Recreation (Having Fun in and out of Home)


Life in Victorian Lunenburg was not just a life of hard labour at home and at work, but was also a place of fun and enjoyment.

Governor Earl MulgraveIn 1858 there was great excitement in the Town as the Governor Earl Mulgrave (shown at the left) and the Countess were to visit the Town arriving on the Steamer called the "Styx". Everyone seemed to have dressed up for the occasion and many people collected on the wharves to see the Governor come ashore. They were welcomed by a 19-gun salute fired from the Blockhouse and then His Excellency and his wife were escorted to the Court House for the formal welcome ceremony. It was announced that the Countess of Mulgrave would hold a "Drawing room" at 1pm at the Creighton House, and "accordingly at that hour numbers of town Ladies were to be seen to be moving towards the place appointed and were graciously received by her Ladyship". The Countess offered a prize for a gig race in the harbour that evening.

A month later there was more excitement as the Regatta began though the weather was poor. However, there were other activities including 2 Bazaars and in the evening the Regatta Ball.


Picnics in summer seem to have been very popular. Adolphus Gaetz was a Lunenburg businessman and a Registrar of the Court of Probate for Lunenburg County. He wrote a diary during the years 1855-73 describing his life in Lunenburg at that time. In his diary, he refers to a number of picnics that he attended with his wife. These picnics were day-long affairs which included taking a boat with a large group of friends, 37 in all, including John Creighton and his wife and two daughters. Though Adolphus does not list the foods that the party ate, it is highly likely that the list provided by the redoubtable Mrs. Beeton is indicative of the foods he and the picnic party ate. Mrs Beeton's list for a Picnic Luncheon for 20 people is as follows:

  • Cold salmon, cucumbers, mayonnaise
  • Quarter of lamb with mint sauce
  • Pickled brisket of beef, tongue
  • Galantine of veal, chicken pie
  • Salad and dressing, bread and butter
  • Fruit tarts, strawberries and cream
  • Creams, cheesecakes and jellies
  • Cheese and biscuits.

picnicPicnics continued to be popular throughout the whole of the Victorian era. The picture at the left shows a picnic at the turn of the century.

summer camp Summer camps were also popular. This picture shows a summer camp from about 1900. Note that the croquet game has just finished.


Towards the end of the Victorian era the bicycle had become very popular. It had all started with the velocipede and in April 1869 Lunenburg was introduced to the craze. At this time, Adolphus Gaetz wrote in his diary:

"This morning one of those Locomotive Riders arrived from Halifax in the packet, bringing with him 3 Velocipedes; at 2 o'clock the afternoon the Velocipede school was open for inspection, admittance 12 cents. A number of young folks visited, some of whom tried their agility at riding; tomorrow the School will be open from 9 o'clock morning to 10 evening for reception of scholars wishing to learn the art." The picture below shows a velocipede school.

Interest continued through the following years with the High Wheel bicycles and then from 1892 bicycles were introduced that look more like those we see today.

Champion rider Clifford Shand with his high wheel (1887)

The Eaton advert shows both men and women's bicycles (1895)

Cycling clubs grew up in many towns in Nova Scotia in the 1890s, including in Lunenburg. A feature of these clubs was that rides and race day events were very social activities often concluding with picnics and summer excursions that covered many miles of Nova Scotian roads. Women were not excluded from these activities and the bicycle was a very liberating activity for women.

The 1895 photograph below shows three women in the Lunenburg Bicycle Club.

Whilst ladies rode cycles, it was only men who took part in cycle races and many towns, including Lunenburg, built racing tracks. The Lunenburg Cycle Track was built just out of town on the road to Bridgewater, (near the Shell Gas Station), by Captain George Naas and others. He was one of the founders of the Lunenburg Club. His son Thomas Naas was a champion racing cyclist and trained by racing the steamer from Lunenburg to Liverpool. He would cast off the ropes of the steamer then race down the South Shore to Liverpool and was waiting at the dock when the steamer arrived.

Other Activities in Summer and Winter

rowing across the bay to a summer campNot all activities were so energetic, though. Popular pastimes included rowing across the bay to a summer camp, playing croquet and listening to concerts at the Town's bandstand which was built in 1889. This picture shows ladies of the Zwicker and Silver families rowing to camp at Masons Island in Lunenburg County.

There were many activities to enjoy in winter as well as in summer. There were skating parties and sledding in and around town, though the former activity was not without risk. Adolphus Gaetz recounts many stories of accidents involving skaters who fell through the ice and died.

However, there were certainly many happy occasions during the winter-time. In 1889 the Lunenburg Fire Department members and families took part in a very ambitious social event. The Company went to Bridgewater by sleigh leaving Lunenburg at 10am. Lunch was at Bridgewater and then on to Mahone Bay for tea. The return sleigh ride was by moonlight and there was a band to accompany the sleigh ride.

Ice Hockey was first played in Lunenburg in 1898. The team, called the Lunenburg Victoria Team, played their first home games in the Drill Hall. The Drill Hall was used for many activities including band concerts, theatre and skating.

There is more information about the hockey team elsewhere in this exhibition.

Indoor activities were popular in the colder months and in many homes there was a means of providing musical entertainment; usually this was a piano. At least one local businessman, S. Hunter, sold pianos and organs.

The Lunenburg Fire Department was certainly one of the town's organisations that promoted a very active social life as well as its activities in putting out fires.

Records from the Fire Department show many social activities within the town, including a weekly concert at the Fire Hall (free of charge for members) as well as public concerts once a month. In 1877 a piano was purchased for the Fire Hall. The committee of the Fire Department agreed to allow the ladies to have use of the Meeting & Recreation Hall (Engine Room) of the Fire Department every Monday evening during the winter.

The Fire Department also took part in a torch-light parade on 7th June 1888, to celebrate Founders Day.

Founders Day was a cause for celebration. In 1853 the celebration included the firing of guns and a church service, followed by a procession from the church to Rous Brook then the planting of an oak tree on Bunker Hill (Bandstand Hill). This was followed that evening by a fireworks display.

Dominion Day in 1867 was also celebrated in fine style with gun salutes, a church service, a procession and the school children from the Academy who sang the Queen's Anthem followed by band playing.


the circusThree weeks later the circus came to town and gave two performances. Circuses had visited the town in 1862, 1864 and again in 1869. It can be assumed that circuses continued to provide entertainment to the townsfolk on a regular basis for the remainder of the century.

Fund raising bazaars and concerts were common. These were fund raising activities for such things as purchasing the church organ or a piano for the Fire Hall or to assist the plight of widows and orphans. In January 1856 and again in January 1867 there was a concert held in the Temperance Hall for the benefit of Miss Jane Bolman, a poor blind orphan girl, the daughter of the late
Dr Bolman. Miss Bolman performed in both concerts. The music and singing were described as very good. The concert in 1856 resulted in £16.6.3 being given to Miss Bolman (worth over $1,000 in today's money.) The performers were:

  • W.B. Lawson and Jasper Metzler, bass singers
  • William Townshind and Adolphus Gaetz, clarinet
  • James Dowling, bass violin
  • William Smith, bass violin and bass singer
  • Miss Jane Bolman, pianoforte and guitar
  • Miss Cossman, pianoforte
  • Miss Frye, Miss Metzler, Miss Rebecca Oxner, Miss Dorothy Mooney, Mrs William Smith, Miss Daurey (formerly Miss Metzler) and Mrs Nicholas Zwicker

A dancing school was founded in 1856 by Mr A. Ash, Professor of Dancing. Fees for each quarter were 30 shillings. There was also a Singing School which Adolphus Gaetz's daughter Amelia and two sons Henry and Arnold attended.

Lunenburg has always been noted for music, and its first band was formed in the 1830s. By 1895, the County of Lunenburg had seven brass bands, two of which were based in Lunenburg. Below is the 75th Battalion Band in 1899.