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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada




JANUARY 6, 1961

(Fortress of Louisbourg
Report H C 01)


1. Roof 

The original roof of the Chateau, which was shingled, leaked badly and this defect was attributed to an inadequate pitch. Between 1731 and 1735, the entire roof was replaced in order to raise the ridge, slate then being substituted for the previous wooden shingles. The ridge of the entire structure, with the exception of wing G, was elevated 2' 1 9/16" (2 pieds). In the latter wing, where the walls were concurrently being raised 6' 4 3/4" (6 pieds), the roof was raised an additional 4' 3 3/16" (4 pieds) so that its ridge was higher by 10' 7 15/16" (10 pieds) than the ridge in the remainder of the Chateau. In relation to sea level, the ridge of wing G would have had a final elevation of 80', while the ridge in the rest of the building had an elevation of 69' 4". The main block had a simple peaked roof, its ridge terminating in the wings. In the wings, the short ridge was at right angles to that of the main block and the sides towards the east were hipped.

No plans or specifications for the framing of the new roof have come to light. It being a reasonable assumption that its basic design conformed with that of the first roof - with possibly heavier structural members to carry the weight of the slate - the following information from the specifications for the original roof may be of assistance.

A ridge-pole, 8 1/2" by 9 5/8", was set on top of the longitudinal separation wall, where that wall was built up past the plate. Masonry filling was inserted around this ridge-pole, which was shaped on its upper face to fit the peak. In areas where the longitudinal wall was not elevated to the ridge, a series of King-posts provided the support. Two purlins, 8 1/2" by 9 5/8", were used on either side of the roof. Evenly spaced between the eaves and the peak the purlins were set into the masonry of the cross-walls (which were triangular in outline in the attics). All principal rafters, valley rafters and hip rafters were also 8 1/2" by 9 5/8". Common rafters were 4 1/4" by 4 1/4", spaced 2'8" centre to centre, and the plate was 4 1/4" by 8 1/2". Purlin posts were placed under the junctions of purlins and hip rafters. The sheathing of the roof was 1 1/6" boards laid tight i.e. with no spacing. A triangular filling-piece of masonry was set outside the plate to support the "coysaux" of the roof which was stated to be 3' 2 1/2" long and 4 1/4" in cross section. This placement of the coyaux created the slight flair to the eaves that is to be found on contemporary French buildings - it was in effect, a modified Dutch kick.

Because of the absence of the supporting longitudinal wall in the chapel, which was open, the chapel roof was supported by a complicated system of trusses and king-posts. Cross-members rested on the tops of the four pairs of masonry pilasters on the east and west perimeter walls. Three purlins were used on each side of the roof. As in the rest of the structure, the purlins were 8 1/2" by 9 5/8" as were all members of the truss system including the king-post bracing. Attached Plan Nos. 14, 17 & 20 represent an attempt to interpret the framing of the chapel roof, on the basis of quantities of material used by the original contractor.

Initially, very small dormers were set in the attic roof immediately above each of the first floor windows. Documentary evidence establishes that between 1725 and 1727 every alternate dormer was eliminated, accounting for the lack of symmetry in dormer placement on the 1729 plan. when the shingle roof was replaced by slate, the dormers were relocated above the bays of the ground and first floors, as shown in the 1731 plan. The latter plan also indicates that the dormers were made larger at the time of their relocation, although there is no specific information concerning their size.

Early documentary evidence refers to two dormers in the attic roof of the chapel, one to each side. These dormers contained oval windows, each with four panes of glass 6 3/8" X 8 1/2". Whether the windows were set in the same peak-roofed dormers as prevailed in the rest of the Chateau, or whether they were placed in the curved-roof dormers more customary for oval windows is not clear. In any case, there is the strong possibility that the dormers were eliminated from the chapel roof during its raising and slating, for there is no sign of them. on the 1731 plan.

2. Joists and Floors

All joists throughout the structure were specified to be 8 9/16" by 9 9/16" (8 pouces by 9 pouces). The instruction to lay them on their "strong parts" can be interpreted to mean that they were placed with the larger dimension on the horizontal - the reverse of modern practice, but not unusual in lath century buildings. [Note: This interpretation is faulty - strong parts [sur leur fort] means with the curve (if any) on top and on the thinner dimension [sur le champ] for strength]Because of the restoration work of the 1930's, archaeology cannot confirm definitely the size and placement of joists, although there is indication in the rebuilt "beam-holes" that, on the average, they conformed to the stated size and were laid in accordance with the specifications. They run north and south, on 3' 3 7/6" centres (3 pieds, 1 pouce), their extremities being let into the masonry cross-walls to a minimum depth of 6 3/8" (6 pouces). Their length was 20' 3 1/16" (19 pieds). Historical evidence suggests the use of block-bridging in heavy-loading areas e.g. around fireplaces on the first floor.

In areas without cellars, such as the chapel, sleepers - resting on the ground and running east and west on approximately 6' centres - carried the floor structure. Considering the average elevation of 34.85' for the upper surface of sleepers in situ in the chapel, it seems probable that joists running north and south were set on the sleepers to support the flooring. 

The flooring, 2 1/8" (2 pouces) thick and presumably random width (since it must have been whip-sawn) incorporated some sort of spline or slip-tongue. Boards were specified to be secured on each joist with two nails and were planed on one side only. In a 1727 statement of work completed in the Chateau there is an enigmatic reference to a '"floor pegged in wood" with no clue as to where this special floor was located.

3. Partitions

Wooden partitions were used throughout the Chateau to enclose staircases. They were also used in wing G and in the Officers' quarters to divide the modules created by the masonry walls into smaller private rooms. The location of these latter partitions is believed to be as shown on the 1731 historical plan, with those on the first floor following the pattern set forth for the ground floor.

Initially, the partitions were specified to be of 1" plank, but as early as 1727 the contractor Ganet reported that 2" material would be used as the stipulated thickness did not provide the required solidity. Subsequent statements of completed work confirm the use of 2" planking. The partitions were described as being "well jointed" but no indication is given as to the type of jointing - although a spline would have served the purpose better than ship-lap. Held at the bottom and top by tringles, the planks were dressed on both sides.

4. Portal Gates and Doors

Substantial barrier gates closed each extremity of the central passageway. The gate on the town side was made of two thicknesses of 2 1/8" (2 pouces) birch planking and the gate itself was in two halves. Each half was hung by two pairs of massive strap hinges, the pintles of which were anchored in the masonry of the gateway. No clear evidence has been located concerning the nature of the framing of the exterior gate. Even less information is available regarding the gate on the terreplein side. A survey of 1727 might possibly be construed to indicate a wooden grille in lieu of a solid gate but this is pure speculation. 

All exterior doors were 2 1/8" (2 pouces) thick and hung with strap hinges. There is documentary proof that the pintles, at least in the case of the soldiers' barracks, were leaded in the brick jambs, but whether the door closed against brick-work or against a wooden frame is not clear. How the doors themselves were constructed is not known, except that five of them (on rooms Ig 25, Sg 24, Sg 16, Og 9 and Og 7) were equipped with transom windows. As previously stated, each of these doors was to be 5' 10 1/4" high and 3' 2 1/2" wide and each transom was to be 3' 1 1/2" by 1' 1" with 5 lites of 6 1/2" by 8 1/2" glass. The presence of transoms would seem to indicate that in the case of these five doors at least a wooden frame was employed. Sizes of other exterior doors were as discussed in the section dealing with openings in perimeter walls.

The average interior door was specified as 6' 5" high and 3' 2" wide. It is known that they were built of 1 1/16" (1 pouce) boards but no specific information is available concerning their design other than that to be derived from a 1718 specification which states that they were to be built with "casing" 5 or 6 pouces wide. This can be taken to mean a door which had a framing around its perimeter enclosing the planks, although it does not clarify whether or not the planking was set on the diagonal, the vertical or the horizontal. A 1727 statement of work completed lists "doors beside the altar" under cabinet-work, rather than with the carpenty-work, which included the standard doors. This leads to the conclusion that the interior doors in the chapel were of more elaborate design and finer finish. The same 1727 listing of cabinet-work makes cryptic reference to "door casings", implying that some other unidentified doors possessed special detailing. It may be speculated that these latter doors were in wing G which could be expected to have more refinement in its interior trim than the rest of the Chateau.

5. Window sash Shutters and Glass 

Beyond the facts that all windows were of the casement type, that their frames were originally specified to be of oak and that the standard window of 4'5" by 3' 2 1/2" had 20 lites of glass, each measuring 8 9/16" by 6 3/8" (8 pouces by 6 pouces), there is no information concerning the design of window frames or sash.

In the case of the eight large chapel windows, 48 lites of glass, each 8" X 9 1/16" were required and the windows were 9' 7" high by 4' 9 1/2" wide. There is the suggestion that iron was used in the construction of the sash and that the panes of glass were leaded in position. This could mean that the sash in question were built like those still in the chapel at Mont Dauphin. 

The specifications of 1718 stipulated that panes should be of ''clear, strong glass" and that the lites would be held at the corners with little points of iron. Continuing, the instructions are that the panes are to be "surrounded by lead drawn to a thread in the largest and strongest mariner."

All windows in the Chateau appear to have had exterior shutters, with the exception of those in the Chapel and in the basement. Shutters were built of 1 1/16" (1 pouce) boards and the 1718 specification which ordered interior doors to be built with a casing included shutters in this directive i.e. the framing for shutters and doors was the same. While it is logical to assume that since the windows were casement, the shutters would be constructed in two halves, meeting at the centre, no specific design is available. 

No evidence has been found to establish the presence of either window sash or shutters on the small basement windows. It may very well be that the cellar vents were equipped only with the iron bars that are to be seen on contemporary basement windows in French fortifications.

6. Ceilings 

Three areas in the Chateau are definitely known to have had wooden ceilings - the chapel, the armoury and the Governor's kitchen (room Gg3). It was stated that the kitchen was provided with the wood ceiling to prevent cooking odours penetrating to the room above, while the ceiling in the chapel was obviously intended to conceal the frame-work of the roof structure. All these ceilings are known to have been built of 1 1/16" (1 pouce) boards but no more information is available. An interpretation of what the chapel ceiling may have looked like can be seen in accompanying Plans Nos. 17 and 20.

In all other rooms, it must be assumed that the joists of the floor above were exposed.

7. Interior Trim 

Although the statement in a 1727 supplement to a contract that "where a cornice or some other moulding (in wood) is required, the profiles will be given" is clear indication that ornamentation was contemplated for some areas of the Chateau, specific information concerning interior trim is meager. 

A 1727 statement of work completed lists 1 1/16" (1 pouce) boards "applied all around the high rooms of the pavilion" (wing G). Bearing in mind that wing G had then not yet been elevated to create the higher ceilings on the first floor, it is difficult to decipher what was meant by "salles hautes" - could it mean principal rooms or those on the higher floor i.e. the first. The same 1727 document does, however, supply proof that the walls of the armoury were sheeted with 1 1/16" (1 pouce boards.

A 1741 document contains a clear reference to ''lambris" in connection Judith the "salle" and "cabinet" of the Governor (assumed to be rooms Gf2 and Gf 3 respectively). The problem here is that "lambris" could mean either "wainscotting'' or "panelling" and no detail of its design is given. A 1744 survey of work completed has another reference to "lambris" in 1 1/16" boards, but this could well be the same wood-work as was mentioned in 1741. 

Positive proof exists for an ornamental wooden cornice at the top of the pilasters in the chapel. It is also known that a wooden balustrade - listed under cabinet-work was provided in the chapel. Whether the balustrade was connected with the communion rail or was the railing on the gallery is not yet clear. 

It would be reasonable to assume that the junction of masonry walls and wooden floors was closed with at least a wooden shoe. No evidence for this has been found, although there is indication of the provision of a 6 3/8 (6 pouces) baseboard for some unidentified rooms. 

8. Staircases 

The 1745 locations of staircases in the Chateau are to be as shown in the 1731 historical plan, with two exceptions. In the first case, documentary evidence establishes that the circular staircase shown between rooms Sg 12 and Sf 13 was removed in the 1730's. The second stairway in dispute is another built around a central newel, that connecting rooms Ig 28 and If 28. Archaeology has located a doorway right across its base. Granting that the doorway was rebuilt in the 1930's, this evidence could mean that the stairway was relocated as part of the renovations planned for wing I (even though it is known that the majority of these plans were never executed). 

It is definite that only one staircase communicated between the ground floor and the cellars, that leading from Sg 20 to the bakery. All that is known about it is that its stringers were of 3 3/16" by 10 11/16" material. Access to all other cellars was by way of trap doors and ladders. 

With one exception, the staircases between the ground and first floors had these features in common: treads were of 2 1/8" (2 pouces) material; risers were of 1 1/16" (1 pouce) boards and it would appear that the approximate width of the tread was 10 11/16" (10 pouces) with the height of risers in the neighbourhood of 6 3/8" (6 pouces). They were built either against a masonry partition wall or, when that was lacking, a plank partition wall and are believed to have been enclosed, rather than equipped with a banister. The 1727 survey of work completed indicates a step of 3' 2 3/8" ( 3 pieds) width in the soldiers' barracks, while those in the officers' quarters were 2' 11 2/16" wide (2 pieds, 9 pouces). There is also an indication that the stringers for the officers' stairs were longer than those in the mens' quarters, suggesting a shallower riser or wider tread. Little is known concerning the "grand" staircase of wing G except that it was installed as part of the improvements of the early 1730's. Its representation on the 1731 plan shows a far greater width than any other stairway, with a landing part way up. Logically, this staircase should have had a balustrade in the manner of that in the Pavilion at Mont Dauphin, but no documentation has been found concerning it. 

It is likely that the staircases between the first floor and the attic paralleled those between the ground and first floor in location, but evidence suggests they were steeper. A survey of work completed refers to "tambours" in the attics, which could mean that the attic staircases emerged into the attics within a sort of hutch., equipped with a door to prevent heat loss. 

9. Belfry

The framing of the belfry surmounting the tower is thought to have been in accordance with the 1733 plan. Its timber structure was covered in slate with lead flashing. An iron fleur de lys at the top of the spire was 3' 2 3/8" (3 pieds) high and the bell which was suspended in the chamber above the clock is known to have been 3' 2 1/2" in diameter in 1745. 

Elevations above sea level are believed to be as follows: 

10. Chapel Gallery

Historical research has, as yet, been unable to determine the dimensions of the gallery known to have existed at the north end of the chapel. All that has been established is that it was supported by iron brackets on the level of the first off-set of the great buttresses on the passageway wall. As was mentioned in the section on interior trim, the balcony may have had a wooden balustrade.

An enclosed staircase led from the gallery to the nave of the chapel. That this stairway was secured by a door, either at its top or bottom, is clear from a document which states that the officers were issued with 47 pass keys for the lock on the gallery door. 

Entrance Bridge

The bridge which spanned the 41' 6 7/8" wide (27 pieds) ditch of the chateau on the town side had a movable span that was 9' 3/4" (8 pieds, 6 pouces) long. This movable part, or drawbridge, was incorporated into the monumental gates in that it fitted, when raised, into a recess in the cut-stone gateway. While a plan of this drawbridge has not been found, its principle of operation is known to have been identical with that of the larger bridge at the Queen's Gate (for which a detailed drawing has survived). Basically, the outer portion of the movable span of 9' 3/4" was exactly equalled in weight by a counter-balance which descended, as the communication was broken, into a chamber excavated below the central passageway. In order to operate the bridge, it was necessary to descend into the bascule chamber, access being by way of a trap-door in the south-east corner of room Sg 14 and a short connecting tunnel. 

Width of the fixed portion of the bridge was at least 11' and it was about 21' 3 7/8" in length. Its 2 1/8" (2 pouces) planking was supported by four 9 9/16" by 1' 13/16" stringers that rested on the counterscarp wall of the Chateau ditch and upon two pairs of equally-spaced masonry piers. 

Flèches of the bascule portion of the bridge, the pintles of which were approximately 9' 3/4" from its outer extremity could not have had an over-all length of more than 15'. They were of 9 9/16 by 1' 13/16" material, as were the two principal cross-members in the drawbridge. The floor of the central passageway above the bascule chamber consisted of 2 1/8" thick plank, nailed to four stringers, 8 9/16" by 9 9/16". 

The complete list of timbers used in the construction of the bridge is as follows: 


Fixed bridge: 

12. Balcony 

A balcony was constructed on the terreplein side of the Governor's wing on the level of the first floor. This balcony has not yet been discovered on any historical plan, although documentary evidence makes clear that it did exist.

The exterior door already described in Gf 2w gave access to the balcony, from which, in turn, a short staircase led to the terreplein of the rampart on the bastion's left flank. One interpretation of the historical evidence is that the balcony's platform measured l9 pieds by 3 pieds and that it was supported by corbels (presumably of wood since no cut-stone brackets are mentioned.) 

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