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SIGNAL HILL

VISIT HISTORIC SIGNAL HILL NEWFOUNDLAND

St Johns Hotels | Signal Hill Tattoo

The town of St. Johnís goes back at least as far as the time of John Cabot who according to English seamen's tradition entered the harbour on the evening of St. John's Day in 1497. Since then ships of Western Europe came to Newfoundland to fish, and St. John's was a port of call for them all. Captain John Rut of the British Navy described his visit to St. Johnís in 1527, he wrote the first letter from North America to Europe It was at the suggestion of Captain Rut that the King commanded a West Country merchant named Bute to start a colony in Newfoundland. Bute came out to St. John's in the following year and built the first permanent residence on the island. Thus the founding of the town can be said to date from the year 1528.

Cabot Tower
Cabot Tower
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newfoundland pictures

 

The French explorer Jacques Cartier visited St. John's many times. It was there that he met Sieur Roberval in the spring of 1542 when Sieur Roberval tried to compel Cartier to return with him up the St. Lawrence River. Cartier eluded him by slipping out of the harbour at night and sailing back to France. Sir Bernard Drake made St. John's his headquarters in 1585, when he was on a mission for the British Admiralty and captured many Spanish and Portuguese ships and brought their crews home as prisoners. This was strategy against the Armada which three years later launched an invasion of England.

Hiking to the Narrows
Hiking at Signal Hill
© K. Bruce Lane
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Iceberg Visits Signal Hill
Iceberg at Signal Hill
© K. Bruce Lane
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Sir Humphrey Gilbert landed on King's Beach on August 5th, 1583, and in the name of Queen Elizabeth claimed the island for Britain. Gilbert was drowned on the return voyage to England, but a description of the expedition as recorded by Captain Hayes, who commanded the "Golden Hind". He described St. John's as a populous place much frequented by ships' .He wrote of the substantial houses of the merchants doing business at the port, and told of a favourite walk along a path leading to the west end of the harbour to a place called The Garden, where there grew wild roses, strawberries and ther fruits in abundance. The path was the well known Water Street of today, which can rightly claim the distincion of being the oldest street in North America.

View of St Johns from Signal Hill
View of City from Signal Hill
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newfoundland pictures

 

 

Here in the harbour of St. John's, the fishing ships of half a dozen nations selected their Admirals to keep law and order in those old days of Rut and Drake and Gilbert. the Admiral held office for a week, then another was selected to keep order Thus each weekend saw the Feast of the newly chosen, and custom demanded that he should invite all seamen aboard his ship and wine and dine the multitude.. Rule by fishing Admiral was sanctioned by english law in 1633, when the captain of the first ship to arrive in a harbour was to be admiral of the harbour for that season.

A View of the Narrows from Above!
The Narrows
© K. Bruce Lane
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Signal Hill Theatre
Battle Dramatization
© K. Bruce Lane
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St. John's was attacked several times by enemy forces from both land and sea. A Dutch squadron under the famous De Ruyter took the town in 1665 and plundered it. A second attempt was made in 1673, but this time it was defended by Christopher Martin, an English merchant captain. Martin landed six cannon from his vessel, the "Elias Andrews", and constructed an earthen breastworkand battery near chain Rock commanding the Narrows leading into the harbour. With only twenty-three men, the valiant Martin beat off an attack by three Dutch warships. Later in the same year, the gallant company defied the attempts of a pirate squadron to raid the town. After these attacks, forts were erected at both sides of the Narrows. In 1689 a large fort was completed, known as Fort William; it stood where the present Newfoundland Hotel looks over the city. A second fort, known as Fort George was situated at the east end of the harbour. It was connected by a subterranean passage with Fort William. On the south side of the Narrows, there was a third fortification called the Castle.

Built over 100 years ago
Tower at Historic Signal Hill
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newfoundland pictures

 

The town was captured by French troops from Placentia in 1696, and again in 1708. The French burned the town on both occasions and destroyed the forts, carrying the guns to their stronghold at Placentia. After the second capture of St. John's, better and stronger fortifications were built by the English, and garrisons of British soldiers were maintained in anticipation of a renewal of enemy invasion. The town was captured for the last time in the summer of 1762, but it was quickly retaken by British troops despatched from Halifax under Colonel William Amherst. Fort Townshend was subsequently built on a commanding height above the centre of the town, and several strong forts were placed at the top of Signal Hill and at Fort Amherst on the south side of the Narrows. Garrisons were withdrawn from St. John's in 1871, and the fortifications were dismantled by orders of the British Government.

Actors re-living History
Battle Re-Enactment at Signal Hill
© K. Bruce Lane
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Historical Drama
Soldiers Re-Create Battle
© K. Bruce Lane
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Among the finest buildings may be included the Anglican Cathedral, which is said to be the best example of Gothic architecture in America, and the Roman Catholic Basilica which, at the time of its completion a century ago, was the largest church in the northern half of the New World. Government House, with its spacious grounds, and the House of Assembly with its massive columns of grey limestone are well worth a visit for a history fan. There are also a fine Public Library and a Newfoundland Museum. The Museum has many interesting features for the historian and the antiquarian. Among these are paintings and depicting Leif Ericson landing on Markland, Cabot sighting Bonavista, Sir Humphrey Gilbert setting up the first colonial government of Britain, and the "Great Eastern" landing the first cable at Heart's Content. Plus the first trans atlantic wireless signal by Marconi in 1901 Besides other more modern firsts of North American history, there are relics of John Guy's colony at Cupids, and of Lord Baltimore's mansion at Ferryland. The Museum also possesses the only relics in existence of the Beothuck Indians, a vanished race of native people. There is a booth dedicated to old colonial times, and another to Eskimo culture of Labrador. Dioramas of the seal hunt and of the cod fishery present unique and picturesque features of Newfoundland industrial life. Close to St. John's are many quaint fishing villages. A half hours drive by motor car takes the tourist to enchanting coastal scenery and through the old fashioned lanes lined with homes of the fishermen.

Direction Landmark at Signal Hill
Global Directions
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newfoundland pictures

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St Johns Tours

Tour St. John's and explore what North America's oldest city has to offer visitors.

 

Historical Quidi Vidi
Historic Quidi Vidi
© K. Bruce Lane
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