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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 17

The Halifax Citadel, 1825-60: A Narrative and Structural History

by John Joseph Greenough

Appendix F: Drainage

The whole question of drainage and water supply is one of the most vexing of all the problems connected with writing about the construction of the Citadel. The problems involved are twofold. In the first place, there is a great deal of ambiguity in the documents concerning the water system which survive from the period prior to 1850. In the second place, we have no documentation at all for the critical period of 1851-54 in which the final system of pipes, tanks and drains was installed.

There seem to have been three different drainage systems. One was to keep the ditch dry, one was a sewage system, and one was a complicated system of pipes and tanks designed to collect and store surface water for the consumption of the garrison. In addition, there were two wells in the Citadel and provision was at one point made for the construction of a third. The wells, however, appear to have been entirely inadequate for the purpose of supplying drinking water1 and were of only marginal importance.

Colonel Nicolls, in his usual fashion, simply did not mention drainage at all. It was not until Colonel Jones drew up his revised estimate that the question of drainage and water supply was even raised. In the revised estimate, there are two provisions for drainage. Item 1 contains the specification for a main drain, and item 16 the specification for a surface drain for the ramparts.2 It is not clear where the main drain was to be placed, but presumably it was for sewage, and, as the estimate calls for 761 feet of it, it may well have connected with the city sewers. The surface drain was provided "for the interior [of the fort] and . . . for the Rampart."3 There is no indication where the surface drain for the interior of the fort was to go, but the rampart portion of it was designed for the rear of the retaining wall. The drains were to be constructed of "Pebbles laid on edge" and the water from the ramparts was apparently to run to waste in the parade square: "656 Supl. feet of 2 inch pine Plank in shoots [sic] for [blank in ms.] down behind the ramparts."

Nothing further was done about the problem until the mid-1840s. The main drain was probably built sometime in the early 1840s, but there was no progress made in the matter of surface drainage. When Colonel Calder drew up his supplementary estimate in 1846, he felt compelled to add a number of provisions for securing an adequate water supply. He proposed a system of drains to collect the surface water from the ramparts and store it in a tank which he proposed to build under one of the two casemates in the south side of the redan.4 He also proposed to construct an underground communication from the counterscarp gallery opposite the northeast salient to a well on the glacis. In addition, he estimated for the provision of hopper heads, stock pipes and gutters for "all the gargoyles and buildings with open roofs"5 to connect with the surface gutters in the parade square. These were not, apparently, provided to supply additional water to the tanks, but only to keep the water off the masonry of the buildings.6

Before any of Calder's suggestions could be carried out, the whole problem of casemate staunching arose. As water was the principal trouble, the question of drainage and water supply became inextricably tied to the staunching operations. In the process of finding a solution to the waterproofing problems, most of the earlier plans for drainage were altered beyond recognition or abandoned altogether. The well in the glacis and the passage leading to it were never constructed. The principle of water tanks was accepted, but the ones finally built were not placed under the casemate as planned. The surface gutters in the parade square were apparently abandoned. All these changes were relatively minor, the major problem was to dispose of the water from the ramparts and gargoyles. It rapidly became evident that the earlier expedients would not work.

The rampart surface drains proposed in the 1836 estimate (and never constructed) were intended only for the northeast salient and the redan. The pebble construction proposed was badly suited to the climate, and by 1848 it had become obvious that nothing short of granite gutters running along the entire circumference of the rampart retaining wall would suffice. Provision for the gutters was made in the staunching estimate of April 1349.7 The provision of the tank under the casemate in the south side of the redan was retained, but only a portion of the surface water (that from the northeast salient and the redan) was routed into it. The remainder was "permitted to run to waste in underground drains," but, as the estimate's preamble noted,

should it hereafter be found desirable to save it [the water] for consumption by the Troops, it can be collected with facility from the vertical pipes (herein provided) by means of conduit pipes connected thereto & leading to a tank in either of the casemates 13, 14, 15 or 16 [those in the north end of the curtain] or in any other situation that may be considered more desireable.8

At the same time, provision was made for providing a more sophisticated system for draining the dos d'anes. The old system of draining off the water from the gargoyles into the surface drains in the parade had one obvious disadvantage: the whole system froze solid in winter. The 1849 estimate proposed the substitution of an interior down pipe in each of the casemates and a system of underground drains beneath the parade square to carry off the water.9 It is not clear whether the water so collected was intended to be drained into a tank or whether it was to be allowed to go to waste, although the latter is more probable.

The provisions of the 1849 estimate were never carried out. The method of staunching was much altered, and with it the water system. Unfortunately we know almost nothing about the installation of the system finally adopted. We do, however, have some idea what it looked like. The total lack of documentary evidence means that the system described below is based, to a certain degree, on speculation, but it is, I think, fairly accurate.

The water tanks under the casemate in the south side of the redan were never installed. Instead Colonel Savage proposed around 1850 to construct three rainwater tanks and filters under the parade square. The two main tanks, each holding 66,000 gallons, were located in the northeast and southeast salients, while the third, a reserve tank for 30,000 gallons, was located behind the redan. The abandonment of the original proposal for tanks meant that some of the provisions for piping the water had to be drastically altered. The most obvious casualty was Colonel Calder's drain pipe for surface water running beneath the ramparts in the northeast salient and the redan. As this was no longer needed, it was dispensed with altogether.10

The water for the tanks was provided by the surface gutters behind the rampart retaining wall which were, in the end, constructed more or less according to the 1849 estimate. The water was collected by a series of pipes and deposited in one or another of the main tanks. The reserve tank was intended only for the overflow from either of the other two.11

Apparently only the water from the surface gutters was to be collected in the tanks. The water from the down pipes in the casemates was carried off through yet another system of underground drains into the main drain. Why this rather elaborate system of drainage was considered necessary, and, indeed, why the water drained from the dos d'anes was considered less palatable than the surface water, is something of a mystery. Nonetheless, the available plans seem to indicate that the system was installed as described above. I say "seem to indicate" because the earliest plan we possess which details all the Citadel drains dates from 1891, by which time the addition of new buildings and the Citadel's inclusion in the Halifax city water system (in 1868) had altered the situation somewhat.12

The tanks were in use by 1855, but, much to the horror of all concerned, they did not at first provide a supply of potable water. The 1856 committee examining the state of the Citadel, commenting on the water supply, is eloquent for what it does not say:

10. On the 26th Octr 1855, after the Citadel had been in the course of construction for 27 years, only one tank was reported as having water in it. —

A Medical Board inspecting it declared it neither fit for culinary or internal purposes. —

What state is it in now, and what supply of water is in the remaining tanks?

10. The water in the North tank is reported by a medical Board held on 1st April 1856 as being clear, of good quality and fit for all purposes. —

The water contained in the south tank is impregnated with lime and unfit for drinking or culinary purposes. —

That the water contained in the reserve tank is muddy and contaminated with lime and other impurities rendering it also unfit for use. —

The north tank is now 8/9ths full; the other two are quite full.13

The entire water system had an active life of less than 12 years. As has been mentioned, the Citadel was connected to the Halifax city water supply and the Citadel system passed into disuse. The water tanks were kept up, but the other components of the system were quickly forgotten. By 1869 the wells were quite literally lost; on 1 September, the CRE wrote to the Assistant Quartermaster General announcing that "In the Citadel two wells have been discovered since the report of 30th April last was forwarded."14

None of the above has much bearing on the system of drainage adopted for the ditch. Colonel Nicolls constructed drains for the ditch almost as soon as he had begun to dig it. These drains ran down into the glacis from the salient angles,15 but it is by no means certain where they emptied. The only documentary evidence is a plan for a drain for the privies which is shown connecting with a drain at the salient of the west ravelin and running down to cess pits dug in the lower part of the glacis slope.16

An item was included in the Ordnance annual estimate for 1859-60 for providing a cunette for the ditch. The plan accompanying this item shows that there were cess pits leading to existing drains at six points in the circumference of the ditch (at the redan salient, the northeast salient, the northwest salient, the west ravelin salient, the southwest salient and the southeast salient). The drains from the cess pits led "out of the Ditch through the Glacis."17

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