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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 17

The Halifax Citadel, 1825-60: A Narrative and Structural History

by John Joseph Greenough

Appendix C: Cavalier

The present cavalier is one of three originally planned for the Citadel. It was begun in 1830 and was virtually complete by 1832. In its initial form it consisted of seven two-storey casemates surmounted by a parapet and terreplein, with positions for seven 24-pounder guns on traversing platforms.1 The front of the building was provided with a two-storey colonnaded verandah, open at both ends.

In the course of the 1830s, several alterations to the original design were proposed. The alterations finally accepted were detailed in Colonel Jones's revised estimate.2 These consisted of four small casemates placed in pairs at each end of the building at right angles to the existing casemates. The purpose of these additions was twofold: to provide the cooking facilities needed for the garrison, and to "give the additional support [the cavalier] appears to require before it can be safely loaded with its Terreplein, or guns mounted on it."3 The verandah was extended to include the additions, and the verandah staircases were moved to each end.

Final approval for the provisions of Colonel Jones's revised estimate was not forthcoming until the summer of 1838, and the additions were not actually constructed until 1840-41. In the meantime, a temporary wooden roof was constructed, apparently to keep the body of the building from being damaged too much by the weather. There exists no documentation whatever for this roof, but it was apparently a hipped shingle roof.

In Jones's plan for the end casemates, the space above the casemates had been left unfinished, apparently for use as storage. In 1846, Colonel Calder proposed to use this area for accommodation and prison cells.4 The space over the south casemates was to be fitted up as a suite of three rooms (quarters for the Director of Signals and the Regimental Sergeant Major and an orderly room) and the space over the north casemates as cells for solitary confinement. The latter consisted of six arched cells linked by a corridor. Access to both ends of the cavalier was by means of a door leading to the verandah stairwells.5 Calder's proposal was approved, and the additional rooms were constructed around 1847.

As long as the Citadel remained incomplete no one gave much thought to the problem of preparing the cavalier for its armament. Down to 1846, the only covering of the dos d'anes was the glazed tiles provided for in the original estimate. These were inadequate either to bear the weight of the terreplein earth and the guns, or to keep the casemates underneath staunch. As long as the building was covered by a timber roof, no problems arose, but it was obvious that this state of affairs could not continue indefinitely. When Calder framed his armament proposal in 1846, the problem became urgent, and he inserted an item in the 1846 supplementary estimate for completing the platform and building the curbs for the traversing platforms.6 The dos d'anes were to be covered with ironstone flagging laid in roman cement, and the terreplein filled in with earth and broken stones.

The cavalier was thus provided with the same type of dos d'ane covering as the rampart casemates, and with the same result: it leaked. In the end, all the expedients tried on the rampart casemates were also used on the cavalier, including counterflagging, alterations in the drainage system, and, ultimately, asphalt. At some point, presumably around 1850, the timber roof was removed, making the problem even worse. Exposed to the elements, the cavalier leaked like a sieve, partly as a result of the inadequacy of the staunching expedients, and partly, one supposes, because the masonry of the building had been neglected for almost 20 years. By 1854 the casemates were uninhabitable because of the damp, and serious consideration was being given to a proposal to tear the building down altogether.7 The Ordnance department would not, however, allow such a drastic step. In the end, Colonel Stotherd installed a permanent timber roof. As it extended to the edge of the parapet (the earlier temporary roof had apparently only covered the terreplein) it interfered with the workings of the chimneys and these had to be raised.8

Stotherd's alterations severely affected the utility of the cavalier as a gun platform. The armament had been mounted in 1853, but the addition of the permanent roof and the raised chimneys made it impossible to fire the guns. Indeed there was some doubt expressed a to whether the guns could be fired safely. Although the 1856 committee claimed that the guns could be worked, no one seems to have had the courage to find out.9 The armament remained in place at least until 1860, and possibly until much later.

I have not been able to ascertain when the cavalier was first occupied as a barracks. There are suggestions in the correspondence that there were soldiers quartered there as early as 1845, and it was certainly occupied by 1848. An estimate was submitted in September 1854 for re-positioning the casemate stoves for greater warmth.10 Two months later, the casemates were pronounced uninhabitable because of the leakage, but the permanent roof, installed in the summer of 1855, and the repointing of the masonry carried out at the same time effected a substantial improvement. A second inspectional report, dated June 1856, states that the building was only slightly damp, and anticipates further improvement.11 At this time the cavalier housed 280 NCOs and privates, as well as a staff sergeant in the rooms over the south cooking casemates,

In 1875-77, the top of the cavalier was converted into a barracks. This radically changed the shape of the building. The rooms over the north end casemates were altered to provide access to the new top storey, and the height of the roof was raised. It would seem that the gun platform was altered only by the removal of the guns (if indeed they had not been removed earlier). The tops of the casemates were filled in to provide a level surface which was then floored over. The curbs and pivots were left in place. At least some of them are still there.

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