Located on the south side of Harbour Breton at the entrance to the harbour, Thompson’s Beach is a naturally formed, cobble and sand beach spanning approximately 700 metres, from the lighthouse on Rocky Point on its eastern end to a cluster of fishing premises on its western end. The designation is confined to that piece of land known locally as Thompson’s Beach.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land
Thompson’s Beach has been designated a municipal heritage site by the Town of Harbour Breton because of its historic, cultural and aesthetic values. Thompson’s Beach has historic value as the site of fishery related activity for over 300 years. The beach was an attraction to early fishermen as it provided room for drying fish and building stages and wharfs. In 1718, Captain William Taverner noted that “Harbour Breton is very Ragged Mountainous Land, in that harbour is a good Beech.” In 1766 Captain James Cook noted that “Thomson’s Beach,…whereon they lately built some good Buildings…, is the best situated for carrying on a fishery, or of any place on the North side of Fortune Bay.” Almost 100 years later in 1873, Dr. Conrad Fitz-Gerald, a Newman & Company doctor, also noted this beach. He stated that during “settling up time” in the fall of the year, as many as 150 ships would be anchored off Thompson’s Beach waiting to unload at the Newman premises. The beach has seen several commercial fishery operations over the years, including Clarke and Young, Newman and Company, Job Brothers, Hugh Coady Limited, British Columbia Packers and Fisheries Products International. It is still the location of the main fishery operations in the community. Thompson’s Beach has further historic value due to its association with Newman and Company, one of the largest English West Country merchants firms to operate in Newfoundland during the nineteenth century. The firm operated its import and export business in Harbour Breton for over 100 years (circa 1790-1907). Newman and Company did business with fishermen along the south coast, especially those in Fortune Bay. Thompson’s Beach was the hub of the Newman operations and the location of many of the Company’s stores and warehouses. From here, Newman and Company carried out the activities of the fish business and supply trade. Newman and Company also used the beach to clean and repair boats. The sandy western end of the beach was suitable for hauling in small schooners on the high tide. Repairs would then be done during low tide. Thompson’s Beach has cultural value for Harbour Breton residents who have a shared recollection of the cultural use of the beach. Newman and Company erected a battery on the beach to protect its premises. The cannons were often tested by firing across the harbour at Gun Hill. They were also fired to welcome special guests and dignitaries. Occasionally they would be fired to mark weddings. An account from 1877 describes this practice following the wedding of Dr. Conrad Fitz-Gerald, who was married in Belleoram on October 18, 1877 and later that day arrived in Harbour Breton aboard the Newman and Company vessel the Greyhound. The arrival is described as follows: “The crashing reports from every variety of fire-arm mingled with the reverberating roar of the cannon of the battery as the bridal ship rounded Rocky Point made excitement run high.” After marriage ceremonies in more recent years, cannons would be fired, not using cannon balls but a combination of beach rocks and old clothes for wads. The Battery had cannons of various sizes but the only remaining cannon is a six pounder. Thompson’s Beach has aesthetic value as a recognized landmark in the community of Harbour Breton. It has been valued for its natural features for centuries and remains an important component of the community’s landscape. Source: Town of Harbour Breton Regular Council Meeting Motion 09-:028:B April 29, 2009. NOTE: DESIGNATION RESCINDED IN 2011
Character Defining Elements
All those elements which represent the historical, cultural and aesthetic values of Thompson Beach, including: – the name Thompson’s beach, – association with the fishing industry; – remains of Newman battery; – continued public access to Thompson’s Beach, and; – the untouched, natural landscape of Thompson’s Beach.
Location and History
Town of Harbour Breton
1970 - 1970