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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 D: Magazines

In 1812, Gustavus Nicolls, then only a captain, received permission to build a stone powder magazine within the crumbling walls of the third citadel. Thirteen years later, when Colonel Nicolls drew up his plans for the present Citadel, he retained the old magazine within the new fort. Although the magazine was inconveniently located and was, in fact, higher than any part of the ramparts, Nicolls's desire for economy prevailed over any other consideration.

It was not until after Nicolls left Halifax that anyone questioned the wisdom of his decision. In his first report to London, Colonel Boteler condemned the building as being too small and dangerously situated.1 When he drew up his estimates for the completion of the Citadel in the autumn of 1832, he provided for the construction of new magazines. In his first estimate, Boteler submitted a design for two magazines, one in each of the western bastions. Each magazine consisted of a pair of subterranean casemates.2 In his second estimate, which was drawn up as an expression of his own personal preferences, he modified this somewhat. Only one of the magazines was, he felt, absolutely necessary, and he proposed to place it in the southwest bastion.3 The cost was estimated at £3,128 4s. 3/4d. for one or £6,256 4s. 11d. for two.

Captain Peake, who succeeded Boteler, was not convinced that the old magazine needed replacing. In his set of estimates, drawn up early in 1833, Peake provided only for a retaining wall for the old magazine, arguing that the wall would be sufficient to make the building convenient and safe.4 Peake, like Nicolls, put considerations of economy before everything else. In any case, he was merely a junior officer, and his opinions carried little weight with the Fortifications department. The necessity of replacing the old magazine was accepted, and it was left to Colonel Jones, Peake's successor, to draw up the final estimate.

Jones was initially inclined to follow Boteler. The first version of the revised estimate (1834) repeated, almost verbatim, the proposal for two casemated subterranean magazines.5 This, however, did not satisfy the Inspector General of Fortifications, who thought that it would be impossibly difficult to ventilate a subterranean magazine properly.6 Jones eventually substituted a design for two above-ground magazines, each enclosed by an area wall and located in the gorge of one of the western bastions.7

The Inspector General had one major reservation about the design. He thought it unnecessary to buttress the magazine, and requested that the estimate be once again revised.8 Jones made the necessary revision, and submitted the estimate for the third time in December 1836.

The final design called for two identical, arched, bombproof magazines, each entered by a door in the south end of the building.9 The design was approved in 1838, and the buildings were constructed in the early 1840s. Colonel Jones's successor was not, however, entirely satisfied with them. In his 1843 estimate, Colonel Calder proposed the addition of north-end doors, porches and shifting rooms.10 At the same time, he proposed to renew the magazine roofs; they had been covered with tiling laid in cement, but this arrangement had failed.11

Calder's proposals were accepted, but work had still not begun on the alterations when Calder sent in his second supplementary estimate in March 1846. In this he brought forward two incidental services for the magazines and areas: the addition of lightning conductors for the magazines and flagging of the areas.12 The former was accepted, but the Inspector General suggested the substitution of asphalt for flagging as paving in the magazine areas.13

As work was beginning on the alterations to the new magazines, the history of the old (1812) magazine came to an inglorious end. By the spring of 1847, it looked a little forlorn, sitting incongruously on top of a miniature hill, ten feet above the level of the parade. On 7 April it was demolished.14

By 1850, all the alterations and additions proposed in Calder's two estimates had been carried out. Two of them had not been particularly successful. The asphalt, which had been applied to part of one of the areas in the autumn of 1849, proved to have little resistance to the ravages of the Halifax winter. It cracked every time the temperature fell below freezing.15 The lightning conductors refused to stay attached to the building.16 Other problems, however, were of greater importance at the time, and neither matter was attended to for several years. Indeed, despite the gloomy initial report on the usefulness of asphalt, the north magazine area was asphalted annually in the early 1850s. There is no indication that the same was done to the south magazine area.

In the course of the 1850s, several further alterations and renewals became necessary. In the autumn of 1852, the floor of the north magazine failed and had to be rebuilt. (Apparently there were no alterations made in the structure of the floor at that time, although it is difficult to be certain because the estimate for the service has not survived.) In 1853, the floor of the south magazine was similarly renewed.17 At about the same time, the arrangement of the powder racks was altered in both magazines.18 Finally, in 1859 a proposal was put forward for the installation of adequate lightning conductors in the Civil Buildings Estimate for 1859-60. The proposal was accepted.19

There were apparently no further major alterations to either of the magazines until the late 1890s. By then, neither was of much importance to the garrison, and a proposal to convert the north magazine into a canteen was accepted and carried out.20

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