Middle Ground

Historical Period

The hills that form the southwestern peninsular overlooking the British Naval Dockyard were of strategic importance for the protection of the facility, the moored fleet, and ships being repaired. This central area of rugged highlands was aptly named the Middle Ground. In recognition of its strategic importance, the ridge was fortified in 1791, the early days of the Napoleonic Wars. Fortifications include, gun-platforms, barracks for detachments of soldiers, and water cisterns. At the eastern end, the entrance to the harbor is the first line of defense, Fort Berkeley. In the middle sits the Keene 's or one-gun battery and Middle Ground Barracks, while at the western end of the ridge is picturesque Fort Cuyler. The barracks sited on the ridge was home to many, and is now the focus of archaeological investigation.

Buttons and uniform insignia from the 1 st , 4 th and 11 th West India Regiments (African soldiers), the 52nd Oxfordshire Regiment, the 89th Princess Victoria Regiment (1839-41), and the 74th Highlanders Regiment (1834-37), have been excavated.

Although badly looted, Middle Ground has yielded an interesting assemblage of artifacts. Among the most interesting features of the site are three oval shaped holes that are carved into the bedrock nearby. Similar holes were commonly made in northern Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria and used for the processing of grains and traditional foods, during this time period. The Middle Ground holes, and others in the area, were likely made and used by the Africans associated with the site. To date, four African/black regiments are known to have been stationed there.

The Middle Ground is sited along a now popular nature trail that overlooks English Harbour. Today, only the stone foundations of the quarters, kitchen, latrines, and cisterns are visible.


British Fortification Sites: Fort George/Monk's Hill| Middle Ground | The Ridge at Shirley's Height