Halifax Dockyard

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HM Dockyard, Halifax
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Part of Halifax Station
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in Canada
Site information
OperatorRoyal Navy
Controlled byFlag of the Navy Board 1801 to 1832.jpg Navy Board (1759-1832)
Board of Admiralty Flag 20th Century.png Board of Admiralty (1832-1905)
Site history
In use1759–1905
Installation information
Various (multiple titles see opposite)

Halifax Dockyard or formally H.M. Dockyard, Halifax was a dockyard and naval base located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was first established in 1759, the Halifax naval Yard served as the headquarters for the Royal Navy's North America Station for sixty years, starting with the Seven Years' War. In 1818 Bermuda Dockyard replaced the yard as headquarters of the Royal Navy in the Western Atlantic. The Royal Navy continued to operate the station until it was closed in 1905. The dockyard was sold to Canada in 1907 becoming H.M. Canadian Dockyard, Halifax.


Halifax Harbour had served as a Royal Navy seasonal base from the founding of the city in 1749, using temporary facilities and a careening beach on Georges Island. The British the purchased the property which now contains the Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott for the Naval Yard. This property had belonged to John Gorham (Gorham Point), Captain Ephraim Cook, Philip Durell, Joseph Gerrish and William Nesbitt.[1][2] Land and buildings for a permanent Naval Yard were purchased in 1758 and the Yard was officially commissioned in 1759. The Yard served as the main base for the Royal Navy in North America during the Seven Years' War, the American Revolution, the French Revolutionary Wars and the War of 1812.

In 1818 Halifax became the summer base for the squadron which shifted to the Bermuda Dockyard for the remainder of the year. The Halifax yard did not have a dry dock until 1887 so it was officially called the "Halifax Naval Yard" when first established, although it was popularly known as the Halifax Dockyard. The graving dock, coaling facilities and torpedo boat slip were added between 1881 and 1897. The station closed in 1905 and sold to Canada in 1907 becoming Her Majesty's Canadian Dockyard, a function it still serves today as part of CFB Halifax.

The Yard was located on the western shores of Halifax Harbour to the north of Citadel Hill and the main Halifax townsite. In addition to refitting and supplying the North American Squadron the Halifax Yard played a vital role in supplying masts and spars for the entire Royal Navy after the loss of the timber resources in the American colonies in the American Revolution. Masts cut all over British North America were collected and stored in Halifax to be shipped to British Dockyards in wartime with heavily escorted mast convoys.

Yard Facilities

The Naval Yard was initially defended by its own large blockhouse, three redoubts and a fortified stone wall. These defences were enhanced and later replaced by the large network of army fortifications whose main purposes was to safeguard the Naval Dockyard including nearby Fort Needham, Fort George, the Halifax Citadel; York Redoubt; Fort Charlotte on Georges Island, Fort Clarence in Dartmouth; five forts on McNabs Island and extensive batteries at Point Pleasant.

Many of the original Royal Navy 18th and 19th century buildings in the Dockyard were destroyed in the 1917 Halifax Explosion; others were demolished in World War II to make way for machine shops, stores buildings and drill halls needed to man and maintain the many escort ships being commissioned during the crash expansion of the Royal Canadian Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic. Only one residence from 1814 and the Admiral's Residence from 1816 survived. The Admiral's residence in now the Maritime Command Museum. The original Naval Yard clock has been restored and moved to the Halifax Ferry Terminal entrance while the original Naval Yard bell is preserved at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, a museum which also features a large diorama depicting the Naval Yard in 1813 at its height in the Age of Sail.

The building and facilities in the base included:

  • careening wharf
  • mast ponds and mast house
  • boat house
  • refitting yard
  • building slip
  • astronomical observatory
  • commissioner's residence
  • graving yard (after 1887)
  • coal facility
  • torpedo boat yard
  • Wardroom
  • victualling yard (North Dockyard)
  • Gate Warder's House
  • Commissioner's House
  • Hospital – home to Royal Naval College of Canada from 1911 to 1917
  • Admiralty House – home to the Admiral of the North American Station and now Maritime Command Museum.

Administration of the Dockyard (Navy Board)

From 1546 until 1660 all Royal Naval Dockyards were administered by the Council of the Marine. From 1660 were administered by a resident commissioner who supervised the other senior officers of the yard on behalf of the Navy Board in London. By an Order in Council dated 27 June 1832 it transferred administrative control of the dockyards organisation to the Board of Admiralty, and the role of the Resident Commissioner of the Navy was abolished and replaced by either a Captain Superintendent or Commodore Superintendent or Admiral-Superintendent depending on the size of the naval dockyard.[3][4] In 1971 all remaining flag officer's titled as admiral superintendent were renamed Port Admirals.

Resident Commissioner, Halifax

Master-Shipwright, Halifax Dockyard

Note: (post holders were appointed until 1875)

Master-Attendant, Halifax Dockyard

Storekeeper, Halifax Dockyard

Naval Storekeeper, Halifax Dockyard

Administration of the Dockyard (Board of Admiralty)

Master-Shipwright, Halifax Dockyard

Note: (post holders were appointed until 1875)

Storekeeper, Halifax Dockyard

Naval Storekeeper, Halifax Dockyard

Agent Victualler, Halifax Dockyard

Additional title and responsibility added in 1859

  1. 1859, John N. Macgregor[5][6]

Captain-in-Charge, Halifax Dockyard

  1. Captain Edward Harrington Martin, 1 October, 1910 - 20 November, 1917.[7]

Associated Naval Establishments

Additional Notes

  1. In 1859 the naval storekeeper also held the joint title of Agent Victualler, Halifax Dockyard.


  1. pp. 103–104
  2. George Bates. John Gorham 1709–1751. Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, p. 87
  3. Writer.), E. MILES (Nautical; Miles, Lawford (1841). An epitome, historical and statistical, descriptive of the Royal Naval Service of England. By E. M., with the assistance of ... L. Miles ... With ... illustrations, etc. Ackermann & Company. p. 88.
  4. Archives, The National. "Navy Board and Admiralty: Yard Pay Books". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. The National Archives, 1660 to 1857, ADM 42. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  5. Navy List December 1859 p.205
  6. The Royal Kalendar, and Court and City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Colonies. London: Longman. 1860. p. 237.
  7. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (29 June 2018). "Halifax Royal Dockyard - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 9 December 2019.


  1. Brent Raymond, "Tracing the Built Form of HMC Dockyard", Nova Scotia Museum, 1999. Curatorial Report No. 88
  2. Clowes, Sir William Laird (1897–1903). The royal navy, a history from the earliest times to the present Volume III. London, England: S. Low Marston.
  3. Clowes, Sir William Laird (1897–1903). The royal navy, a history from the earliest times to the present Volume IV. London, England: S. Low Marston.
  4. Clowes, Sir William Laird (1897–1903). The royal navy, a history from the earliest times to the present Volume V. London, England: S. Low Marston.
  5. George Bates. John Gorham 1709–1751. Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society.
  6. Gwyn, Julian, (2004). Frigates and Foremasts: The North American Squadron in Nova Scotia Waters, 1745–1815 Vancouver, BC: UBC Press ISBN 978-0-7748-0911-5. OCLC 144078613.
  7. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Master Attendant at Halifax Dockyard". threedecks.org. S. Harrison.
  8. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Master Shipwright at Halifax Dockyard". threedecks.org. S. Harrison.
  9. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Storekeeper at Halifax Dockyard". threedecks.org. S. Harrison.
  10. Marilyn Gurney, The Kings Yard, Maritime Command Museum, Halifax.
  11. Research guide B5: Royal Naval Dockyards
  12. CFB Halifax Officers Mess