Fort Point, also known as
Admiral’s Point, was fortified in 1746 with 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, theses 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 and a 4 gun battery, parapet walls, Storekeepers
Hut, Gunners 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 state that, at 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 This was only two years before the garrisons of Royal Artillery men were withdrawn in 1758.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 which reads; “St. John’s from 1745 to 1750 was very 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.”
In 1762 when the French invaded Trinity they reduced Fort Point to ruins however the Town and its infrastructure which by this time was most heavily invested in by the Poole-Newfoundland merchant firms of Lester and Slade’s were saved thanks to Benjamin Lester. A copy of his diary that tells of the days leading up to the invasion and the occupation by the French for approximately two weeks, July 16 - August 1, 1762 provides an excellent recollection of the proceedings. During their occupation an engineer that was on board one of the French vessels, Marc Antoine de Cinq Mars, drew a map of Trinity Harbour and Fort Point that the Society has a copies of and is quite detailed and if placed next to an aerial photograph of today is pretty accurate.
The French left on August 1 as word was received that the English were sending troops from St. John’s to reclaim the harbour as Trinity has one of the best protected harbours. At Fort Point the heavy guns were split and rolled over the cliffs into the sea, the magazine was destroyed and all the other structures were put under the torch.
The fort was rebuilt during the American Revolution in 1780 by the British, however nothing really took place at Fort Point until the war of 1812 when a survey was completed by the Royal Engineers , please see an excerpt from their report below, on 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 1812-14, the two chief merchant firms in Trinity- Slade’s and Garland- undertook to rebuild a battery at Fort Point. William Kelson, Slade’s agent took the lead and 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, they were joined by a company of British marines who helped the volunteers practice military exercises. Kelson established a signal system whereby watchmen 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 garrison on Fort Point.
The site also explores the history of the salt cod trade in the harbour, Lighthouse keepers, and local shipwrecks. One can see first hand unique artefacts which were taken from a shipwreck (possibly the Speedwell) directly off Admiral's beach.
The Fort Point Military Site is open from mid-May to mid-October from 9:30 am - 4:30 pm pm daily. The price of admission, $5.00 per person, children 6 years and younger are admitted free of charge.