York Redoubt National Historic site

October 9, 2014

York Redoubt National Historic site from above

Generations of soldiers – first British, the Canadian – have stood guard at York Redoubt. They protected Halifax Harbour from an enemy attack that never came. Each new threat, from the 1970s through World War II, brought new types of guns and defences. Here, your read and discover the remains of a century and a half of military technology. Enjoy!

Halifax Harbour: Warden of the North Atlantic

During the 19th century, Halifax was Britains’ chief naval base in North America and thus helped protect her worldwide empire. Halifax has continued to guard the east coast as the home of Canada’s Atlantic Fleet since 1910. Because of its naval base, Halifax has always been heavily fortified.

Map of Halifax Harbour fortifications through the ages.
Halifax Harbour fortifications through the ages.

York Redoubt: The Gatekeeper

Geography made this an ideal site for the defence of Halifax Harbour. The bluff on which the fortress is built on towers 60 metres above the narrowest point in the outer harbour channel. The guns located there threatened ships that may have tried to attack the harbour. The site was so valuable that York Redoubt was rearmed with each new threat or weaponry advancement. By 1900, newer long-range guns were built further seaward, reducing York Redoubt’s importance as a battery. However, during the 20th century York Redoubt became the command centre for all the harbour defences.

York Redoubt weaponry and buildings description

Fortification Through The Years

As part of Halifax’s formidable defence complex, York Redoubt was constructed in 1793 just as war broke out between Britain and France. Consistently renovated to keep up with technology and the changing face of war, its 27 buildings, related structures and armaments sit high above wooded cliffs, overlooking the entrance to the harbour, just 14 kilometres from downtown Halifax.

York Redoubt, c. 1800

York Redoubt was first fortified in 1973 when war broke out between Britain and France. General James Ogilvie, the British commander at Halifax, built a two-gun battery to defend the harbour entrance.

The defences were improved by Prince Edward, the fourth son of King George III, when he was the commander at Halifax from 1974 to 1800. By 1800, the site had an eight-gun battery and a round Martello Tower, with a signal mast intended to warn an enemy attack early. Edward named it York Redoubt in honour of his brother, the Duke of York.

British Royal Artillery soldier, c. 1800
British Royal Artillery soldier, c. 1800

Not all British soldiers wore red coats. The Royal Artillery, who operated the guns at York Redoubt in 1800, wore blue. Soldiers of the Royal Artillery were specialists in the use of heavy guns.

24-pounder Smoothbore Gun
24-pounder Smoothbore Gun

They were operating the 24-pounder Smoothbore guns. This gun fired round shots (cannon balls) weighing 24 pounds. These were ideal for smashing the sides of wooden warships. The round shots could also be heated to cause fires.

An early map of York Redoubt with the Martello Tower and signal mast
An early map of York Redoubt with the Martello Tower and signal mast


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