Signal Hill History:

Dominating the skyline and located overlooking the narrow entrance to St. John’s harbour, Signal Hill has been a key part of this province’s military and communications history and has shaped Newfoundland’s place in the world.

On June 27, 1762, during the Seven Year’s War, St. John’s found itself under attack by French forces under the command of the Comte d’Haussonville. After successfully capturing St. John’s d’Haussonville based his forces around Signal Hill. To retake the settlement English forces under William Amherst landed at Torbay on September 13.

The Battle of Signal Hill took place on the morning of September 15 when the 200 English soldiers climbed Signal Hill attacking 295 French infantry. The attack, which caught the French by surprise, resulted in the French forces retreating and surrendering three days later.

The Battle of Signal Hill was the final battle of the Seven Year’s War in North America which secured Great Britain as the prominent European power in North America.

In 1897, Cabot Tower was commissioned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. An excellent example of late-gothic revival architecture the tower was designed by St. John’s architect William Howe Greene.

In 1901, Signal Hill was at the centre of a major international breakthrough. Guglielmo Marconi, using an antenna suspended 500 feet by kite, received the first transatlantic wireless signal, the letter ‘S’ in Morse code. Marconi’s breakthrough, which was part of an ongoing rivalry with many inventors, led to a new age in communication technology.

Today Signal Hill offers a number of opportunities to visitors. Cabot Tower is a must see – a stone fortress at the top of the hill where soldiers and signalmen kept a watchful eye. On the main floor of the tower you will find the Heritage Shop. Come in and enjoy the music and laugh with the staff about the weather and the wind while you shop a great selection of gifts, craft, music and books. Pick up a copy of The Lookout and you will learn about the people who lived and worked on Signal Hill. Detailed interpretation of the site is available at the Visitor’s Centre. In addition to the site’s history it boasts breathtaking views of St. John’s and the rugged coast of the Avalon Peninsula. There is also a hiking trail which leads from Cabot Tower to the Battery and back.

Header Photo Credit: [Copyright Barrett & MacKay Photo] & [Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism]

Signal Hill Heritage Shop:

Cabot Tower, Signal Hill NHS
St. John’s, NL
Phone: 709-772-5769
Open Daily: 10:00am-5:30pm
April 1 - Nov 10th

Historic Sites Association's Contributions: