Fanshawe Pioneer Village
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Telling the Story
The following is an excerpt from the Fanshawe Pioneer Village website. The Village is an interactive museum that engages the community in the preservation and presentation of the past through living history experiences. "Fanshawe Pioneer Village tells the story of rural communities in the former townships of Westminster, London, North Dorchester, Delaware, West Nissouri and Lobo in Middlesex County from 1820 to 1920 and the founding and development of the City of London up to 1840."
"The following is a description of our tour of Fanshawe Pioneer Village"
A New Pioneer Village to Visit
Judi and I have been to a number of Ontario pioneer villages, so we were looking forward to traveling to London to the Fanshawe Pioneer Village. This Pioneer Village is part of London’s Upper Thames River Conservation Area. We entered the entrance gates and followed the Village signs on the winding road. At one point we crossed a long high bridge. Down below a Dragon Race Festival was taking place. Eventually the road took us up to the Pioneer Village. The entrance sign read “1820-1850 Fanshawe Settlement”. The walkway took us to the Toll Gate and Visitor’s Entrance. We introduced ourselves and asked if our Village contact, Anne Brooks, was available. She was and came to meet us at the Entrance. Anne gave us an overview of the Village and then went back to her duties.
As we walked out of the Entrance building we were immediately “hit” with music. A Military Band concert Wurlitzer was playing. I had heard the music when we exited our car and wondered what and where was the music coming from. Now I knew! Fanshawe Pioneer Village is simply laid out and the handout map makes it even easier to follow. The Village is divided into four “time period” section; Fanshawe Settlement 1820-1850, Fanshawe Corners 1850-1880, Fanshawe Township 1880-1910, and finally, Town of Fanshawe 1910-1920. I could describe all the buildings in detail, but I don’t want to bore you, but I will say that they were wonderfully preserved and very interesting. The only way to appreciate what they have accomplished in the 50 years since the Village was set up is to visit it in person. However, that being said, I want to elaborate on some of the interesting things we did see and observe.
First of all, like I said mentioned previously, the layout’s very easy to follow. A lot of thought has been given towards visitor comfort and experience. My second observation is the staff. They were all not only knowledgeable and helpful, but also enthusiastic. We stopped at one house to talk to two interpreters. When I mentioned that the animals in the barn area were hard to see, one of the ladies jumped up and said “I can solve that, come with me!”. I followed her back to the barn yard and she opened the gates to the barn and led me to the animals – chickens, pigs, goats, etc. Up close and personal! She then led me back to the gate at the field where sheep were gathered around a distant tree. She went to a hidden bucket and pulled out a cup of feed and then came back to the fence. She banged on the fence and called the sheep to come, and they did, RUNNING! They knew why she had called! Up close and personal! It turned out that one of her duties was to feed the animals. She had grown up on a farm and loved the task and the animals!
As we walked the grounds I looked for waste bins. I couldn’t see any! I was wondering where they were when all of a sudden I noticed two wooden boxes. On closer look, one read "litter" and the other "recycle". The boxes had been built in such a way to blend in with the ambiance and character of the village. I then started to notice other innovations, buildings had “wheelchair ramps”, but they were built in such a way as they to blended in with the historical village setting. Much thought had gone into keeping the Village as true to the periods as possible, modern realities included.
Visit the Village
To me, Fanshawe Pioneer Village is one of the best pioneer villages we have visited. Although I haven’t described the buildings you can see what they are like in our photo gallery with descriptive captions to help you navigate your way, or, as I said earlier, better still, take the time to drive to London and visit the Village yourself. You won't be disappointed.
Fanshawe Pioneer Village has a number of special events that are held throughout the year. Here is a list of events that was available at the time of writing this article. CLICK on the underlined events below to read our Ontario Festivals Visited articles.
May - Mothers Day Brunch
May - Village Opening
May - Spring on the Farm
May - Queen Victoria's Birthday Celebrations
June - Community Appreciation Weekend
July - Dominion Day
July - Victorian Teddy Bear Picnic
July/August - Summer Camp Days
July - Theatre Royal: Musical Theatre from 1843
July - Fanshawe Frolic: Vintage Dance Weekend
August - Fanshawe Agricultural Fair
September - Doors Open London
October - Fanshawe 1812 Grand Tactical: The Invasion of Upper Canada
October - Fall on the Farm
October - Haunted Village Hayrides
October - A Haunting We Will Go!
November/December - Dickens' Dinner
December - A Visit with St. Nicholas
You can visit the Fanshawe Pioneer Village website for current event information. (Link: http://www.fanshawepioneervillage.ca/)