The current enthusiasm for the District of North Saanich to acquire the former Sandown race track property has led some supporters to ask about its history. Few may realize that the land being offered was once included in historic Glamorgan Farm dating back 140 years and was a significant part of the Peninsula’s agricultural economy.
Glamorgan Farm of the early 1870s, which stretched north from Mills Road to what is now John Road, was established by Richard John who bought it with his Cariboo goldfield earnings and named it after his home county in Wales.
The farmhouse that he and his wife Ann built on the present day Sandown property was one of the earliest of the grand old farmhouses of North Saanich. Once John had acquired the property, Ann and their five children were able to join him on the farm. In the early years, he continued to work his gold field claims, returning each year to farm and arrange finances for his family.
In 1878 one of John’s mining friends, Henry Brackman, started a flour mill at Tsehum Harbour. The company, which later became Brackman-Ker Milling, was well known for its oats and Glamorgan Farm was soon specializing in the crop. This eventually earned son David John a gold medal at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, a year after Richard John died.
Glamorgan Farm stayed in the family until 1907 when Joe John, the oldest son, sold the property which was in turn purchased by well known entrepreneur Sam Matson in 1919. Matson created a show farm with a prize herd of Jersey cattle. After he died the farm was leased and also subdivided until the early 1950s when a portion north of Glamorgan Road was sold to Bill Randall Sr. who began thoroughbred racing at Sandown. At that point the old Glamorgan farmhouse was torn down.
Matson’s scaled-down Glamorgan Farm on which his famous barn and other log buildings still stand became a large chicken operation in 1956.
It lasted until 1978 when harness racing began at Sandown and the farm was sold for stabling horses. In 2000, Anny Scoones began 10 years of stewardship on the much reduced land size of eight acres during which she published well-loved stories about her life on Glamorgan Farm. She in turn sold it to a local family in 2011.
– Diana Chown