The story of Hatley Park, rechristened Royal Roads from the offshore anchorage in the Juan de Fuca Strait, has it beginnings in the singleness of purpose and dogged determination of one man. No history of the estate would be complete without some mention of the man in whose mind Hatley Park was conceived and through whose efforts the lands were assembled and the buildings constructed.


The Honourable James Dunsmuir was born at Fort Rupert, BC on 8 July 1851, the oldest son of Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish miner who, at the time of his son’s birth, was on his way from Ayrshire to “Vancouver’s Island” to prospect for coal. It was not until 1869, however, when James was eighteen years old, that Robert, prospecting on his own, finally struck the rich seam of coal at Wellington, near Nanaimo, BC. He raised sufficient capital, acquired 2,000 acres of land, and started operations which proved so successful that before long he had bought out the other three partners in the venture to become sole owner. During this time, James himself had worked through all the stages of mining and had risen to the position of manager in his father’s business.

Under his management, the daily output of coal quickly rose from 30 tons to 1,500 tons. After his father’s death in 1889, James devoted himself to the development of the collieries at Wellington and Cumberland, laid out the townsite of Ladysmith, and initiated the Ladysmith-Vancouver ferry service.

It was only natural that his prominence in business should lead him into politics. He was elected to the Legislature in 1898 and became Premier in 1900; but, having no taste for public life, he resigned in 1902. He later served as Lieutenant-Governor of the Province.

It was during the early years of this century that he purchased the Hatley Park estate comprised of about 650 acres. The original Hatley Park house stood on the site that is now the student parking lot (lot 3). This house had been completely destroyed by fire while its owner was in England. Having amassed a huge fortune, James now turned his attention to the building and planning of the new estate to which he intended to retire