The first Martello tower erected in Halifax, the Prince of Wales’ Tower was constructed between 1796 and 1798 under the direction of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and named for his brother, the future King George IV. Designed by Captain James Straton, C.R.E., it consisted of two stories with an embrasured parapet and was constructed of uncovered rubble metamorphosed slate, or ironstone, backed with brickwork. Located on the highest ground in Point Pleasant (125-feet above sea level), it stands 71 feet in diameter and 28 feet high. The walls at the base are 8 feet thick, tapering to just over 6 feet thick at the parapet. In the centre is a 13 foot diameter hollow shaft for hoisting ammunition from the magazine to the gun platform. It was designed to accommodate 200 men.
Intended to supplement the defence of the Northwest Arm and to guard the rear approaches to Fort Ogilvie, and Northwest Arm and Point Pleasant Batteries, the Tower’s early armament consisted of four 68-pounder carronades and two 24-pounder cannons on the roof, and four 6-pounder cannons on the second floor or barrack level. There were also 35 musketry loopholes on the ground floor and a further eight on the second level.
During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) a number of modifications were made to the Tower. A magazine to hold 80 barrels of powder was added on the ground floor in 1805. In 1811-12 the ten embrasures on the parapet were filled in, as they limited the ability of the guns to traverse, and a bombproof brick arch replaced the wooden upper gun platform or terreplein for defence against high-angle fire. The heavy carronades were replaced with six lighter 24-pounder carronades after this work was completed. A conical roof was added in 1825 to combat water leakage, but little else was done to maintain or update the Tower over the next three decades.
In 1862, amid heightened Anglo-American tensions during the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Prince of Wales’ Tower was again improved with the addition of four granite machicolated galleries to the parapet. These were intended to permit downward and flanking fire to enhance its close-range self-defence capabilities. With the introduction of longer range rifled muzzle loading (RML) guns in the 1860s the Tower became increasingly vulnerable as a defensive fort and was thereafter used mainly as a central ammunition magazine. Even so, in 1873 the armament of the Tower consisted of four 32-pounder smooth bore cannons and four 24-pounder carronades; this had been changed to five 64-pounder cannons by 1883, primarily to guard the entrance to the Northwest Arm.
The Tower’s usefulness as a defensive fortification declined further with the introduction of even longer range rifled breech-loading (RBL) guns after 1878, and armoured warships in the last decades of the 19th century. These developments led to the construction of newer, more powerfully armed defences located further to seaward and better able to protect Halifax from enemy attack.
The last pieces of ordnance were removed from the Tower during the 1890’s, and it served mainly as a storage facility from that point until responsibility for it was transferred to the Canadian Army in 1906. After that it fell into disuse. It was transferred to the Department for National Parks and Historic Sites in 1936, and designated a National Historic Site in 1943. It was finally restored in 1967 for public access, and a new wooden roof added in 2016. The Prince of Wales Tower today is the only site at Point Pleasant that is owned and administered by Parks Canada.