Imagine trying to settle a new area and at the same time to have the lingering fear of an angry armed hoard of invaders potentially popping up over your local hill.  This would definitely put a damper on the excitement that would come from the discovery and exploration of your new home land.

We’re launching a two-part series starting today that takes a look at one of the cornerstones of our defense facilities, Macaulay Point Park.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

As the British empire went about establishing communities in the newly discovered lands of North America, wars were brewing in Europe.  At first, that sense of separation by vast oceans must have given the settlers a sense of security, but as events unfolded in the world it became evident that there was a need to create a bastion of defense on the west coast.  Macaulay Point represents the first such bastion for Britain on the west coast for both North and South America, making this a historically significant location.

Two facilities were created during the founding, one is here in Esquimalt in Victoria, BC, the other is located across the inlet at Fort Rodd Hill.  As the original settlers and founders stood on this knoll looking south to the United States, they must have been filled with a sense of wonder.  The Cascade Mountain range is clearly visible, presenting a commanding and strong presence on the horizon.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

The Esquimalt harbor was initially used by the British Royal Navy in the 1840′s.  In the mid 1850′s it became a fully active naval base and as the crisis in the Balkans made war imminent in 1878, Macaulay Point was designed and armed.  Three 7-inch RML guns were initially installed at the location but soon thereafter were deemed inadequate and the infrastructure for our local navy was then outlined and created.  Thus began the naval presence in the city of Victoria and its surrounding areas.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

In 1985 the area was transformed into a municipal park that remains a highlight for locals and visitors alike today.  The old bunkers and ammunition stores are colorful highlights to take in and enjoy when visiting the park.  The day we were here on our shoot, many people were busily making their way around taking in all the sights, but with that being said a distinct heavy feeling followed us as we went about our work photographing this great location.  This park is rich in history, and for those who were actively stationed here during the founding times, it must have been a terrifying experience just waiting for the war in Europe to cross our shores.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

The sound of boots rang in our ears as we made our way around the site.  How many young men trained to ready for what was considered to be an impending invasion?  What did they think and feel as they went about their activities?  They must have been filled with a sense of pride in protecting the new villages and communities of the emerging British empire.  Today, these barracks are all well maintained, likely a side-effect of the stringent security mechanisms placed to protect these historic facilities.

All of this just made us want inside even more…

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

We come around a corner and encountered another ammunition store.  We found ourselves utterly fascinated by the wear and weathering that is so evident, even inside such a structure.  This history simply oozes out of these thick concrete walls.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

As we peer through one of the lookout portals, our curiosity further peaks.  You can almost sense the butterflies that must have filled the young soldiers as they awaited a war that never came.  In some senses, that fear is sometimes worse than actually being confronted with such a situation.  Don’t get me wrong, war is a horrible thing but so is gut-wrenching, unabating fear.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Probably one of the best aspects of this site is all the hidden tunnels, nooks and crannies.  Many of these entrances are now welded shut and are completely inaccessible, leaving their internals entirely to the imagination of the visitor.  This only serves to further the mystery and curiosity one has when touring the area.  This tunnel was built in 1895, making it a very early part of the history of Victoria.  It connects bunkers and gun emplacements with each other, allowing the battalions who once actively used this area a safe means of moving around the site.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

This is, without any doubt, my favorite image from the adventure we had this day.  We clearly have found the limits of my camera in terms of its low-light abilities, but I still feel the picture tells a dramatic story.  The rich textures in the ceiling, the walls and the floor all speak to the hard labor that went into making these tunnels.  Modern construction equipment was years away when this site was built, meaning these tunnels were made by blasting and hand digging.

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

Macaulay Point Park - Victoria, BC, Canada

This is the view as we come out the other side of the tunnel shown above.  Right behind us is a lookout and the actual gun batteries.  These items will be highlighted in our second part of this series, coming early next week.

I think one of the key lessons I have come away with from this visit is how the specter of war hangs over almost everyone’s head since the dawn of humanity.  We, as a people, have moved through countless cycles and times of war yet the human race persists; in some cases against all odds.  Today here in Victoria the city is calm and restive, the people move about their days with a smile on their face, all too happy to say hi to a passing stranger.  And even though we all live in a time of peace and relative prosperity, war is occurring half way around the world.  Modern communications make these events shrink in terms of geography, producing an entire generation that is acutely aware of these happenings.  Sure, our equipment has been vastly modernized and in some cases wars are handled with minimal human involvement directly on the battlefield, but this makes the act itself no less concerning.

Any even with that all being said, the ability to come to places like Macaulay Point and walk around in the footsteps left by those before us creates a strong and powerful connection with our past.  And quite honestly, it’s rather compelling.

Please stay tuned for our second part to this series, slated to hit our photo-blog early next week.  And in the meantime, as always we ask all our visitors to leave us any comments you may have as we really do love to hear from you all.

Sources

Defending The Coast

Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site

Township of Esquimalt



  1. What a great slice of history. There are several gun emplacements similar to this around the south coast of England, many from this era and the designs are very similar.
    Great set of images, you can really feel the age of the place.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      That totally makes sense due to how we are a British colony and the original creation and management of this facility was by the British Royal Navy. I would LOVE to see some of these that are in the UK Chris. That would be really neat. Thanks ever so kindly for your visit and comments today, my friend, we really appreciate it so very much!

  2. [...] our blog "Macaulay Point: The First Bastion: Pt 1" for the story behind the photos. Bookmark the permalink. ← Grand Place (Brussels) [...]

  3. avatar Mike Crosa says:

    Looking forward to the next installment. I visited your island back in the late 1990′s and remember it as beautiful.

    Mike

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Awesome of you to say, Mike, thank you so very much! We really appreciate your kind visit and comments here!

  4. avatar ehpem says:

    Great set Toad – I must go there again – its been a long time. Love that tunnel shot!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I’ve personally known about the place for years and years. Never been, though! So, this is another example of how the art of photography gets us out and about interacting with our surroundings and getting directly involved in our history! I love it!! Thanks so much for taking the time to pop by today and for leaving us your wonderful comments, we really do appreciate it!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Fantastic history Toad and these images are incredible. I particularly love the the first image…the light and composition are awesome and also the 5th image. I want to grab those bars and say “let me in” or “let me out” depending on how you look at it…lol. Great job.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wonderful comments here, Edith, thanks so much!! :) That’s pretty much the feeling we had when we we there shooting it. We really appreciate you taking the time to pop by, and for leaving us these awesome comments my friend, thank you!

  6. avatar LensScaper says:

    Great piece of history recorded here. Have to say I had no idea about how this outpost of the British Empire was being prepared to repel potential invaders.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It’s funny, I’ve lived here since 1980 and I didn’t really know much about it myself! Getting out, doing the shoot and the follow-up research brought this all to light for us as well! I love photography. Thanks so very kindly for popping by and leaving us your comments, my friend, much appreciated!

  7. avatar Fred Norris says:

    Fantastic job Toad ,spot on presentation!Reminds me alot of a place called Thamesmead on this side of the water.Thanks for sharing mate

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      One day, my friend, you’ll have to come here for a visit and we’ll have to come to your area for a visit! Sounds like we’ve got quite a bit in common in some ways? Thanks ever so kindly for your ongoing friendship and support Fred, it really does mean a lot to us!

  8. Brilliant work again, Scott!

  9. Awesome images Toad! The accompanying storyline helps me to imagine just what it must have been like there many years ago. I always enjoy reading your posts and I can’t wait to see part 2!

  10. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    It is quite amazing and interesting to learn about the history of different places and you have done a wonderful job telling it Toad. I agree with you that the fear of anticipation is sometimes worse than the event itself. Great series of images add to the story.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You are so very kind Len, thanks so much! We really appreciate you taking the time to visit, and for leaving us your awesome comments here!

  11. This is one of my favorite posts of yours Toad. A wonderful history lesson combined with beautiful imagery. I especially like the shot looking through the iron bars. Great pov and processing. I’m very much looking forward to Part 2.

  12. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Wow, that tunnel would have given me a bit of curious trepidation. Exciting!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It did me, that’s for sure Aaron! Thanks so much for popping by and leaving us your wonderful comments!

  13. avatar Rich McPeek says:

    Terrific history lesson and amazing photos! Love these all! Great work my friend!

  14. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    Another gem my friend. Nice work. I dig all the shots. I am noting all these awesome places you share for my trip to Canada :)

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Most excellent, indeed, Adam! Thanks so much for all your support my friend! And honestly!… if you’re coming here for a visit you must let us know so we can get together! :)

  15. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Outstanding post, Toad. These photos are great and I’m always up for a nice back story. :-) Thanks for sharing, bud.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, Jimi, thanks for taking the time to pop by today and for leaving us your wonderful comments, good sir! It means so much to us here!

  16. avatar lisa says:

    These are truly magnificent images!

  17. avatar Sean says:

    Thank you these images. I grew up in the military PMQ (military) housing right next to Macauly Point in the 1980′s, and these barracks were our playground as kids. In the early 80′s however, the buildings were not sealed and most of us being military brats and the perfect place to play and imitate our fathers. The building accessed by going up the tunnel was the perfect setting for games of “capture the flag”. Having moved away several years ago I had always wondered if this area had been preserved and I am glad to see it has been. Your images brought back a flood of memories for me, so thank you so much for putting these online.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wow, Sean, what a wonderful comment to leave us. Thank you for taking the time to visit, and for leaving us your wonderful story to enjoy here. I have a special gift I am about to send you here, watch your inbox my friend.

      • avatar Jack Bates says:

        Wonderful photographs of this site, you have captured the essence of the collective entity of the site. I could elaborate on the history if you wish, and show you some additional high lights.

        • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

          Hi Jack, thank you for your kind visit here, we really appreciate it and love connecting with folks who have interest in the features we post. Yes, please, we would love to follow up with you on the story here!

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