Photos of Lance Cove

Over the years I have managed to collect a substantial number of photographs from various sources that depict what Lance Cove and other parts of Bell Island looked like in their earlier days. In some ways the locations depicted have not changed significantly over the years and yet in other less tangible ways they are completely foreign. I’m still hoping that folks will share their historic photos that are locked way in old family albums and shoeboxes collecting dust in cupboards. We owe a debt of gratitude  to the late Mr Lloyd Rees for making many of these photos available as well as for preserving much of the history behind them. Here are a few that should bring back some memories.

House circa 1927

Lance Cove circa 1927

In the photo above you can easily see that the general layout of Lance Cove has not changed significantly over the years.  St.Mary’s Church is clearly visible. The cluster of homes in the centre of the photo were primarily occupied by the Rees family and are situated on the road where Mr Thomas Rees’ house currently is today. The old school house is also visible and it’s roof has been modified from its original peaked design. The area at the bottom right of the photo is where the harbour is today. It was a favourite skating place in the day.

House c 1900

Lance Cove Houses and School House circa 1900

The houses in the above photo were owned principally by the Rees family and were clustered in the centre of Lance Cove. The structure on the left with the peaked roof and four windows was the School House. It was the first school on Bell Island and was established by the Newfoundland Protestant Board of Education in 1841. It was in this schoolhouse where my Great-Great Grandfather Edward Bickford taught school from circa 1857-1870. Records from 1857 indicate that in June of that year Edward had 29 students that ranged in age from 4 to 13. Surnames  such as Rees, Hiscock, Kent, King, Cooper, Sparks, Leahy, etc feature prominently. Edward’s salary that year was 32 pounds, 10 shillings or about $2500 if converted into 2014 dollars.

Sometime between 1900 and 1927 the peak of the school was removed giving it more of a mansard roof design. After the building ceased to be used as a school it was used as the local Orange Lodge. It would have been situated at the corner of the road leading to Lance Cove Beach and the lane way leading to where Thomas Rees currently resides and directly behind the house owned by Cybil Rees (adjacent to the Seaman’s Memorial).

Lance Cove looking North circa 1940

Lance Cove circa 1940

This picture was taken from a position on Lance Cove Beach where Leander Bickford’s shed is currently located. 3 of the homes pictured can still be seen in Lance Cove. The one on the very left was owned I believe by Clarence Rees and I think it may have been destroyed by fire in the 1950’s. St. Mary’s Church is clearly visible in the background.


Skating pond and Kerry Head, Lance Cove circa 1940


Fishing Sheds on Lance Cove Beach circa 1940

Two pretty good views above of what Lance Cove Beach looked like in the 1940s. The sheds and boats in the photo above would have been located just west of where Leander Bickford’s shed is today. Note that in earlier years the road went west along the beach as opposed to where it currently is along the north side of the harbour.


Looking North up Pitt’s Hill from Lance Cove Wharf circa 1940

I’m sure there are many around who still remember the old wharf. It feature prominantly in the life of the community until the late 1960’s when it was destroyed in a storm after being battered by the SS Northern Ranger which was tied up to it while waiting to be towed away for scrap. The house on the right was owned by Mr James Augustus Rees (Jimmy Gus) after being purchased from his uncle Mr John Lee in 1925 for $850. It was here that my friend the late Lloyd Rees was born. Jimmy Gus was the son of William Thomas Rees and nephew of Martha Bickford (nee Rees) mentioned in my previous post.

GG Uncle James A Rees

James Augustus Rees (Jimmy Gus) 1890-1954


Home of John Lee circa 1910

Above is another earlier view of the home that was at the foot of Pitt’s Hill and the head of the wharf. The property on which this house was located was purchased in 1901 by John Lee from the estate of Captain William Pitts for $100.


The Lee Premises circa 1910

Mr Lee was the Constable in Lance Cove and was married to Caroline Rees, the sister of my Great Great Grandmother Martha.

John Lee

John Lee and Caroline Lee (nee Rees) circa 1900

Caroline was also the sister of William Thomas Rees and Reuben Rees. She is pictured below with her brother Reuben and her sister Jane.


Caroline, Jane and Reuben Rees.

The first Rees home in Lance Cove is pictured below. It was built by Mr George Rees circa 1800 and remained occupied and in use until approximately 1925.  George (1772-1859) was a shipwright from Bristol, England who came to Lance Cove aboard one of Mr James Pitt’s brigs in 1797. It is very likely that he came to Lance Cove at the request of Mr Pitt’s to assist him with the shipyard that he was establihing.


Home of George Rees built circa 1800 and the first Rees house in Lance Cove

George Rees was married to Mary Ann Neary (1787-1874) of Portugal Cove. When George arrived in Lance Cove all the beach front property had already been claimed. He did however establish his own claim to a substantial piece of property that extended basically from close to where Thomas Rees’ house currently is, all the way north across the island to where Middleton Ave is today. Some time later George was able to acquire a portion of waterfront property from Edward Cooper. It was here at the western end of Lance Cove beach where the Rees family would eventually have their own shipyard.

Edward Cooper owned all the property west and north of what people commonly know as the ‘droke’ which runs north south and which physically splits Lance Cove down the middle. Edward Cooper’s “estate” took in what is known as Big Hill, Little Hill, Kerry Head and the majority of what became Bickfordville likely after Edward’s daughter Amy married Henry Bickford in 1827. The remainder of the Cooper estate was parcelled off over the years with most of the land west of Lance Cove being acquired and farmed by the Kennedy family.


Pitt’s Hill Lance Cove circa 1880

The house with the numerous dormers in the background of the photo above was one of the first permanent homes built in Lance Cove. It was built by James Pitts in the late 1700’s and remained standing until 1944 when it was torn down. The site of it’s foundation can still be seen. It was built mainly of lumber imported from Nova Scotia and brought to Lance Cove aboard Mr Pitts’ ships. While it was being torn the skill that took to build it was noted. The framework  was all hand jointed using mortise and tenon joints and the areas around the doors and windows as well as the roof, underneath the shingles, were weatherproofed with sheets of birch bark. The last person to live in the house was Ms Francis (Fanny) Pitts, James Pitt’s Granddaughter. Below is another view of the old home in later years as well as it’s last resident Fanny Pitts.




House of James Pitts Jr.

The house above was original built circa 1800 by James Pitts Jr, son of one of the original settlers James Pitts. It was built across the road from his father’s house which is described above. It was purchased from James Jr by George Rees Jr in 1825 and was occupied by the Rees family until 1929 when its last occupant, Mr Ralph Rees built a new home closer to the beach. The photo below shows the same home circa 1890 when it was occupied by Mr William Rees, his wife Louisa and their 8 children. It is easy to see from a study of both homes that the Pitts’ were a family of considerable means and wealth compared to other early settlers. Mr Pitts certainly owned his own brig and the shipyard they ran on the eastern end of Lance Cove Beach (beyond where the Lee Premisses are shown in previous photos) was known to have manufactured a significant number of quality built brigs and schooners, most of which were used in the overseas trade. It should be noted that ‘Pitts Memorial Drive’ in St.John’s is named for this man and his family.

James Pitts Jr House

Home of James Pitts Jr circa 1890 when it was occupied by Mr William Rees

Below is a view of the upper portion of Lance Cove in 1958. Note that by this point in time St.Mary’s Church had been torn down and a new church built closer to Bickfordville.

Lance Cove May 1958

Lance Cove May 1958

My final picture shows Lance Cove as it appeared in the late 1990s. Even this photo which is fairly recent is in stark contrast to what can be seen today.


Lance Cove Late 1990s

4 comments on “Photos of Lance Cove

  1. Gloria Rees says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful history of Lance Cove. My Grandfather was Ralph Rees who married Emma Parsons and had three children. Stewart, Chelles and Sophie

  2. Pat Neary says:

    Great pictures of home.

  3. paulaayn says:

    Thank you so much for this post. George Rees is my 3rd times great grandfather (through his son Solomon). We know very little about this side of the family. Loved seeing the pictures.

    Paula Rees Fletcher

  4. Wayne Bernath says:

    Nice story and photos of Lance cove and Rees family. I am the grandson of Sophie Rees and my granddaughter’s middle name is Rees who lives on Henderson Nevada and is two years old. She is already a gymnast and quite advanced.

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