Explore the remains of 17th and 18th century French and British fortifications in the ancient French capital of Newfoundland.
From 1692 to 1811, the defenses of Castle Hill played an important role in the defense of Placentia and the larger economic and strategic interests of France and Britain in what is now Atlantic Canada.
The strategic importance of Placentia and the struggle for its control was part of the larger Anglo-French rivalry for an empire not just in Atlantic Canada but also in North America as a whole. Placentia was economically and strategically significant because of its position in the fisheries and because it flanked the approaches to what is now eastern Canada.
The French royal colony of Plaisance (modern-day Placentia) was established in 1662 to encourage and support the French fishery and to stop English fishermen from expanding into the south coast of Newfoundland. It was also a base from which to defend the approaches to New France in times of war. Between 1690 and 1710, the defenses of Plaisance were greatly strengthened. The first work within the boundaries of present day Castle Hill N.H.S.C.—Gaillardin Redoubt—was constructed in 1692. Fort Royal was begun the next year and completed in 1703.
The town was a base from which several destructive campaigns were waged against the English fishery. The Royal Navy made three unsuccessful attempts to capture Plaisance before implementing a blockade of Placentia Bay to prevent supply ships from getting through. Although the blockade caused occasional hardship and hunger, the settlement survived to the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1713.
in 1713, by the Treaty of Utrecht, France recognized British sovereignty over Newfoundland and abandoned Plaisance and other south coast settlements. The British occupied the town, which they renamed Placentia. In 1757, British military engineer Richard Dawson was the first to use the name Castle Hill. During the Seven Years War, there was significant military construction in the town itself. The only major construction on Castle Hill was a blockhouse that was built within the walls of Fort Royal.
Placentia was never attached again, but in 1762 when French forces occupied St. John's, Governor Thomas Graves took refuge in Placentia. Fort Royal was renamed Castle Graves in his honour. After the dwindling British garrison was withdrawn in 1811, Placentia remained an important fishing port and regional supply centre.
In 1968, following several years of historical research and a major archaeological project, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recommended to the Minister responsible for Parks Canada that Castle Hill be designated a national historic site. Castle Hill was acquired by Parks Canada and officially opened in 1968.
VISITOR EXPERIENCE OPPORTUNITIES
Please contact the site for details regarding on-site programming.
- EXPLORE THE HISTORIC LANDSCAPE: At Castle Hill National Historic Site you can explore the stone remains of the defense works and experience the panoramic view of Placentia’s harbour and the historic community of Placentia.
- INFORMATIVE AND ENGAGING INTERPRETIVE GUIDES: Parks Canada guides are present in the Visitor Centre to introduce you to the history of Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada and of the Placentia region. Our guides are also well-informed about the tourism opportunities and current programming throughout the southern Avalon region.
- RELAX IN A PARK SETTING: Take a break and take advantage of our picnic facilities while you plan your next steps after arriving in Argentia or catch your breath and reflect while waiting for the Marine Atlantic ferry to North Sydney!
- PARTICIPATE IN A HISTORIC TOUR: Self-guided tours are enhanced with informative interpretive panels, or you can tour the remains accompanied by an MP-3 audio guide that provides historical information on the importance of Castle Hill and its role in protecting the colony of Plaisance.
- EXPERIENCE THE INTERPRETIVE EXHIBIT: The on-site interpretive exhibit presents the Basque, French, and British military history through a series of vignettes and historic artifacts. Tours include a short film, "The Bastioned Fortification," which outlines the principles and advantages behind the construction of a bastioned fort such as Fort Royal.
- JOURNEY INTO TIME WITH PLACENTIA AREA THEATRE D'HERITAGE: The history of Plaisance, the Ancient French Capital, is brought to life through the theatre production “Faces of Fort Royal” performed on site throughout the summer by the Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage.
- GIFT SHOP: The Historic Site Association of Newfoundland and Labrador operates a gift shop on site.
- FESTIVALS AND FUN DAYS: Canada Day (July 1) and Parks Day (3rd Sat. in July) are celebrated on site each year with performances, games, and events suitable for all ages.
Please contact the site for further information regarding updated programming opportunities and schedules.
Hours Open: Daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Time Period Represented: 1692–1811
Seasons Open: Contact site for details
Visitor Fees: Check the Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada webpage for current fees and programming.
The visitor centre, gift shop, and washrooms are all wheelchair accessible.