Prince of Wales Fort

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For other uses of the name "Prince of Wales", see: Prince of Wales (disambiguation).
Prince of Wales Fort
Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
Churchill Fort Prince of Wales 1996-08-12.jpg
Prince of Wales Fort
Prince of Wales Fort is located in Canada
Prince of Wales Fort
Prince of Wales Fort
Coordinates 58°47′50″N 94°12′48″W / 58.797158°N 94.213428°W / 58.797158; -94.213428
Type Fortress
Site information
Condition Partially restored
Site history
Built 1717 (log fort) and 1731-1771
In use 1717-1782
Battles/wars Hudson Bay expedition (1782)
Official name Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada
Designated 1920

The Prince of Wales Fort is a historic fort on Hudson Bay across the Churchill River from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.[1]


The European history of this area starts with the discovery of Hudson Bay in 1610. The area was recognized as important in the fur trade and of potential importance for other discoveries. The fort is built in a European "star" shape.

Original fort[edit]

This fort began as a log fort built in 1717 by James Knight of the Hudson's Bay Company and was originally called the "Churchill River Post". In 1719, the post was renamed Prince of Wales Fort, but is more commonly known today as Fort Prince of Wales. It was located on the west bank of the Churchill river to protect and control the Hudson's Bay Company's interests in the fur trade.


Construction on the fort, a structure still standing today, was started in 1731 near what was then called Eskimo Point, but work was never truly completed. It had forty-two cannons mounted on the walls with a battery across the river on Cape Merry meant to hold six more cannons.

In battle[edit]

In 1782, with only 39 (non-military) men manning the fort, three French warships, led by Jean-François de La Pérouse, took it over without a single shot being fired. The fort's Governor at the time, Samuel Hearne, having quickly recognised the numerical and military imbalance, surrendered immediately. The fort returned to the HBC in 1783 after the French had partially destroyed it. Thereafter, its importance began to wane with the decline in the fur trade although the post was refounded a little way up the river.

Map of Prince of Wales Fort prepared in black ink by R.I. Ruggles, from original manuscript (map G. 1/19) in the Archives, Hudson's Bay Company, London.


None of the original structures are intact with roofs long deteroriated:

  • Rough Stone Dwelling House
  • Governor's Quarters
  • Storehouse
  • Men's Quarters and Barracks
  • Stonemason's Workshop
  • Cooper and Carpenter Workshops
  • Tailor's Room
  • Blacksmith Shop

The courtyard is intact and all other exposed areas covered by grass.


When the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill was completed in 1929, the labour and equipment used for the railroad construction was then used to restore the fort in the 1930s. Restoration work was also carried out in the late 1950s. Archaeological Investigations at and around the fort date back to 1958. For the past 10 years Parks Canada archaeologists have been conducting investigations in and around the fort in conjunction with a large-scale wall stabilization project and fort interpretation program.


In 1920, the site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[2]

On 28 June 1985, Canada Post issued 'Fort Prince of Wales, Man.', one of the 20 stamps in the "Forts Across Canada Series". [3] The fort is also the subject of one of the NFB Canada Vignettes.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Charlotte Gray 'The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder' Random House, 2004
  2. ^ Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  3. ^ Canada Post stamp