Britannia Shipyard National Historic Site of Canada

Richmond, British Columbia
General view of Britannia Shipyard Property, 2004. (© Parcs Canada | Parks Canada, 2004.)
General view
(© Parcs Canada | Parks Canada, 2004.)
Address : 5180 Westwater Drive, Richmond, British Columbia

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1991-06-10
  • 1890 to 1955 (Construction)
  • 1890 to 1980 (Significant)

Other Name(s):
  • Britannia Shipyard  (Designation Name)
  • Britannia Shipyard Property  (Plaque name)
Research Report Number: 1991-030


Existing plaque:  5180 Westwater Drive, Richmond, British Columbia

The buildings on this site are important components of a large complex of workshops and dwellings that served the shore-based salmon fishery during its boom years (1890-1913). The historic property included the Britannia Shipyard building itself and two boatworks operated by Japanese-Canadians. Labourers and craftsmen of diverse cultural origins lived in houses on site, and worked in salmon canneries, on the fishing boats, and in the boatworks. They built and serviced wooden fishing vessels for British Columbia's coastal salmon fleet.

Description of Historic Place

The Britannia Shipyard Property National Historic Site of Canada is a historic park located along the south arm of the Fraser River in Richmond, British Columbia. The site relates to the area's long involvement with the salmon fishery. Built out over the water, the shipyard is part of Steveston's historic "Cannery Row" extending from Garry Point and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site of Canada on the west end to London Heritage Farm in the east. The designation refers to the 3.3-hectare site located along the Steveston Channel of the Fraser River. The historic park includes several wooden structures used for cannery and boat-building purposes between 1890 and the mid 1950s which are not included in the official recognition.

Heritage Value

Britannia Shipyard Property was designated a national historic site in 1991 because its extant boatworks and shipyard are representative of fishing boat construction and repair activities in Canada's Pacific Coast salmon fishery.

Originally, the Britannia Shipyard Property was constructed as a cannery (1890), a function it retained until 1918, after which it was adapted for use as a boat repair yard. This use persisted until 1980, with individual buildings within the complex functioning both as part of the cannery and the boatyard. The yard is representative of the once more numerous workshop complexes involved in the construction and repair of shore-based salmon fishery vessels. The heritage value of the national historic site resides in its historic association with the construction and repair of salmon fishery boats as illustrated by the 3.3-hectare site, its location and spatial relationship to the fisheries-related activities along the Fraser River.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1991, July 1995.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
the site's location in the settlement of Steveston and its historic spatial relationship to the fisheries-related activities along the Fraser River; the siting of the shipyard, built out over the river on reclaimed land; the extensive site accommodating a complex of buildings associated with the production of fishing vessels; the typicality of the yard with its informally sited, vernacular buildings.