Inside Sheppard’s Bush

Sheppard’s Bush, main house

Photo: Sheppard’s Bush, main house


Sean Fraser and Karen Abel

Buildings and architecture, Environment

Published Date: Nov 15, 2007

Charles Sheppard (1876-1967) moved to the Town of Aurora in 1921, after making his fortune in the Simcoe County lumber industry. Brooklands, his modest estate near the centre of town, featured a series of English Arts and Crafts-style buildings. The estate was intended to be a farm for his son Edwin Reginald (Reg) Sheppard (1899-1996), who had recently graduated from the Agricultural College in Guelph.

Reg Sheppard, concerned about maintaining the ecological balance in a rapidly growing urban area, donated the property to the Ontario Heritage Trust in 1971 to be preserved in perpetuity as a conservation area. Today, Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area is a 23.5-hectare (58-acre) property, comprised of 15 hectares (37 acres) of maple-beech woodland, an eight-hectare (20-acre) recreational field and many historical and non-historical buildings. It is situated on the east side of the Canadian National Railway tracks and south of Wellington Street in a part of town that includes light industry and suburban housing.

Situated on the northern edge of the ecologically significant Oak Ridges Moraine, Sheppard’s Bush features open fields and maple-beech forests characteristic of southern Ontario. Forest ground-cover plant species include: wild ginger, large-flowered trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit and Christmas fern. Bird species supported by the forest community include: northern oriole, eastern wood peewee, northern cardinal and the uncommon pileated woodpecker. A small spring-fed headwater stream of the Holland River traverses the southeast corner of the park at the base of a steep slope.

The most significant building on the property is the stucco-clad main house, designed by Toronto architect A.S. Mathers. Over the years, the sugar bush and sugar shack also located on the property became landmarks for generations of children.

Given its urban setting, perhaps the most significant feature of this property is its remarkable natural state. A longtime resident of Aurora, Reg Sheppard realized the potential for urban growth in the region and, through his donation, wished to create for future generations “an oasis in an area of paved streets and houses.” Stewardship of the property’s natural heritage features is managed by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority in partnership with the Trust. A network of approximately 3 km (1.9 miles) of trails is maintained within the conservation area, providing opportunities for natural heritage education. Sheppard’s Bush highlights the impact that one individual with a commitment to sustainability can have. Part of the Trust’s role as property owner is to honour Mr. Sheppard’s goal of preserving the environmental integrity of the property. The Town of Aurora is currently designating Brooklands under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Ostrich fern

Photo: Ostrich fern

Staircase at Sheppard's Bush

Photo: Staircase at Sheppard's Bush