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Trinity Harbour Provincial Historic Site

Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador, A0C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1977/12/12

On site sketch of eighteenth century wreck located in Trinity Harbour showing the scattered debris of the ship as it lay in 1977 during an archaeological dive.; HFNL 2005
Trinity Harbour Provincial Historic Site, Trinity.
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/09/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Trinity Wreck Provincial Historic Site (Borden number DcA-02) is the site of a mid-1700s merchant vessel that was sunk in shallow water in Trinity Harbour. Trinity is a community located on the north east coast of Newfoundland, within Trinity Bay and Trinity Harbour is a sheltered inlet within the bay. The vessel is believed to be the British Merchant Vessel “Speedwell”. The site is sheltered from the ocean swells, but strong gales from the northwest or southwest can cause the water disturbance over the wreck. The designation encompasses the area of the wreck and surrounding debris fields, including any and all remaining in-situ artifacts.

Heritage Value

The Trinity Wreck Provincial Historic Site has been designated because it has historic, scientific and cultural values.

The Trinity Wreck Provincial Historic Site is historically valuable because it gives a solid record of eighteenth century naval life, as well as valuable insight about trade goods brought into Newfoundland during this period. It is still unclear as to the identity of the ship, but evidence reveals it was likely the “Speedwell” which foundered in ice in 1781 in view of Trinity. Trinity is located on a small peninsula surrounded by the northwest and southwest arms of Trinity Harbour. This has long been an advantageous harbour because it was easy to defend; it had excellent harbour facilities and its proximity to the fishing banks was particularly appealing. It became a supply center for fishermen and was a major focus of the West of England-Newfoundland fishery in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Trinity soon became not only a good port for fishing ships, but also a supply centre for fishermen at a number of outposts throughout Trinity Bay. The wreck, which lies at the bottom of Trinity Harbour, was a merchant vessel coming from Europe to Newfoundland with a cargo of supplies destined for trade.

The Trinity Wreck Provincial Historic Site is scientifically valuable because of the quality and number of artifacts which have been recovered from the site. The remains of the wreck were found at the base of an underwater ledge in eight to twelve meters of water. The vessel lies on her starboard side with the bow facing in a southerly direction. Heavy, compacted silt, mussel and barnacle shells cover the site. This sediment protected the lower portion of the ship’s hull and aided in the preservation of the large quantity of organic artifacts that have been recovered. As of 1981 over one thousand artifacts have been raised. Included among these are numerous organics artifacts such as wood, rope, leather and bone. Many leather shoes were found preserved in the heavy silt. Some show evidence of wear, while others were obviously new. Numerous “porter” bottles, in whole and in fragments have been recovered, some with ancient olive oil remnants still inside. Other artifacts include various ceramics; a quantity of metals, including a copper seal dated 1738; tools of many descriptions, including fishing and carpentry tools; mammal bones, which show eating habits; ammunition such as cannon and iron shot; and rigging, rope and lead sheeting. A significant artifact find was the commemorative brass medal dated 1757. The medal commemorates the Prussian victory by Frederick at the Battles of Rossbach and Leuthen in 1757.

The numbers of artifacts, coupled with their varieties of origins, suggest a wide scope of trade that would have taken place by the English. The fishery in Newfoundland was supplied with many goods from Europe and at times, from America. Various ceramic containers found at the Trinity Wreck Site have been attributed to France, Iberia, England and Rhineland.

Source: Newfoundland Gazette Friday, December 12, 1977, Vol. 52, No. 51, p.1157.

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements that respect the archaeological site and artifacts, including:
-in-situ archaeological remnants of the English merchant vessel, (possibly) the Speedwell, in its location, form and materials;
-all artifacts remaining at the wreck site and surrounding debris field; and
-all artifacts removed from any and all of these sites in an intact and documented state.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

Province of Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Statute

Historic Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Site

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1781/01/01 to 1781/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type


Undetermined (archaeological site)
Buried Site



Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.O. Box 5171, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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