Royal Naval Dockyard, Halifax

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Royal Naval Dockyard, Halifax
Halifax, Nova Scotia
HMS Asia in Halifax Harbour, 1797.jpg
HMS Asia at the Halifax Naval Yard, 1797
Coordinates 44°39′23.63″N 63°34′44.69″W / 44.6565639°N 63.5790806°W / 44.6565639; -63.5790806Coordinates: 44°39′23.63″N 63°34′44.69″W / 44.6565639°N 63.5790806°W / 44.6565639; -63.5790806
Type Shipyard, dockyard
Site information
Controlled by

Royal Navy (1759–1905),
Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries (1905–1910),
Royal Canadian Navy (1910–present)

Official name Halifax Dockyard National Historic Site of Canada
Designated 1923
Site history
Built 1759
In use 1759 –

Royal Naval Dockyard, Halifax was a Royal Navy base in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1759 to 1905. The Halifax Yard was the headquarters for the Royal Navy's North American Station for sixty years, starting with the Seven Years' War.

Royal Navy (1759–1905)[edit]

Halifax Harbour had served as a Royal Navy seasonal base from the founding of the city in 1749, using temporary facilities and a careening beach on Georges Island. The British purchased Gorham Point (present-day Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott) for the Naval Yard, which had been named after its previous owner ranger John Gorham.[1] Land and buildings for a permanent Naval Yard were purchased in 1758 and the Yard was officially commissioned in 1759. The Yard served as the main base for the Royal Navy in North American during the Seven Years' War, the American Revolution, the French Revolutionary Wars and the War of 1812. In 1818 Halifax became the summer base for the squadron which shifted to the Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda for the remainder of the year. The Halifax yard did not have a dry dock until 1887 so it was officially called the "Halifax Naval Yard" when first established, although it was popularly known as the Halifax Dockyard. The graving-dock, coaling facilities and torpedo boat slip were added between 1881 and 1897. The station closed in 1905 and sold to Canada in 1907 becoming Her Majesty's Canadian Dockyard, a function it still serves today as part of CFB Halifax.

The Yard was located on the western shores of Halifax Harbour to the north of Citadel Hill and the main Halifax townsite. In addition to refitting and supplying the North American Squadron the Halifax Yard played a vital role in supplying masts and spars for the entire Royal Navy after the loss of the timber resources in the American colonies in the American Revolution. Masts cut all over British North America were collected and stored in Halifax to be shipped to British Dockyards in wartime with heavily escorted mast convoys.

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1923.[2]


Part of a series on the
Military history of
Nova Scotia
Citadel hill.jpg
Battle of Port Royal 1690
Conquest of Acadia 1710
Battle of Jeddore Harbour 1722
Northeast Coast Campaign 1745
Battle of Grand Pré 1747
Dartmouth Massacre 1751
Bay of Fundy Campaign 1755
Fall of Louisbourg 1758
Headquarters established for Royal Navy's North American Station 1758
Burying the Hatchet ceremony 1761
Battle of Fort Cumberland 1776
Raid on Lunenburg 1782
Halifax Impressment Riot 1805
Establishment of New Ireland 1812
Capture of USS Chesapeake 1813
Battle at the Great Redan 1855
Siege of Lucknow 1857
CSS Tallahassee Escape 1861
Departing Halifax for Northwest Rebellion 1885
Departing Halifax for the Boer War 1899
Imprisonment of Leon Trotsky 1917
Jewish Legion formed 1917
Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle 1918
Battle of the St. Lawrence 1942–44
Sinking of SS Point Pleasant Park 1945
Halifax VE-Day Riot 1945
Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus established 1947
Notable military regiments
Mi'kmaq militias 1677-1779
Acadian militias 1689-1761
40th Regiment 1717-57
Troupes de la marine 1717-58
Gorham's Rangers 1744-62
Danks' Rangers 1756-62
84th Regiment of Foot 1775-84
Royal Fencible American 1775-83
Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers 1775-83
King's Orange Rangers 1776-83
1st Field Artillery 1791-present
Royal Nova Scotia 1793-1802
Nova Scotia Fencibles 1803-16
The Halifax Rifles (RCAC) 1860-present
The Princess Louise Fusiliers 1867-present
78th Highlanders 1869-71
Cape Breton Highlanders 1871-present
Nova Scotia Rifles 1914-19
No. 2 Construction Battalion 1916-19
West Nova Scotia 1916-present
The Nova Scotia Highlanders 1954-present

Nova Scotia portal

History of Canada portal

Canadian Armed Forces portal

The building and facilities in the base included:

  • careening wharf
  • mast ponds and mast house
  • boat house
  • refitting yard
  • building slip
  • astronomical observatory
  • commissioner's residence
  • graving yard (after 1887)
  • coal facility
  • torpedo boat yard
  • Wardroom
  • victualling yard (North Dockyard)
  • Gate Warder's House
  • Commissioner's House
  • Hospital - home to Royal Naval College of Canada from 1911 to 1917
  • Admiralty House - home to the Admiral of the North American Station and now Maritime Command Museum

The Naval Yard was initially defended by its own large blockhouse, three redoubts and a fortified stone wall. These defences were enhanced and later replaced by the large network of Army fortifications whose main purposes was to safeguard the Naval Dockyard including nearby Fort Needham, Fort George, the Halifax Citadel; York Redoubt; Fort Charlotte on Georges Island, Fort Clarence in Dartmouth; five forts on McNabs Island and extensive batteries at Point Pleasant.


The main purpose of the Halifax Yard was to supply, man and refit ships but it also built some warships including:

Ships based at the Royal Navy Yard Halifax included:

Historic structures[edit]

Almost all the original Royal Navy 18th and 19th century buildings in the Dockyard were demolished in World War II to make way for machine shops, stores buildings and drill halls needed to man and maintain the hundreds of corvettes being commissioned during the crash expansion of the Royal Canadian Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic. Only one residence from 1814 and the Admiral's Residence from 1816 survived. The Admiral's residence in now the Maritime Command Museum. The original Naval Yard clock has been restored and moved to the Halifax Ferry Terminal entrance while the original Naval Yard bell is preserved at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, a museum which also features a large diorama depicting the Naval Yard in 1813 at its height in the Age of Sail.


See also[edit]


Part of a series on the
History of
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax Town Clock.jpg
  1. ^ George Bates. John Gorham 1709-1751. Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, p. 87
  2. ^ Halifax Dockyard. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 9 March 2013.