At Cupids Cove

17 January 2009

At Cupids Cove - The First English Settlement in Canada: BBC Radio 3, Sunday 17 January, 9.30-10.15pm.
Sean Street tells the story of Cupids Cove, the first English settlement in Canada, established by Bristol merchant John Guy. The year 2010 marks the 400th anniversary of the settlement, America, at Cupers - or Cupids - Cove, Trinity Bay, in Newfoundland; Sean visits the site and, with Bill Gilbert, the chief archaeologist, reveals the life of the settlers, their relations with the indigenous people and the lands they left behind. We hear how a 'plantation' was established by the London and Bristol Company of Merchant Ventures in 1610 and the first governor was a Bristol merchant named John Guy. The settlement they founded was the first post-Norse European settlement in Newfoundland, the first English settlement in what is now Canada and one of the first European settlements anywhere in North America - years earlier than the arrival of the Mayflower in Massachusetts. Bill takes Sean to the remains of the colony which were discovered in 1995 and have been excavated every summer since. Four early 17th-century buildings have been revealed, including the dwelling house and storehouse erected by Guy's party in the autumn of 1610. They examine some of the 126,000 artefacts which have been uncovered, giving a remarkably full picture of the life, business and death in Cupids Cove. Some details are surprising. The settlement's fortified wall faces the sea - and Sean learns that the fear was of attack by European pirates rather than by native people. Sean discovers how the artefacts, too, tell personal stories: John Guy specifically mentions some amber beads that he brought with him - and these have been found. Sean visits the island where the first contact was made, witnesses the discovery of the boundary wall of the settlement and talks to the woman in whose potato patch history is now being uncovered daily.