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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 30 of 31: St Johnís - Commissariat House

photo by Michael

Commissariat House

Entry to the Commissariat House is by joint ticket with Quidi Vidi Battery. It is in the residential area of St. Johnís surrounded by large, old wooden houses and roads lined with big trees.

The Commissariat House was a large white wooden building with carriage house and large garden which provided vegetables for the Assistant Commissariat.

There were three entrances. The back door was used by the servants and had two large hatches beside it which gave access to a large cellar used to store vegetables. The side door was used by people coming to see the Assistant Commissariat in his office while the front door was reserved for important visitors.

The Assistant Commissariat was responsible for the whole colony and in particular for ordering goods and provisions needed by the garrison. He was an administrator rather than a soldier, appointed by the Treasury in London. He usually served one to eight years and had to bring all his belongings with him. These were auctioned off when he left.

Now visitors enter by the servantsí door into the kitchen. This also has hatches giving access to the cellar. Water was delivered in big barrels which were left outside the house and then pumped into the kitchen by a pump at the sink. There was a large open fire for cooking with small ovens and a large bread oven built into the wall alongside.

The building served as a residence as well as a working office. There was a large private office on the ground floor which had a view of the front door and any important visitors. Across the hall was the working office with a massive safe and record office at the side. Upstairs was a dining room, parlour, small sewing room above the main door and two bedrooms. The third floor was used for storage and servants' quarters.

Staff were not in period costume. We were asked if we wanted a guided tour and said yes. It is worth doing the tour as there is little historical information to read in the rooms. The Ďpolitically correct brigadeí have been at work and there were large display boards and messages painted on the walls about the role of women and servants. We felt these were a distraction.

The Office of Assistant Commissariat was no longer needed after 1870 and the house then became the rectory for St. Thomasís Church next door and later used as a hospital before being restored.

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