Romaine to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
10 May 1859
Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of the 26th January last, with its enclosures from the Governor of British Columbia, on the Subject of the establishment of a Sea Port Town for that Colony, on which Secretary Sir Edward Lytton wished to receive any observations which my Lords might have to offer on this important matter; I am commanded by their Lordships to acquaint you for the information of Sir E. Lytton that if Vancouver's Island be included, there is no doubt but that Esquimalt is the bestManuscript imagebest harbour in the vicinity of the Colony of British Columbia, and that in its shores would be the site for a Sea Port Town. The Harbour is easy of access, it has sufficient depth of water for the largest Ships, ample space, good shelter, fresh water, a large supply of Timber fit for Ships Masts and Ship building, and every requisite for a harbour, either Naval or Mercantile; and from its natural advantages must be eventually one of the great Sea Ports of this part of the West.
Vancouver Island however is not at present within the Limits of the Colony of British Columbia; and if a site for a sea port town within those limits is required my Lords are not aware (until a more extended survey is made) that a better can be found, in the southern part of the ColonyManuscript imageColony, than on the Frazer River, at the spot pointed out by Governor Douglas, just above Annacis Island of the charts, on the North bank of the Stream, at about 14 Nautical Miles within the Sand Heads, and ten miles below Fort Langley. It is here that the riding ground begins, the river is 400 yards broad, or wider and deeper than the Thames at London Bridge; the shore is bold, suitable for wharves and quays for vessels to lie alongside; and Ships with a fair wind might reach so far without difficulty under sail. The site is well-placed, locally, in a Military point of view, and it has the river between it and the boundary line. It is however not far from the frontier.
The channel with the river, as far as is yet known, is rather tortuous; it is reputed to have a depth of 18 feet at low waterManuscript imagewater, with a six feet ride of tide, and it is not exposed to any very heavy sea. When Captain Richards in Her Majesty's Ship Plumper can find time to examine the bar, and buoy off the channel, it may prove to be better.
Should this site be adopted, it would be absolutely necessary to station a pilot vessel at the entrance of the river, which should also be fitted to serve as a Light Ship by night, and should sound a gong or ring a bell in foggy weather.
With respect to a site for a sea port town in the same Northern portion of the Colony, it would be better that this question be postponed until Captain Richards has had an opportunity of examining the Coast. There are numerous inlets, but atManuscript imageat present the information is so limited that it could be unwise to hazard a conjecture as to the next best site.
I am etc.
W.G. Romaine
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Lord Carnarvon
As it is impossible to say at present when, if ever, B. Columbia and Van Couver's Island shall be united, and as there is already an established Port of Entry (Victoria—though Esquimalt is preferable) in V.C. Isd it only remains to consider the position for the Port in B. Columbia. And that point seems pretty well determined both by this Letter—Govr Douglas' despatches and by Colonel Moody's opinion. They all agree that it should be somewhere about the spot selected for the site of the Capital. The War Office will shortly report their views as to the position proposed for this Capital, & then, I think, will be the appropriate time to furnish the Governor with the copy of this Letter—whereby we shall combine in one despatch the views of both Military Departments on the two subjects.
ABd 12 May
I agree.
C May 13