The Township of Langley is a district municipality immediately east of the City of Surrey in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. It extends south from the Fraser River to the U.S. border, and west of the City of Abbotsford. Langley Township is not to be confused with the City of Langley, which is adjacent to the township but politically is a separate entity. Langley is located in the eastern part of Metro Vancouver.
Throughout the last several millennia, the area that is now Langley Township was inhabited by various nations, including the Katzie and Kwantlen. There is limited recorded history from this time, as much was passed down through oral tradition rather than written documents. The Kwantlen were a major factor in the salmon trade that later operated out of the Fort Langley. Simon Fraser, while traveling through the Sto:lo territory in 1808 recorded the image of a Kwantlen village:
Fort Langley (1827) - 1955
The first Europeans to stay in the area permanently were the traders of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). In 1827, Fort Langley was built on the banks of the Fraser River, in the area now known as Derby Reach. It was one of a string of trading posts built up and down the Pacific Coast to compete with American fur traders for the rich pelts available in the region. Farming as well as cranberry and salmon exports soon replaced fur trading as the fort's primary source of income.
The first fort, built with two bastions, a wooden stockade and several buildings, proved to have been built too close to a fast-moving part of the river, in an area prone to flooding. It was rebuilt in 1839 farther upstream. As the HBC's network of forts in the interior grew, Fort Langley became a hub for farming, smithing and for shipping furs back to Europe. Along with farming, the export of cranberries and salmon would soon become the fort's main source of profit.
In 1858, gold was discovered in the Fraser River in what is now the interior of British Columbia, and the fort also became important as a supply station for the miners heading up the river toward the gold fields. With thousands of gold prospectors, many of them American, streaming into the region, the British government created British Columbia as a colony. James Douglas was sworn in as the new colony's first governor in Fort Langley, but New Westminster was chosen as the capital, as Fort Langley was less defensible from an American invasion.
When the gold rush ended, Fort Langley's importance began to decline. The Hudson's Bay Company subdivided and sold its farm on Langley Prairie. Farming and logging took over as the dominant local industries.
In 1870, Paul Murray settled what is known today as Murrayville. Together with his sons he owned a quarter section of land on each of the four corners of Yale Road and what now is 216th Street. At that time, this area became known as "Murrays corner" after Alexander Murray, who drowned in the Fraser River in January 1884 while attempting in vain to save a friend. In 1925, the post office named it "Murrayville". The area between 216 street, 216A street, 48th ave and 48A avenue is one of the oldest subdivisions in Langley. Of the eight building lots in this subdivision there are still 6 heritage houses (built before 1930).
The Township of Langley was incorporated on April 26, 1873, with James W. Mackie as its first elected warden. Over time, New Westminster and then Vancouver developed into urban centres, but Langley Township remained predominantly a rural community.
The growth of transportation would continue to connect Langley Township with its surroundings. The British Columbia Electric Railway was built through the community in 1910, followed by Fraser Highway in the 1920s, and the construction of the Pattullo Bridge in 1937, all adding to Langley's importance.
In 1955, however, residents of the downtown core (then called Langley Prairie) demanded services that the municipal government was not willing to provide (namely, street lights), and on March 15, 1955, the City of Langley incorporated as a separate municipality.
Post-WW2 Period (1955-)
Langley's growth increased during the economic boom after the second world war. In 1957, Langley Township, along with other municipalities in British Columbia adopted the grid system for the road network. In 1967, Langley Township became part of Metro Vancouver. As with many other parts of Canada and cities in the United States, the Vancouver region expanded with the growth of the Suburb. With the completion of the faster Trans-Canada Highway route in 1964 in the north of Langley, suburb communities such as Walnut Grove appeared in Langley which were popular with commuters. Most of this growth happened outside of the original communities of Fort Langley and Murrayville, instead happening adjacent to Langley City and near the Trans-Canada highway, likely due to the influence of private automobiles.
In February 2006 the Township of Langley moved its Municipal Hall from the "core area" of the Township to the growing Willoughby area. The new facility also includes a new library, fitness room (which incorporates a special type of hardwood floor room) and a new community policing station.
Since the 1980s, Langley City and surrounding lands administered by the Municipality have been subject to extensive strip mall development. The old town core remains pleasant to walk through, but many core businesses (including the civil courts and several banks) have moved to the malls, fostering an automobile-dominated community. In addition to this, the community allowed extensive strip development along the Langley Bypass, which has become the new sprawled business area of the city.
In the 1990s, the Village of Fort Langley has undergone a revitalization of its core that enhanced its heritage character. In fact, there are no franchises permitted in the village and this has raised its profile as a tourist and independent retail destination with hundreds of thousands of annual visitors. A rowing facility completed in 2009 brings a whole new segment of visitors to the area.
Construction of the Golden Ears Bridge has been completed and opened to traffic on June 16, 2009. The bridge spans the Fraser River and connects the Township of Langley with the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.