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.