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Ashore and Afloat

The British Navy and the Halifax Naval Yard Before 1820

Julian Gwyn

Publication Year: 2004

Ashore and Afloat tells the early history of the Halifax Naval Yard. From the building of the yard and its expansion, to the people involved in the enterprise, to the nuts and bolts of buying the masts and paying the bills, Julian Gwyn's history of the Halifax Naval Yard leaves no stone unturned. Dozens of illustrations and copious appendices, including a biographical directory, accompany this compelling history.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press


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p. iii


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pp. v-vi


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p. vii


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p. viii

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pp. ix-x

When Julian Gwyn asked me to write the Foreword to this book I was highly flattered and quite delighted. Over the past thirty years we have shared a mutual interest in Halifax as a naval base. Professor Gwyn's work on the personal fortune of Peter Warren, the sailor who first persuaded the British naval establishment to show a serious interest in...

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pp. xi-xvii

This book is about the navy, not at sea, but on land. A naval yard and the squadron it serves are intimately connected. If a squadron or fleet is not much more than an elaborate gun deck, it cannot function without a base. In fast-moving operations, the base might prove to be very...


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1. Building the Yard, 1758–1783

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pp. 3-26

If the organization of naval dockyards by the Tudors, beginning with Portsmouth in 1495, was the surest sign of England's new ambition to play a wider role in European affairs, so the decision by Pitt some 262 years later, in 1757, to build a careening wharf at Halifax represented a resolution to play a decisive role in North America. Then a...

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2. Development and Expansion, 1783–1819

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pp. 27-42

However demoralized by the loss of the heart of its North American empire in 1783, the British government resolved to protect what remained of its possessions. For Nova Scotia, divided in 1784 into three colonies when Cape Breton and New Brunswick became separate jurisdictions, the British navy became the effective guarantor of its defence. ...

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3. Hospital Complex and Admiral's House

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pp. 43-61

Associated with naval dockyards were victualling yards, ordnance yards, hospitals, and commanders-in-chief's mansions.1 Halifax acquired most of these from the earliest days, except a hospital and an admiral's house. While the military had earlier built both a general hospital for its people and, by 1800, a mansion for the general officer...


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4. Officers and Their Clerks

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pp. 65-100

So far we have been concerned with the expansion and site development of the careening yard once the decision was taken in 1758 to establish the naval base in Halifax harbour. Our task is now to examine how the yard was managed, how the workforce was structured, and the details of the principal tasks undertaken by yard workers. ...

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5. Artificers and Labourers

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pp. 101-122

If we know how the lash enforced authority afloat, how was control over workers maintained by the navy in its yards ashore? The interaction between officers, artificers, and "the people of the yard" will be central as we examine working conditions, recruitment, kinship, apprenticeship, efficiency, embezzlement, wages, superannuation, and...

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6. The Work of the Yard

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pp. 123-148

Earlier chapters have occasionally addressed, in a general manner, the type of work undertaken in the yard. We have seen that some of it involved erecting buildings and other structures as well as their renovation and maintenance. These were mere means to an end, for the principal responsibility was to maintain the Halifax squadron at sea...


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7. Suppliers and Tradesmen

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pp. 151-168

Though the Navy Board aimed to supply almost all the needs of the Halifax yard, as we saw in chapter 6 the policy proved unrealistic. Yet it was 1788 before this was acknowledged officially. Then the Board for the first time listed the sorts of goods that the principal officers were permitted to purchase. The commissioner's approval of the requests...

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8. Mast Contractors and Wood Merchants

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pp. 169-200

One issue that ought to have been discussed thoroughly in 1775-6 by both the Navy Board and the Halifax yard officers under their newly-minted commissioner, Capt. Arbuthnot, was the supply of sticks. This was the naval jargon for masts, bowsprits, topmasts, yards, and small spars. "The business of maintaining an adequate supply of timber and...

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9. Paying Bills and Raising Cash

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pp. 201-215

The naval yard, when paying both wages to its workers and the invoices from local contractors, acted as a quasi-bank. In this way it resembled the activities of the British army in North America, which helped fuel the money markets wherever their deputy-paymasters established themselves.2 Like them, the Halifax naval storekeeper was responsible...

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pp. 217-228

The need for continuous British naval involvement with Nova Scotia in the 1740s and 1750s surprised both the Admiralty and the Navy Board. Until the advent to power of the elder William Pitt, they successfully resisted such pressure for as long as possible. To accept the logic of the "Americans" in either Pelham's or Pitt's administrations...

APPENDIX 1: Halifax Yard Establishments, 1763–1815

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pp. 229-230

APPENDIX 2: Halifax Yard Workforce, 1761–1820

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pp. 231-232

APPENDIX 3: Naval Yard Officers, 1756–1819

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p. 233

APPENDIX 4: Yard Returns Sent the Navy Board, 1780s

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pp. 234-235

APPENDIX 5: Orders for the Night Watch, 1785

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pp. 236-237


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pp. 238-320


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pp. 321-326


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pp. 327-347


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pp. 348-353


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pp. 354-366

E-ISBN-13: 9780776615400
E-ISBN-10: 0776615408
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776605739
Print-ISBN-10: 0776605739

Page Count: 362
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 180704231
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Ashore and Afloat

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Subject Headings

  • Navy-yards and naval stations, British -- Nova Scotia -- Halifax -- History.
  • Halifax Dockyard (Halifax, N.S.).
  • Great Britain. Royal Navy -- History -- 19th century.
  • Great Britain. Royal Navy -- History -- 18th century.
  • Halifax (N.S.) -- History, Naval.
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