A remnant of the colonial history of Newfoundland and Labrador
After a century of fishing by migratory Basque, Spanish, Portuguese, and French ships the French founded a colony at Plaisance (now called Placentia) in 1662. Plaisance formed part of King Louis XIV and his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s push to establish Nouvelle-France (New France) in what are now Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and regions stretching south to Louisiana. To secure this expansion, fortifications were built at the colony on the strategic choke-point and lookout of Castle Hill.
Using this fortified colony as a base France secured its fishery on the Grand Banks and in times of war used it for staging attacks on the English settlements. The most famous attacks are Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville’s bloody invasion of the English shore in 1696 during King William’s War.
During the invasion d’Iberville and his forces destroyed 36 settlements and captured over 300 boats, 200,000 quintals of cod, and 700 prisoners in four months. d’Iberville’s Newfoundland campaign was cut short when he was ordered to go to the Hudson Bay.
While the French at Plaisance launched a number of raids and attacks over the next seventeen years (including the capture of St. John’s in 1705) Britain was able to successfully blockade the colony and in 1713, with the Treaty of Utrecht, Plaisance came under British control. While some further fortification was carried out by Britain during the Seven Years War, Castle Hill’s role as a military base was greatly reduced as St. John’s gained prominence.
Today the remains of the fortifications on Castle Hill are a testament to a period in North American history when European empires were desperately trying to establish and strengthen positions in the New World.
Overlooking modern Placentia, Castle Hill offers a commanding view of the surrounding area and with hiking trails and picnic areas is a remarkable opportunity for any visitor. The Visitor Centre is nestled into the landscape and contains a museum interpreting the history of the site with a display of artifacts. The Heritage Shop sells site books and images.
Located an hour and a half from St. John’s and open from spring to fall, this site offers an excellent glimpse of the military and colonial history of Newfoundland and the New World.
Castle Hill Heritage Shop
Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada
Open Daily: 10:00am to 6:00pm
Open June 1st to Labour Day