In 1761 Major General John Henry Bastide, the Chief Engineer and Superintendent of Fortifications at Halifax had constructed a small Barbette Battery on the shore at the south end of the town across from George’s Island. Elevated about 20 to 25 feet above the water, constructed of stone and gravel, supported by cross logs and covered with earth, this battery of three 24-pounder smooth-bore cannons was intended to support the fortifications on George’s Island in defending the narrows west of the island. The land immediately south of the battery incorporated a Lime Kiln and the King’s Lumber Yard, both of which provided material for military construction in Halifax.
When the French captured St. John’s, Newfoundland in July 1762 during the Seven Years’ War, the threat of a French attack at Halifax was heightened. Four additional cannons were added to the Barbette Battery, increasing its defences to seven 24-pounders. A large wharf was added at this time as well.
In 1778 during the American Revolutionary War the Barbette Battery was enlarged, giving it a frontage of 350 feet and mounting five 42-pounders, five 32-pounders and six 24-pounders. Angled to the southeast, the powerful battery could also enfilade the shore along Point Pleasant as well as support the guns at Fort Charlotte on George’s Island. A barracks for 100 men and a furnace to heat shot were added. The fortification was renamed at this time as McLean’s Battery (for Brigadier General Francis McLean, military commander at Halifax) and was also known as the Principal Battery.
Sometime during the six-year period when Prince Edward, Duke of Kent was Commander-in-Chief at Halifax (1794-1800) the battery was again renamed, as the Grand Battery. Its form was changed from a straight front to a crescent shape, and its armament reduced from sixteen to eleven guns – eight along the curved front and three on the short eastern extension – still however a formidable defensive fortification.
In 1812 three further acres of land were acquired immediately south of the Grand Battery and Lumber Yard. This increased footprint accommodated a new Royal Engineers’ Yard, with several wooden buildings and a 1½-story ironstone Engineers’ Office measuring 90 feet by 30 feet constructed in 1815. The Engineers’ Office was used as the office of the Commander Royal Engineers Halifax until it was acquired by Canadian National Railways in 1914, after Imperial forces had departed Halifax.
Today the site of the Grand Battery and Royal Engineers’ Yard is the location of the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, just east of Cornwallis Park near the intersection of South and Hollis Streets. All of the associated buildings were demolished around the 1930’s. Harry Piers indicates in The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress, 1749-1928, “the grass-covered ramparts (of the Grand Battery) could be plainly seen when the land was taken for railway purposes; but by 1930 almost the last vestiges had disappeared.”