Print this Post

The King’s Navy Yard – Historic Amherstburg park played a role in the defence of Upper Canada

November 2022

The Canadian province of Ontario has numerous former British Army forts, preserved as National Historic Sites, that celebrate and depict the early days of British North America. While the Town of Amherstburg, at the south-western tip of Ontario, has one such historic fort, Fort Malden, there is also a small park along the Detroit River that commemorates the former King’s Royal Naval Dockyard Amherstburg.

Doubling as a shipyard for the Royal Navy and the Provincial Marine, who operated in more of a coast guard role than as a full-fledged navy, it was established in 1796, just south of Fort Amherstburg, now known as Fort Malden, after Great Britain ceded a pre-existing shipyard on the Detroit River to the United States. The yard consisted of blockhouses, storehouses a magazine, wood yard and a wharf.

The Town of Amherstburg grew as a result of the dockyard, with many of the dockyard workers living in the town.

During its 17-year life, seven ships were built at the dockyard:

General Hope – schooner
Earl of Camden – schooner
HMS Caledonia – brig 1807
HMS General Hunter – brig 1809
HMS Queen Charlotte – 1810 ship-sloop
HMS Lady Prevost – schooner 1812
2nd HMS Detroit – 1813 ship-sloop

With the outbreak of the War of 1812, the Amherstburg Dockyard was rendered unsuitable, due to its very close proximity to Detroit, Michigan, on the opposite side of the river, and the American forces garrisoned there.

The dockyard was abandoned and burned, along with Fort Malden, by retreating British forces in 1813, when the area was over-run by the American Army. While Fort Malden was re-built by the occupying Americans, and later re-occupied by the British in the 1830s, the Kings Navy Dockyard was never re-built, having been replaced by the Penetanguishene Naval Dockyard in 1813, 300 miles north-east, in Penetanguishene.

The former site of the naval yard was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1928. Now known as the King’s Navy Yard Park, the 10.5-acre park features sculptures, several period canons, four historical buildings and four brass historical plaques detailing the history of the site.

One of the historic buildings found in the park is the Commissariat, which serves at the home of Provincial Marine Amherstburg, Ontario’s largest re-enactment group. It was formerly the Stores building for the Amherstburg Navy Yard and the place where soldiers picked up stipends for their services.

Be sure to stop by the Gordon House, built in 1802, which was once utilized as an infirmary for the provincial marine and birthing house for their wives, but now houses the town’s Tourist Information Center. You can pick up your illustrative map here and browse all the “hot spots” to visit in the Town of Amherstburg.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amherstburg_Royal_Naval_Dockyard, https://visitamherstburg.ca/visit-kings-navy-yard-park-a-historic-gem/, https://www.warof1812.ca/provmarine.htm.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-kings-navy-yard-historic-amherstburg-park-played-a-role-in-the-defence-of-upper-canada/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>