Description of Historic Place
The Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area is located within the municipal boundaries of the Town of Ferryland, NL. It encompasses an area of the community known as The Pool, taking in the present day beach and extending to the base of rolling lands at the foot of The Downs. The principal physical elements of the district are the heritage resources and historic features that have been, and continue to be, uncovered through archaeological exploration, a collection of traditional fisheries buildings and late 19th to early 20th century vernacular style houses. The Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area begins at the tip of the arm forming The Pool, then to the northeast and southwest along the beach to a privately owned meadow, then southwest to the road to The Downs, along this road to the west and southwest and west to The Pool Road, then northwest along this road for a short distance, then north back to the tip of the arm forming The Pool.
The Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area was designated a municipal heritage district by the Town of Ferryland due to its historic, scientific, cultural and aesthetic values.
The Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area has historic value due to its age, its role in historic developments in the New World and its connection to well-known historical figures. At the lowest levels of the excavations, Beothuk hearths and materials used by seasonal European fishermen have been identified, dating the site to the 16th century. Permanent settlement occurred in 1621, when settlers sponsored by Sir George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, arrived to establish a colony. Within a few years the settlers built a small village, complete with a cobblestone street, parlour, bakery, brew house, forge, waterfront premises and defensive works. Calvert called his colony "Avalon" after Avalon in Somerset, England and hoped his colony would be a place of religious tolerance. In 1637, a syndicate headed by David Kirke was granted the island of Newfoundland as a reward for taking Nova Scotia and Quebec from the French. The Kirkes arrived in Ferryland and deposed Calvert’s representative. As governor of Newfoundland, David Kirke oversaw a lucrative mercantile operation at the settlement, making it the de facto capital of the island. Kirke was an unwavering Royalist, and following Parliament’s victory in the English Civil War of the mid 1600s he was called back to England by the Commonwealth and jailed. He died there in 1654, but his wife Lady Sarah Kirke went on to run the plantation until she died sometime in the 1680s. Her sons continued at “The Pool Plantation” until 1696, when French forces attacked, taking the Kirkes hostage and deporting the settlers to Appledore, England. Many of the settlers returned the next year, making the winter of 1696-97 the only time since 1621 that the settlement was unoccupied.
The Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area is scientifically valuable for the information the excavation has yielded and its rarity as an archaeological site. Millions of artifacts have been unearthed at the site, dating from the 16th century onward. These artifacts provide insight into the groups that frequented the site in the past, including Beothuk Indians, European migratory fishermen and English settlers. The evidence of the Beothuk presence is of particular note, as few traces of this now extinct group have been found in eastern Newfoundland. The site is also rare due to the materials used in its construction. Most of the buildings dating from the 1600s were constructed of stone, which is reminiscent of the building tradition in England but was not a technique widely transferred to the New World.
The cultural value of the Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area is most obvious in the continued use of the space. For centuries, The Pool has been the site of traditional fisheries activities. Its expansive beaches were useful fish drying spaces for European migratory fishermen. Its sheltered inner harbour proved to be an ideal location for a fishing plantation. Into the 18th century, English and Irish settlers and their descendants continued to use The Pool as a place to set up fishing premises, a practice which continues into the present.
The Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area has aesthetic value as a landmark in the community and the region. The Pool’s well defined inner harbour, abutting the gently sloping hills of The Downs, is a distinctive landscape feature along a shore typified by deep harbours. It is visible from many vantage points in the community, including the Southern Shore Highway, The Downs and The Gaze.
Source: Town of Ferryland Municipal Plan, November 1998.
All those elements that embody the historic, scientific, cultural and aesthetic value of the Colony of Avalon Special Preservation Area, including:
- in-situ archaeological remnants of early 17th century plantation life in their location, form and materials;
- continued public use of traditional fishing premises;
- new uses restricted to archaeology, interpretation and visitor services;
- form, small scale and low, simple massing of traditional fisheries buildings;
- form, size, massing and style of remaining houses;
- use of traditional materials on existing buildings, and;
- unobstructed view planes to and from the district.