History and Heritage

Taking its name from a coastal town in Devonshire, England, Torbay has a history that dates back to the start of the early English fishery in the late 1500s. The oldest surviving documentary reference to Torbay in Newfoundland is John Mason’s map which was made in 1617. The census of 1677 indicated residents from “Tarr-Bay,” Newfoundland. By 1794, the population totalled 108 English settlers and 99 Irish settlers. According to Bob Codner in the book, The History of Torbay, “The other major milestone in the history and development of Torbay which occurred in the late 1700s was the arrival of a substantial number of Irish Settlers. The blending together of the English and the Irish, coupled with the beginnings of agriculture as an important supplement to the fishery, established the character of Torbay,” (1996: 5).

The Community of Torbay experienced three French Campaigns, the first as early as 1696. These invasions contributed to the eventual construction of the Torbay Battery in 1781. The Town was officially established soon after Colonel William Amherst and his troops landed, in 1762, on their way to recapturing the capital City of St. John’s. This event was officially recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1952, and again in 1978 when the first Mayor of Torbay, William Manning, unveiled a stone monument and plaque at the present-day Veterans’ Memorial. In 2012, Torbay commemorated the 250th anniversary of this historic event.

Today, Torbay attracts tourists with its historic sites and scenic coastline. It has evolved from a bedroom community for nearby St. John’s and is now the second fastest growing municipality in Newfoundland and Labrador. Even with this development, Torbay continues to keep vestiges of its long and storied past. Torbay’s Municipal Heritage Sites include the Codner House, Old St. Nicholas Anglican Cemetery and the Old Holy Trinity Parish Cemetery.


Bored by storyboards and polished plaques full of names, dates, and “important” facts?

We are too.

In Torbay, heritage isn’t something you see, it’s something you shape.

A joint venture of the Torbay Museum and the Town of Torbay, Sheritage is a self-guided audio tour partnered with the [HERE] SAY Story Maps of Water Street and the Outer Battery (www.heresay.ca), and now you have a chance to experience it for yourself in Torbay.

Sheritage (sharing + heritage) lets you hear personal stories on location. When you’re out for a walk, look for the Sheritage signs throughout the community. You’ll see a phone number and a 3-digit-code. Dial the number on your mobile phone, punch in the code, and hear a story about the spot where you’re standing.


Join the Conversation

Unlike a lot of heritage interpretation that tells visitors what’s important about a place or event, the sheritage project gives you a chance to express what is important about the town’s past and, more importantly, encourages you to discuss and debate ideas as part of an open, public conversation.

Please click here for further information.

Please click here to view the Sheritage Map.


What are the ingredients of a shared heritage?

Can remembering bring us closer together? Are some things best left in the past? Is there room for imagination? Should history include a good laugh?

We’re encouraging everyone to join the conversation and help us decide what our shared heritage should look like. So grab your cell phone and start exploring the Town of Torbay. Discover each of our sheritage sites. Find the phone number and code that unlocks a local story told by a local voice. Call, consider and then comment. An opportunity to suggest your own “ingredients” is featured at the Torbay Museum, and you can share your own story by calling the sheritage phone number.

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