Lady Emily Seymour on her farm. She arrived in East Sooke in 1912 and before long became a local institution. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Lady Emily brought British nobility in Sooke

Elida Peers | Contributed

Lady Emily Seymour was born into British nobility – her great-great-great aunt Lady Jane Seymour was third wife to King Henry VIII. (She wasn’t beheaded, she died after giving birth to a son who became the boy king Edward VI).

Lady Emily, married to Rev. Reginald Walker, arrived in East Sooke in 1912 and before long was to become a local institution.

When Rev. Walker and Lady Emily arrived from the south of England with their five children, they brought a retinue of servants, to help them get settled in this new land.

A three storey house was built for them, to be called Ragley for the Seymour estate in Warwickshire, England.

Under construction by the Richardson brothers, also newly arrived from England, the house wasn’t quite ready, and they had to camp in tents at first. The children were Seymour, Lionel, Margaret, Eric and Rupert.

There was much work to do, land had to be cleared, crops put in, and before long it fell to the family to undertake the heavy physical work themselves as several of the servants left for brighter pastures.

Lady Emily, though unused to the pioneer lifestyle, set to work with a will, becoming seriously interested in farming, and helping to start the East Sooke Farmers Institute. The institute minute books have been saved, and are a joy to look through.

In 1919, when Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become Duke of Windsor), visited Victoria, taking over a whole floor of the Empress Hotel, there was a glamorous ball. Lady Emily attended as his guest, occasioning some annoyance from other female guests at the number of dances she shared with the popular prince.

In 1927, when the Prince of Wales again came to Vancouver Island, this time he was driven out to Ragley in East Sooke where he enjoyed luncheon with the Walker family. This proved to be a less formal occasion, as Lady Emily’s grandson Reggie Caffery engaged in a pillow fight with the Prince of Wales on the front steps of Ragley.

When she went out to formal occasions, Lady Emily wore the Seymour tiara and jewellery, and expected to be addressed as “Your Ladyship” but this photo shows that she was a hands-on farmer as well.

Today, the Ragley farmhouse is owned by Rob and Josie Hill, who treat the historic building with the greatest respect while they operate their property as a market garden.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

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