UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

A century of settlement change : a study of the evolution of settlement patterns in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia Howell Jones, Gerald Ieuan


This thesis describes the change in the pattern of service centres in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia at various periods during a century of European occupance. The study of settlement evolution in this region involves an examination of hierarchical change as indicated by variations in postal revenue. The attempt to focus both in time and space is one of the inherent difficulties in any dynamic study of the urban hierarchy, for it presents a basic problem in establishing an adequate and readily available index of centrality. Tertiary revenue would provide the best index, but it is neither available for the smaller centres nor through time. These disadvantages are not apparent in postal revenue which closely correlates with tertiary revenue. It is inferred that postal revenue reflects the tertiary activity of the great majority of service centres in British Columbia. Since the end of the nineteenth century the North American post office, with its low condition of entry, has been an essential part of all except some of the lowest order centres. Postal revenue data is available,throughout Canada, from Confederation onwards, but it presents some problems of utilization as dollar values change through time. The suggested method of expressing the revenue for each given year as a percentage of that for an areal unit is illustrated by its application to the Lower Mainland. However, while the Lower Mainland can be thought of as a physical entity, it must be considered as being part of a larger functional region which changes both functionally and areally. The province has been taken as the continuing functional unit. The idea would seem to be supported by the graphic analysis. The whole period, from 1858 to 1961, has been broken down into five eras, in each of which a common means of transport has predominated. The first era up to 1880 covers the years of initial exploitation and settlement of the region by Europeans, a period when water transport predominated. The second era (1881-1900) is a period of transition from water to rail: the first trans-continental railway merely duplicated the existing water facilities, but its construction encouraged a rapid expansion of settlement even before it actually opened. The turn of the century heralded a decade of feverish rail-way construction, culminating with the opening of the second trans-continental railway in 1915. The railway era ends with the close of hostilities in 1918, and the following era embraces the inter-war years, a period of transition from rail to road. The final era commences in 1940 for, although the steam railway and electric interurban assumed a new lease of life during the war, it was merely a temporary resurgence and road transport was soon predominant. The wartime incentive spurred a tremendous growth of the regional economy, a growth which has continued, somewhat sporadically, up to the present. Throughout the century, settlement change reflects the changes in the economy and transport facilities in the Lower Mainland. The economy of the region has passed from primary exploitation to that of a metropolitan complex with a growing secondary component. The Vancouver area has formed a distinct economic unit within the regions since the arrival of the railway in 1886. The growing functional concentration on the city led to the attainment of metropolitan status by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. This attainment was expressed in the physical as well as the functional growth of the city: by 1910 it possessed over 30% of the provincial population and greater than 40% of the tertiary activity, more than double the proportions of a decade earlier. The interaction between the metropolis and the smaller centres, with the metropolis playing the dominant role, has given rise to the present urban hierarchy. The settlement pattern has varied from discrete and independent settlements, during the phase of primary exploitation, to a metropolitan-dominated complex. The discrete pattern changed to an increasingly depends hierarchy following the growth of Vancouver and New Westminster as market and distribution centres. The growth of these centres linked them into a common metropolitan area, while the external expansion of this area has resulted in the functional and physical domination of most of the region by the metropolis: a trend that has resulted in the supplanting of the central place hierarchy by an inter-urban complex.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.