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Fort Townshend National Historic Site of Canada

Bonaventure Avenue and Harvey Roads, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1951/05/30

Plaque; Parks Canada
Plaque location.; Parks Canada
Plaque location
Plaque; Parks Canada

Other Name(s)

Fort Townshend National Historic Site of Canada
Fort Townshend
Fort Townshend

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1773/01/01 to 1779/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/11/06

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Fort Townshend National Historic Site of Canada, is an archaeological site located on a hill overlooking the entrance to St. John’s Harbour in Newfoundland. The fort once formed a central part of the 18th-century British defence network, consisting of forts and smaller batteries strategically positioned throughout the area. The fort was abandoned in 1871, and the site has since become urban in character. In 2000, The Rooms, a modern complex housing the Provincial Archives, Art Gallery and Museum was built on the site. There are currently no visible remains. Official recognition refers to the footprint of the fort at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

Fort Townshend was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1951 for the following reason:
- from 1779 until 1871, it was the headquarters of the Newfoundland garrison.

Originally built to protect one of the British Empire’s key fishing colonies from potential threats from the French, Fort Townshend reflected Britain’s commitment to the development of a residential fishery. The fort, a star-type fortification, occupied the centre of a system of defences, which in 1776 consisted of redoubts and batteries extending around the harbours of St. John’s, Quidi Vidi, and Torbay. Due to the outbreak of war with France, Fort Townshend was enlarged and strengthened in 1796, as part of changes made to the entire defence system. In the same year, a French fleet under the command of Admiral Richery appeared off the Narrows, but was deterred by the formidable appearance of the defences, and the fleet withdrew. With the impending threat from America as a result of the War of 1812, the Fort was again refortified although no conflicts took place there.

The garrison was withdrawn from St. John’s in 1871, from which date the fort was allowed to decay. Some storage cellars with a small building, which was used as a guardroom, still remain. While there are few accessible remains of the fort, some may still be found in situ in the basement of The Rooms, which was built upon the original site.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2007, May 1951.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements of the site which contribute to its historic value include:
- its location in downtown St. John’s;
- its strategic setting on a hill overlooking St. John’s Harbour;
- its relation to the other defensive sites and structures surrounding the harbour;
- elements of any surviving archaeological remains, features, and artifacts related to the site;
- viewscapes across the harbour.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1789/01/01 to 1871/01/01
1796/01/01 to 1796/01/01
1812/01/01 to 1812/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type



Military Defence Installation

Architect / Designer

Governor Lord Shuldharn (Admiral Molineux)



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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