Tea party on verge of war

Garden party guests listen as Scott Finlay, program co-ordinator with Parks Canada, announces war has been declared in Europe. Jennifer Chornley Special to QMI Agency Niagara

Garden party guests listen as Scott Finlay, program co-ordinator with Parks Canada, announces war has been declared in Europe. Jennifer Chornley Special to QMI Agency Niagara

by Jennifer Chornley

Special to QMI Agency

One hundred years after the conclusion of the infamous War of 1812 in Niagara and the United States, another began brewing overseas.

As the First World War broke out in Europe, Canada was taking a somewhat laissez-faire attitude and what better way to enjoy a relaxing evening on the eve of the Great War than a Garden Party?

The Niagara Historical Society, the Friends of Fort George and Parks Canada did just that.

The event was held at Fort George National Historic Site Saturday, on the former site of militia training grounds then known as Camp Niagara, in commemoration of the start of the Great War July 26, 1914.

During the war, about 619,000 Canadian troops served alongside France, Great Britain, Russia and later joined by the U.S. Many of these soldiers stopped for training in Camp Niagara before heading overseas.

The garden party theme came from the idea of the hit British TV series Downton Abbey, which “popularized this time period and the declaration of World War I was a pivotal moment at the end of the show’s first season,” says Friends of Fort George general manager Amanda Gamble.

“This was an opportunity to gather in the warmth of summer and enjoy a 1914-themed garden party to commemorate the centenary of the First World War,” said Gamble.

Period music filled the air, as more than 60 guests dressed in period costume enjoyed authentic tea items including a variety of finger sandwiches, Victoria sandwich cake, Dundee cake, Battenberg cake, chocolate fairy cake, Éclairs, Bakewell Tarts, raspberry meringues, shortbread, scones, Yorkshire tea cakes, preserves and Devon cream.

Guests enjoyed games of cribbage and lawn bowling or relaxed for an evening socializing with family and friends while observing the amusements nearby.

About halfway through the evening, a half-hearted announcement that “war was declared” in Europe took place with the party continuing and ambient music transforming into wartime tunes.

Peter Martin, product development officer with Parks Canada, was happy with the event turnout. “This shows that we can host a variety of events on multitude of scales. We can do an event as big as the Celtic Festival or one that’s more quaint, such as tonight’s event”

Sarah Kaufman, managing director of the Niagara Historical Museum, was also pleased with the event’s success. “People definitely took us up on the opportunity to dress in their best Downton Abbey attire. It was very well done,” said Kaufman.

To conclude the evening, the museum presented a slide show depicting Camp Niagara’s important role and paying tribute to the local men who served.

“It was a nice way to conclude and everyone enjoyed it,” Kaufman said, adding it gave people a broader understanding of Camp Niagara’s involvement in one of history’s most monumental wars.

In commemoration of the war, The Niagara Historical Society and Museum’s exhibition The Art of War: A Legacy of the Great War is now on display. This exhibition is a commemoration of the centenary of the First World War through various forms of artwork created during the period.

The museum, at 43 Castlereagh St. in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

For more information call 905-468-3912, or visit


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