Old Royal Navy Burial Ground – Halifax

As vehicles whiz by Stadacona along Barrington Street, near the old Fleet Club in Halifax, I often wonder if they notice the small plot with old headstones marking the final resting place of hundreds (maybe thousands) of British citizens – sailors and their families who worked and died while serving the North Atlantic Station.

A small, roughly one-acre plot, the Royal Navy Burial Ground slopes gently towards the Narrows south of Bedford Basin. There are just less than 100 remaining stones (which include a small number of wooden replicas), which all face to the east. I have been able to prove that there has been at least one stone that has been moved from its original location.

There is a small plaque at the northwest corner of the field, outside the fence. I cant remember exactly, but the number of interred is stated to be about 600. Research by the Naval Museum and local historians indicate at least 1200 were buried, and this is the number that was actually recorded by the Admiralty. There has to be more.

RNBG 1
The Old Royal Navy Burial Ground at CFB Halifax (Stadacona). This view is to the northeast

Mostly forgotten, and minimally maintained, this should be a National Historic Site. It hasn’t been the witness of an interment in over a century. The British, when they pulled out of Halifax, left it in the care of the Dominion of Canada. The Royal Canadian Navy maintains the ground through mowing of the lawn, but little effort is made to maintain the stones, which continue to degrade (see above).

This is a site that was first used in the 1790s; it was a horrific site up until the cemetery reformation movements in the mid 19th century, when it was beautified.

1880s Naval Historical Library DA040 NHL-2-19 001 for paper
1880s Naval Historical Library photo of the RNBG looking west from Barrington (Campbell) Street showing the old stone wall which has since disappeared.

The dead are now mostly forgotten. While I researched the names of those on the stones, and in the archives, I discovered that these names are not part of genealogies, they don’t reside on family websites. Likely, the British nationals who rest here are unknown to their families overseas. Even more probably, their burial places and causes of death are unknown.

American veterans associations have worked to memorialize the dead of the Shannon and Chesapeake battle. In the 1960s a memorial stone was placed remembering the American dead. The British sailors have a fine marker, place in the 19th century. There was a small amount of attention paid to the cemetery and the action during the War of 1812 bicentennial memorial efforts by the previous government. It is likely that the burial ground will be forgotten until 2112…

In the future, as I find the time, I would like to add some of the names and inscriptions on the remaining stones on this blog. Perhaps these names would then be searchable by families…

It would be a start.

 

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