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The Welsford-Parker Monument (also known as the Sebastopol monument or the Crimean War monument) is a memorial arch located in Halifax’s Old Burying Ground which was established as a common burial ground outside the stockade of the new fortified town and was in use from 1749 to 1844. The Welsford-Parker Monument is a rare pre-Confederation war memorial that stands prominently at the entrance of the cemetery. The city’s first public monument was dedicated to two Haligonians who served with the British forces – Major Augustus Frederick Welsford (b. 7 March 1811) of the 97th Regiment and Captain William Buck Carthew Augustus Parker (b. c.1821) of the 77th Regiment – who both died during the Battle of the Great Redan on 8 September 1855, a major battle during the Crimean War (1853-1856), fought between British forces against Russia as part of the Siege of Sevastopol (1854-1855). Welsford was commanding a ladder party of two hundred men when after rushing toward the Great Redan, they scaled the parapets in the face of heavy fire and while leading his men, a gun was fired from within an embrasure which decapitated his head. As for Parker, he also fell at the storming of the Redan. While he managed to successfully scale the counterscarp and entered the work, he was killed by a hail of bullets which swept him into the ditch – leaving behind his widow Harriet White and three daughters – Harriette, aged 9; Fanny, aged 3; and one year-old Augusta.
Nearly five years after their deaths, on 17 July 1860, these two Nova Scotian officers, regarded as imperial heroes, were honoured by the unveiling of Canada’s oldest memorial arch, and considered the only Crimean War monument in North America. Built by stone sculptor George Lang (c.1821-1881), the arch not only commemorates the British victory in the Crimean War but also pays tribute to Halifax’s fallen sons who fought “gallantly” in the war. The free-stone arch is surmounted by the British lion – some whom complained it was chiselled a little to small – and has inscribed on its façade the names of ‘WELSFORD’ and ‘PARKER’, along with their regimental affiliations. Also engraved surrounding the monument are the names of the six battles the British army fought to reach Sevastopol, the capital of Crimea: ‘ALMA’ (September 1854), ‘BALAKLAVA’ (October 1854), ‘INKERMAN’ (November 1854), ‘TCHERANYA’ (August 1855), ‘REDAN’ (September 1855), and ‘SEBASTOPOL’ (September 1855). This monument was erected at the cost of 500 pounds and funds for construction were raised through public subscription and a grant from the Nova Scotia Government.
“The Acadian Recorder” for 21 July 1860 reported on the monument’s inauguration: “The afternoon was clear, but uncomfortably warm. A little after 2 o'clock, the procession formed on the Grand Parade. It consisted of all the Halifax and Dartmouth Volunteer Companies, a large number of the Masonic body, and various public officials. These, paraded by bands of music, marched down Barrington Street to the old Cemetery, where detachments of the Regular troops of the garrison were already stationed. The military portion of the assemblage formed a hollow square around the Monument, within which ticket holders were admitted. A large assemblage, especially of the fair sex, were present to witness the proceedings; and the gloomy old grave yard for once presented a gay appearance. The ceremonies commenced with prayer by the Rev. John Scott. His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, Lord Mulgrave then addressed the assemblage at some length and, in concluding, introduced the Rev. George Hill, the Orator of the day. Mr. Hill's oration was an able and eloquent effort, and is, we understand, to be printed. Major General Charles Trollope also spoke in his usual popular and humorous style, and Rear Admiral Sir Alexander Milne made a few remarks. A great deal of cheering was done and the proceedings concluded by the Volunteer Artillery under the command of Captain Tremain, firing 13 minute guns, and by the bands playing and the whole assemblage singing the National Anthem. We find that while the ceremonies were going on, Chase, the clever photographer succeeded in taking an excellent photographic view of the whole scene, a copy of which we have no doubt many people will hasten to secure, as a memento of the day and the event.”
The Welsford-Parker Monument was restored in 1989 and two years later 1 March 1991, the Old Burying Ground was formally recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada. Major Welsford and Captain Parker are also honoured by having a street named after each of them in Halifax – both streets intersect with each other and are located nearby Halifax Common, a large urban park created in 1749.
On this day, 17 July 2021, we commemorate the 161st anniversary of the unveiling of the Welsford-Parker Monument in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and mark more than 30 years since it received formal recognition as forming part of a National Historic Site of Canada.
André M. Levesque