank and Victoria Parks are two well know London Parks.  The archaeology of these parks reveals a history that stretches over 12,000 years in London that includes aboriginal, pioneer, and early military functions. With new development and reuse of our landscape,  London’s history can be studied through excavated archaeological sites, archived stories, maps, and photographs.  Part of the Changing Landscapes exhibit at MOA, Springbank and Victoria Parks illustrate how our use of the land has changed over time.

Springbank Park, Byron Ontario

London Parks - Springbank Park including Northern Hotel 1880
The Pumphouse complex, including the Northern Hotel, in 1880 before the flood in 1883.

Located in Byron Ontario, Springbank Park is a multi-use park consisting of gardens, nature trails, bicycle paths, grassed and natural areas along the Thames River. Springbank park is part of the Springbank Cultural Heritage Landscape and is highly valued by Londoners since its history and memories weave the past with the present while contributing to the community’s sense of identity and rich cultural fabric. Through historical research and archaeological findings, we can piece together the history of Springbank Park and it’s changing landscape.

Pre- Contact Aboriginal Occupation

Over the past two decades, park improvements have contributed to an increase in archaeological knowledge of the site. Excavations lead by Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants in London Ontario have revealed that Springbank Park was occupied on numerous occasions over thousands of years from the late Middle Archaic Period (3050-2550 B.C) to the Late Woodland Period (A.D. 900- 1650). One site within the park located on the Thames River revealed over 6800 Aboriginal artifacts, animal bones, and plant fragments. This particular site was occupied on multiple occasions during the Middle Archaic (3500- 2550 B.C.), Late Archaic (1500- 500 B.C.), and Middle Woodland (400B.C- 500 A.D.), and Late Woodland periods (1400-1650 A.D.).

Euro-Canadian Occupation

As many as five 19th and 20th century Euro- Canadian archaeological sites have been located in Springbank Park.  Interestingly, the discovery of these sites are attributed to picnic goers visiting the park as opposed to archaeologists. Artifacts found during excavations include structural items (nails, window glass), table ceramics, and kitchen related items.

Early Park

Springbank Park - Amusement park prior to Storybook Gardens

In 1914, the Springbank Amusement Park was opened and featured a cannon ball roller coaster, merry-go-round, bowling alleys, shooting gallery, and Ferris wheel, among other thrills.  However due to lackluster performance, the park eventually closed and was removed by 1942.

In 1958, Storybook Gardens open to serve the families of London and the surrounding area.

 

Victoria Park, London Ontario

Sitting Prominently in the heart of London, Victoria Park attracts thousands of visitors each year. With known Pre-Contact remnants, military history, and the remains of an earlier park, the archaeology of Victoria Park reveals layers of London’s history that spans thousands of years.

Discovered in London Parks - Victoria Park
Flow Painted Ewer found during excavations, reconstructed.

Archaeological fieldwork conducted by D.R. Poulton & Associates has continued at intervals in Victoria Park over the last 18 years. The vast majority of archaeological remains uncovered relate to the British Military occupation of the site between 1840-1853 and 1861-1869 then the early park landscape design features. The high level of preservation on this site provides interesting details such as some interior walls in the barracks were covered in whitewashed plaster and some were covered in red plaster.

Since the discovery of what lies under the lush canvas of Victoria Park, archaeological excavations are undertaken before the city makes any improvements to the park. This is done to ensure the park’s historical layers are preserved. In addition to supporting the archaeological fieldwork, the City has erected plaques in Victoria Park to commemorate the history of the property. To date, excavations have recovered hundreds of thousands of artifacts which will eventually find its new home in the collections of Museum London.

To discover more about London Parks, come in to see the Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past exhibit to see the complete timeline of Springbank Gardens and Victoria Park along with additional photos, and excavated materials.

We are now in the final week of MOA’s Feature Exhibit Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past.  Don’t miss your last chance to check out this exhibit before it closes on March 21st and explore the course of London’s 12,000 year history.

London Parks - Springbank park pump house (1)


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