Fort Point Military Site

about imageFort Point, also known as Admiral’s Point, was fortified in 1746. It boasted three batteries mounting 18 guns, a store house, a powder magazine, barracks for 224 soldiers and a pavilion for 9 officers, all surrounded by parapets and palisades. During the 1740s, the fort was garrisoned with only one artillery officer and 20 men, and an infantry officer with 30 soldiers. In 1748, these fortifications were improved as they appear in A Plan of the Admirals Point in Trinity Harbour, Newfoundland in 1748. This plan shows a 15-gun battery, a 3-gun battery, a 4-gun battery and parapet walls. It features a storekeeper’s hut, gunner’s hut, storehouse, magazine and intended barracks. This “intended barracks” was probably built soon after to accommodate the garrison of Royal Artillery men.

The Court Records of Trinity refer to a meeting in 1756 held in the home of Thomas Warren, Justice of the Peace, for the purpose of discussing the “fortifying of ye fort for our best security against our enemys.” This was only two years before the garrisons of Royal Artillery men were withdrawn in 1758.

Pertinent to the record of this withdrawal, is the reference to the abandonment or neglect of the major forts in Newfoundland, quoted by Judge D.W. Prowse in his book of Newfoundland history. “St. John’s from 1745 to 1750 was well-garrisoned by four companies of Foot, a captain of artillery with about 50 men. It was also well supplied with all manners of stores and 40 pieces of cannon. Feriland (Ferryland), Carboniere (Carbonear) and Trinity Harbour had each an officer of artillery with about 18 or 20 men and an officer of Foot and 30 men. There were 200 small arms at each place for the use of the inhabitants. If those defenses had been kept up, the French would not have succeeded in capturing these places in 1762.”

When the French invaded Trinity in 1762, they reduced Fort Point to ruins. However, the town and itsabout image infrastructure were saved thanks to Benjamin Lester. By this time, Trinity was most heavily invested in by the Poole-Newfoundland merchant firms of Lester and Slade’s. A copy of Benjamin Lester’s diary tells of the days leading up to the invasion and the occupation by the French for approximately two weeks, July 16 – August 1, 1762.

During their occupation, an engineer on board one of the French vessels, Marc Antoine de Cinq Mars, drew a map of Trinity Harbour and Fort Point. The Society holds copies of this map. It is quite detailed and, if placed next to an aerial photograph of today, is quite accurate.

The French departed on August 1 after receiving word that the English were sending troops from St. John’s to reclaim the harbour. Before leaving, the French split the heavy guns at Fort Point rolled them over the cliffs into the sea. The magazine was destroyed and all the other structures were put under the torch.

The British rebuilt the fort in 1780 during the American Revolution but there was little activity until the War of 1812 when the Royal Engineers completed a survey. An excerpt from their report appears below detailing the state of defences in the harbours to the north of St. John’s. The members of the town did form their own militia from a group of volunteers and maintained the fort until 1815.

During the war 1812, the two chief merchant firms in Trinity – Slade’s and Garland – undertook to rebuild a battery at Fort Point. William Kelson, Slade’s agent, headed up a committee with Thomas Jenkins, William Brett, Capt. Richard Ash, and Joseph Gover as members. Kelson supervised the reconstruction of the fort and also organized and commanded a local voluntary force known as the Loyal Trinity Volunteer Rangers (LTVR) consisting of 50 men. In September 1812, a company of British marines helped the volunteers practice military exercises.

about imageKelson established a signal system whereby guards at the Fort could alert the LTVR in Trinity should enemy ships be observed approaching. On such an occasion, the watchmen were to fire a canon. A story is told that one Sunday morning, while Morning Prayer was being said in the church, a canon was fired from the Fort. Kelson jumped up in the midst of worshippers and shouted “To Arms. To Arms. The enemy is on us.” The congregation panicked. The volunteers were mustered only to discover it was a false alarm. Evidently, two mischievous youths had crossed to the Fort, and while one distracted the watchman, the other fired a gun. Another tale has the zealous Kelson, on another occasion, ordering shots to be fired at an approaching ship which failed to show her colors. When the first shot took away her jib stay, the captain quickly ran up the Union Jack and the House flag of Robert Slade & Co., the Poole firm for whom Kelson was the Trinity agent. Those escapades appear to have ended the active military life of the garrison on Fort Point.

The Fort Point site also explores the history of the salt cod trade in the harbour, lighthouse keepers, and local shipwrecks. Visitors can see unique artifacts taken from a shipwreck (possibly the Speedwell) directly off Admiral's beach. For more information on the Legacy of Fort Point, please visit the Community Stories exhibit “The Legacy of Fort Point – Military Fortification, Light House and Tourism Haven” within the Virtual Museum of Canada online site.

The Fort Point Military Site is open from June 3 to October 11 from 9:30 am - 4:30 pm daily. The price of admission to just Fort Point is $5.00 per person or to purchase the full Trinity Experience pass the price of admission is $23.00 per adult. Seniors and Students $18.00 per person. Children and Youth 16 years and younger are admitted free of charge. Admission includes entry to eight historic sites in the Town: the Visitors Centre, Lester-Garland House, Lester-Garland Premises (Ryan’s Shop), Cooperage, Green Family Forge, Hiscock House, Trinity Museum and Fort Point.

Visitors may purchase their Trinity Experience pass at Fort Point or the Lester-Garland House.

NOTE: Only cash is accepted at the Fort Point site.