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History of Surrey

Logging at Hall's Prairie Road in 1889

Surrey's Roots

The Semiahmoo, Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations People have lived in the region for thousands of years. Settlements along the mouth of the Fraser River, at Crescent Beach, at the mouth of the Campbell River and in the north along the sheltered bends of the Fraser River had well established villages and temporary or seasonal settlements.

Community life centered on hunting and fishing, tidal resources of shellfish and river supplies of salmon, herring, and oolichans. Shorelines and forests of birds, deer, elk and bear provided resources to support life in the delta of the Fraser River. The Campbell, Nicomekl and Serpentine Rivers were the inland routes used for trading and communication. The coastal waterways connected the First Nations to the surrounding communities.

Surrey's Growth

Newcomers from diverse regions of the world began to settle in Surrey during the late 1800s. By 1880, 200 newcomers are recorded as residing in Surrey. The agricultural land was heavily forested with canopies of fir, cedar and hemlock. Logging began, the land was cleared and small farming communities grew. Surrey was incorporated as a Municipality in 1879 and didn’t officially become a city until September of 1993. We have a rich history of people with diverse ethnic backgrounds who have come together to make us one of BC's most unique communities.

Surrey Coat of Arms

surrey's coat of arms in colourSurrey developed its Coat of Arms in 1987. It was officially registered with the College of Arms of Canada in 1993 and became the City’s Official Civic Signature in 1994.

Currently the emblem is used alongside the new city logo, which was adopted as the replacement civic signature in 2009. It is used to mark unique official correspondence. 

There are several elements that make up the Coat of Arms, including:

  • Five stars to represent our five original town centres
  • Wavy bands to symbolize the Serpentine, Campbell, and Nicomekl Rivers
  • The Peace Arch to represent the US, our neighbour to the South
  • A canoe to represent Surrey’s Indigenous communities
  • A micro tower on a horse’s pendant to represent modern communication
  • A tree on the other horse’s pendant to represent our forests
  • A beaver, to represent Surrey’s municipal seal at the time.
  • Binary code on a horse’s collar to represent computers.
  • Ermine pattern on another horse’s collar to represent Surrey, England.
  • A racehorse to represent Cloverdale (left).
  • A farm horse to represent Surrey’s agricultural industry (right).

A motto of “Progress Through Diversification” appears in Latin on the bottom.

Experience Surrey's Heritage

Surrey boasts a vibrant Heritage Services department that celebrates Surrey’s history, educates citizens and offers many ways to get involved. Experience living history at Historic Stewart Farm, see artifacts of Surrey’s past and diverse present at the Museum of Surrey or visit Surrey Archives to explore historic photos and documents.

Explore Surrey's heritage sites in Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, Whalley, and South Surrey.

Search Surrey's Online Heritage Database

Photo above: Logging at Halls Prairie Road, 1889.

Stewart Farmhouse in the autumn


Visit Surrey's heritage facilities and learn more about our city's past, present and future.

George Snow house at Mound Farm

Heritage Sites

Discover heritage sites throughout Surrey.

Historic Stewart Farm in Spring

Historic Stewart Farm

Imagine yourself in the period of 1890 to 1920 with a visit to Surrey's Historic Stewart Farm.

The Surrey Archives building in with cherry blossoms

Surrey Archives

Visit the Surrey Archives to explore maps, photographs, documents and books that tell the stories of Surrey's past.

A girl creating a fabric mosaic at the museum

Museum of Surrey

Connecting people and stories. Always free, always fun!

Johnston Road School class, 1930

Online Heritage Tools

Research Surrey's artifact and archival collections on your computer or mobile device.

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