Caulfeild Village by Phil Collings

Burrard Inlet is a wonderful natural harbour, sheltered, with room for many ships, but it has one practical drawback. The long entrance through First Narrows is clogged by shifting shoals and disturbed by tide rips and freshets from the mouth of the Capilano River. A deep-sea vessel entering this bottleneck needs a pilot. Happily, nature has provided, a few miles to the west and tucked in behind the shelter of Point Atkinson, a lovely small cove, suitable for mooring pilot’s boats awaiting incoming customers.

Originally known as Skunk Cove, pilot boats used it well before the turn of the century. At first the pilots roughed it, sleeping in their boats, but soon a cottage was built on the point above.

In 1898, an Englishman of independent means, by name Francis William Caulfeild (note spelling, please), was making a leisurely tour of the further reaches of the then British Empire in the company of his daughter. At Vancouver they embarked in Captain Cates’ old boat, the S.S. Defiant, for a trip along the West Vancouver shore. In due course they were put ashore at Skunk Cove, and picked up on the return trip. The day’s stay in this unspoilt wilderness of rocky coast and forest made such an impression on Mr. Caulfeild that he determined to buy the property and develop a village on the site. Indeed, the project was to occupy most of the remainder of his days. The cove became Caulfeild Cove and stamped his name permanently on the area.

He had firm ideas about the nature of the development. He wanted it in the style of an English Village, with a village green, and ivy-covered village church, and winding narrow lanes following the contours of the land rather then the standard North American grid system. He also wanted the foreshore preserved as a park, with public access to the sea. This, together with the much larger Lighthouse Park, immediately to the west if the Cove, would ensure that everyone could enjoy the scenery.

Mr. Caulfeild moved quickly. The previous owner was a Mr. Balfour Kerr, who bought it from the original owner who had acquired it from the Crown. In 1898, an enterprising real estate lady, Miss Lee Spencer, negotiated the purchase of 640 acres by Mr. Caulfeild. In the following year, she arranged the purchase of an adjoining 320 acres: to close this second deal, she had to travel to London. She became a friend and business associate of Mr. Caulfeild, assisting in the documentation and planning of the development. Following his ideas, the highway dedications were given English names – Piccadilly, the Dale, Clovelly Walk, etc. (Mr. Caulfeild was in fact born in Clovelly in the English West Country).

The first and for some years only home in Caulfeild Village was the Pilot House, the cottage previously mentioned. In fact, a retired seaman, named Captain Frank Kettle, lived there with his wife under the title ‘Pilot’s Assistant’ – the pilots themselves came and went in their boats. Captain and Mrs. Kettle ran a little store and acted as a hospitable centre of the community as it developed. Capt. Kettle’s great pride was that he had sailed as mate on the famous clipper ship, ‘Cutty Sark.’

There were delays in the provision of services to the village. West Vancouver wasn’t incorporated as a Municipality until 1912, and the Provincial and Federal governments were far away. First, water had to be laid on. In the end, Mr. Caulfeild had to build his own system. The water was brought down by wooden pipe from Caulfeild Falls. Lots were then offered for sale, and the first houses went up, in the nature of summer cottages. Among the early arrivals were H.A. Stone, E.C. Kilby, and H.P. Clubb. The Caulfeild family built several small houses. As the community developed, its members established their places in it – Mr. Stone as artist and historian, and Mrs. Jean Kilby Rorison as poet.

The next problem was land access. The first houses were built from materials brought in by scow and carried across the beach by hand. But this was highly inconvenient for anything bigger then a cottage. Road access was impossible for Mr. Caulfeild to do himself and he spent much time promoting highway development with various levels of government. In time, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway went through the upper part of the property, which alleviated the problem, but it was not until the incorporation of the District of West Vancouver that the real solution could be tackled. This was the provision of highway access by the extension of Marine Drive, the road being formally opened by Provincial Premier Richard McBride in 1915.

In due course, the village changed in character if not in philosophy. By the 1940's, there were over 50 residences, most of them large and spacious. Development according to Mr. Caulfeild’s ideas had definitely appealed to the carriage trade. One result of this and of Mr. Caulfeild’s failure to predict the omnipotence of the motor car is that the narrow roadways have had to be made one-way, and even so, traffic is congested and parking difficult.

However, in large part, Mr. Caulfeild’s dream has been realized, and its centrepiece is the little church of St. Francis-in-the-Wood, which does indeed stand in the big trees above the cove. It was built over the 1930’s: the chancel and sanctuary were completed in 1938. The church is the English-traditional-cottage style, as Mr. Caulfeild would have wanted. The spreading roof and heavy supporting beams give a sense of shelter. Stained-glass windows, donated in honour of the Caulfeild and Stone families, give the interior a subdued glow.

In front of the church is, of course, the village green, and leading from the green to the church is an object so rare that only a professional historian would recognize it. It is a lych gate, a roofed open structure with benches in it. In medieval times, it was intended, during funerals, for pallbearers to rest and put down the bier on their way to burial in the churchyard. I hasten to add that people are not in fact being buried in the churchyard.

Although Mr. Caulfeild gave so much of his life to this project, he retired to England in his old age and died in London in 1934 at the age of 94. His son Wade Caulfeild had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, retiring as Vice-Admiral. History doesn’t relate how much of his maritime skill and enthusiasm he learned from his childhood days around the cove, but in his retirement, he and his son Toby raised a memorial to Mr. Caulfeild. This takes the form of a large black anchor with an explanatory plaque, and it is situated among the rocks and trees of the waterfront park that was Mr. Caulfeild’s pride and joy.