From the Archives: Who is this Mann?

Jenny Seeman

Much is known about the fabulously wealthy Dunsmuir family and their grand Hatley Park estate, but the stories of the people that maintained that estate are often less well known. We have names on census records, and recollections from descendants about life on the estate but what do we really know of the staff? What were the circumstances that brought them here? Were they happy to be working for the Dunsmuirs? What about all the Chinese labourers that lived in a camp on site? Through examining archival records, I hope to be able to answer some of these questions, and bring these hard working staff members out of the shadows of history, as much as is possible.

In this Crossroads post, we look at the life of Frederick Charles Mann.

In James “Boy” Dunsmuir Jr.’s will, hastily written in April of 1915 before he left for his ill-fated voyage on the Lusitania, Frederick Mann was one of two people singled out to receive a sum of money from James. He writes: “I bequeath the sum of two thousand dollars ($2000) to Frederick Mann of Hatley Park aforesaid Coachman and I bequeath the sum of two thousand dollars ($2000) to John Jamieson of Hatley Park aforesaid Footman…” As we know, Jim Dunsmuir was a lifelong equestrian and had at least two beautiful horses stabled here at Hatley Park. It’s no wonder then, that he would have had a close relationship with the staff that were responsible for the day to day care of the horses.

James Dunsmuir Jr on a horse

James "Boy" Dunsmuir Jr. was riding horses almost before he could walk!

Frederick Mann had immigrated to Canada in 1910 from England. At Hatley Park, he lived in the house attached to the stables. In the photograph below, he is pictured tending to one of the horses of the estate.

Knowing what tragically happened to the youngest Dunsmuir son in May of 1915, it is very likely that Frederick Mann received his inheritance from James. Two thousand dollars in 1915 was a considerable sum of money and would equate to about $43,000 today. In 1915, the amount was easily enough to buy a modest property in Victoria, but Frederick did not use the money for that. With no sign of the war slowing, Mann did what many young men were compelled to do and signed up for the war effort. On November 18, 1915, he joined the 103rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Whether he left Victoria for active service is not immediately clear but we do know from the 1921 census that Mann did not leave the service of the Dunsmuir family. In fact, it seems that the sum of money received from James could have helped him to become a family man.

In 1916, at the age of 22, Mann married a woman eight years his senior. The announcement in the paper reads: “Married - On July 13, by the Rev. Dr. Campbell, Corporal Frederick Charles Mann, 103rd Battalion, CEF, to Janet McLean, third daughter of Mr. David McLean, Fisherton, Ayrshire, Scotland.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Janet McLean is one of four housemaids to the Dunsmuirs listed in the 1911 census. Their marriage sounds like it could be a storyline straight out of Downton Abbey!


Frederick Mann is tending to two of the many dogs that lived on the Dunsmuir estate.

In the census of 1921, Mann is listed as a farmer, which may be a mistake by the census taker or a reflection of the changing needs of the Dunsmuir estate, but in any case he was likely still living in the coachman’s house attached to the stables with his wife and young family. The census lists Frederick, his wife, Janet, and two daughters, Helen Harriet, 3, and Dorothy Joan, 1. 


In this picture from the 1920s, Mann can be seen at the centre of the image enjoying a picnic on the beach with a small group. Is this on the shoreline of the lagoon at Hatley Park? Are his companions fellow staff from the estate? They are certainly dressed well for the location!


Another beachside picnic on what looks like a much colder day has people equally smartly dressed. It is likely that Frederick Mann is on the far right of the picture with his wife Janet by his side.

The position of coachman is not always one associated with prestige in the old estates of the early 20th Century, but Frederick Charles Mann certainly seems to have had some success in his career and a comfortable life at Hatley Park. What happened to him and his family in the years after the Dunsmuirs left Hatley Park is a subject for further research. Mann died in Vancouver in 1985 at the age of 92.

If you have any questions or stories to share about the history of Hatley Park or Royal Roads, contact Jenny Seeman in the archives on ext. 4122.