Old St. Andrews



The St. Andrews Blockhouses



The West Point blockhouse is the last of three blockhouses which went up at the end of 1812 and beginning of 1813. They were paid for locally by well-heeled individuals such as Christopher Scott, a ship captain and shipbuilder from Greenock Scotland, the man who also financed the construction of Greenock Church. These amateur efforts were not very well done, however, and later in the year of 1813 the government upgraded these installations to something more fitting a proper military emplacement. During the entire period of the war the blockhouses probably never fired a shot, and served more as a symbol of defiance than as any real deterrent. They were staffed by only a skeleton Imperial garrison. An 1815 government report described the West Point blockhouse in some detail. "Inside the work [capable of housing 30 men] is a platform on which are mounted 18 pounder iron guns mounted on traversing platforms to fire en barbette. Outside the work are two nine pounders on standing wooden carriages. All these guns have been lately dismounted and the carriages put under cover, one 18 and one 19 pounder are in a terrible state (the former is said to be the property of the inhabitants). The other guns with the carriages, side arms, and ammunitions are complete. The blockhouse and breastwork are in want of repair." It is uncertain what exactly the original blockhouse looked like. It may have been covered with shingles or clapboards; there may have been a porch. Probably the garrison was quartered on the lower floor, with the upper serving as an arms storeroom.

In 1823 Scott petitioned the War Office for remuneration. This request fell on deaf ears, even though the buildings had been used to garrison several artillery men for years. The Imperial Government kept up only the barest of repairs on the blockhouses. By 1830 a report noted them to be in a serious state of decay. At this point in time the West Point blockhouse was noted to have a cookhouse and to be heated by oil stoves, replacing the original fireplaces. By 1840 even this building was much decayed, though it continued to be used as a barracks and a store for firearms. By 1853 the West Point blockhouse had been leased to a pensioner, John Shannon; this was considered an inexpensive way of dealing with military posts of lesser importance. Shannon was still there in 1887 when a report noted that the blockhouse and gun shed were occupied "by an old solder late His Majesty's 32nd regiment, aged 88 years. For over 30 years this man with his brother (who served in the same regiment and is about 78 years of age) had inhabited the site." Repairs and upkeep were contributed by both Shannon and the Government but both added little to keep the buildings in decent condition.

By this time the West Point blockhouse was the only one of the original three left standing. The one at Indian Point was taken down in 1847 during the construction of the St. Andrews and Quebec Railway. The one at Joe's Point was destroyed in the great Saxby Gale of 1869. The West Point blockhouse was handed over to the Canadian Government in 1871, and around this time Lady Tilley, wife of then Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick Sir Leonard Tilley, made some inquiries as to acquiring the property but nothing it seems was finalized on this notion. Assessments of the state of the structures at this time were quite negative. A lot of work would be required to make the buildings habitable. After the turn of the century the West Point blockhouse seems never to have been used again for military purposes. It began to be leased to the Town of St. Andrews around this time and may have been used as a tea house. In 1925 it was handed over to the Department of the Interior which continued to lease it to the Town.

The West Point block was approved as a National Historic Site in 1962. It was seriously damaged by fire in the early 1990's and rebuilt.

Most of the the information in this brief history was abstracted from "The West Blockhouse, St. Andrews, New Brunswick: A Structural Report," by George C. Ingram, 1965, Parks Canada, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Manuscript Report #134.