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The City of Surrey: A History

by Jack Brown

Contact the webmaster, Sue Bryant of Yesteryear Services at:


2013 recipient of the British Columbia Historical Federation Best Web Site Award


Jack Brown was the recipient of Surrey's 2014 Heritage in the City Award in the Education–Interpretation category


The City of Surrey is located in British Columbia, Canada. She is a member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Surrey is located south of Vancouver and her northern boundary is the Fraser River and her southern boundary is Semiahmoo Bay and the U.S.A.

Location of Surrey
2003 map of Surrey

Surrey's History is composed of a series of interwoven themes which impact on one another in Surrey's historical development. These themes begin with the initial Spanish and English contact, aboriginal settlement, and the impact of Europeans on the native population. Following themes involve early pioneer settlement and the impact of trails, early roads, water transportation and the development of railways on that settlement. The final themes culminate with expanded settlement and the development of urban centers up to the two decades following the Second World War.


Surrey's Name

Queen Victoria had named New Westminster, thus it is called the Royal City. In England, across the Thames from Westminster is the County of Surrey. It seemed appropriate that across the river from New Westminster there should also be a Surrey. Surrey was named by the first Clerk of the Municipal Council, Mr. W. J. Brewer, around 1880. "Due to the geographic similarity of this district to that of County Surrey in England, in relation to Westminster, I suggest it be named Surrey, British Columbia."


Surrey's Incorporation

Surrey Municipality came into being in 1879.

Letters Patent were issued November 10, 1879.

The Lieutenant–Governor–in–Council, by Letters Patent under the Public Seal of the Province, and upon a petition by the majority of male freeholders, free miners, pre–emptors, and lease holders, being respectively of the free age of 21 years and resident in any locality of an area (if on the mainland but not otherwise), not greater than 100 square miles, in which locality there shall be not less than 30 male residents aforesaid, may incorporate such locality as a Municipality.
P35 The Surrey Story (Treleaven, 1969)

There were 35 resident males who had qualified at the time and signed a petition favouring incorporation. 

When Surrey and Langley were formed, a half-mile strip had been left out of either jurisdiction. A poll of voters in the half–mile strip had been favourable to joining Surrey. The change in the eastern boundary was made with the surrender of the original Letters Patent and new Letters Patent were dated July 7th, 1882. The name of the municipality now become; The Corporation of the District of Surrey.

111 years later, Surrey was incorporated as a City in 1993. Letter Patent for Surrey City status were issued on September 11, 1993.


Surrey City's Corporate Emblem

Original beaver

The original corporate emblem was a reflection of Surrey beginnings. The first symbol was a line drawing of a beaver sitting on the heading Surrey, British Columbia. In her early beginnings Surrey was heavily forested with her four rivers and many poorly drained areas that were populated by beavers. The logo represented this city in terms of its natural environment.

Beaver Seal
The new Surrey Logo

1993 Surrey adopted a new corporate symbol with a Coat of Arms depicting stylized sand of trees and buildings, to recognize Surrey's adopted nickname: "City of Parks". The beaver was kept as part of the crest on a new coat of arms. The beaver is at the centre flanked by a race horse on one side and a workhorse on the other. Wavy lines under the beaver represented rivers, like the Fraser, Serpentine, Nicomekl and Campbell that run though Surrey. The mountains and border crossing were also represent in other lines on the crest.

(see Coat of Arms)
Coat of Arms
City of Surrey Logo

2013 Surrey unveiled a new corporate logo: a pair of high-rises representing the City of Surrey along with the moto "The Future Lives Here". The new logo conveys a modern, progressive and welcoming visual identity that works alongside the coat of arms reserved and maintained for official usage. The new logo was designed to be adaptable to all City departments and customer service areas including print materials, advertising, City facility and gateway signage, the website and multiple marketing and communication mediums.

Surrey Arms Logo
For other local sites to visit:

Visit companion sites on:

The History of Metropolitan Vancouver
Yesteryear Services – by Sue Bryant

About the author – Jack Brown

Visit Surrey Historical Societies' web page to view upcoming events
Surrey Historical Society Events


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