Hidden in Plain Sight

Heritage and Art Features on Victoria Streets and Sidewalks

Historic Mooring Rings

Text by Janis Ringuette

Photos by Norm Ringuette

Mooring ring near the Custom House

Five historic mooring rings, used to tie lines from sailing ships to the shore in the Inner Harbour, are the last remnants of Fort Victoria still in place downtown. Two of the old rings can be seen near a postage-stamp size park on the west side of Wharf Street between Fort and Broughton. Blackberry bushes covered those rings until August, 2007, when workmen cleared vegetation from rocks below exposing the durable old rings again. The photo above shows the ring located about twenty metres north of the little park with the old Victoria Custom House at 1002 Wharf Street in the background. Now called the Malahat Building, the “Second Empire” style brick and stone heritage Custom House building was constructed by the Department of Public Works in 1874-75 and is the oldest extant federal building in western Canada.

Ring below the Wharf St. viewing platform                 Closeup of the Wharf St. ring

A Canadian government plaque in the little park, shown below, marks the historic site of Fort Victoria. In part, it states: “The mooring rings on the rocks below are the only surviving fragment of Fort Victoria built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1843.” Unfortunately, plants block the view of the ring located directly below the park. The photo above left was taken after stepping over the chain fence into the planted area and standing at the edge of the dropoff; the right photo closeup required climbing on the hillside. A better option is to walk down to the boardwalk shown in the background above. The two rings near the park will be visible looking up from the boardwalk. Also visible from the boardwalk are two other rings, shown below.

Fort Victoria explanation of rings

To get to the boardwalk, walk down the steep lane on the south side of the Custom House directly opposite the west end of Broughton Street. The paved lane passes close to the building and ends at the dock. A mooring ring, shown below left, can be seen while walking down the lane. It is embedded in the rock west of the building’s back porch below a small landscaped area of grass and plants. The ring is also visible looking up from the dock and boardwalk.

Ring below the Custom House            Rusted ring just above the dock

After reaching the dock, walk three or four metres north on the boardwalk. Look carefully almost directly below the boardwalk to discover the disintegrating mooring ring, shown above right. Often covered by the tide, saltwater has eroded that ring, while those above the water line are in much better condition

Ring at the bottom of Reeson Park

A fifth mooring ring, the largest and most accessible ring in the Inner Harbour, is located further north in Reeson Park, south of the Johnson Street bridge. To reach it, continue walking north along the shoreline path past the Regent Hotel and into the park. The huge ring is next to the footpath at the edge of the shore.

Mooring rings served an important function before docks were built in Victoria. To allow the maximum number of ships in the small harbour, ships set bow anchors and tied stern lines to mooring rings on shore. That method aligned the ships and reduced swing from wind, currents and waves. Almost all of the countless mooring rings inserted in rocks along the Inner Harbour in the 19th century disappeared as docks, buildings and parking lots were constructed on the shore.

Outside the downtown core, mooring rings can be found at Ogden Point and Clover Point. Every day, hundreds of people walk past the prominent mooring ring shown in the two photos below. It is embedded in a massive rock three metres south of the path leading from the Ogden Point Cafe to the breakwater.

Ring near Ogden Point breakwater     Ogden Point ring

Two mooring rings are located in Clover Point Park. On the east side of the point is a small eroded ring, shown below left. It stands about thirty metres southeast of the boathouse. The much larger ring, below right, can be found west of the point near the concrete ramp leading down to the beach from the parking lot.

Ring near water at Clover Point     Clover Point looking west

In total, eight historic mooring rings remain in place along the City of Victoria's shoreline. There are also two landlocked mooring rings which were moved from their original locations decades ago to the front lawn of a James Bay home. Visible from the sidewalk, the rings are embedded in boulders on the northeast corner lot at Montreal and Ontario streets. At the same 225 Montreal Street residence, an interesting old cast-iron gate post stands next to the sidewalk.


Copyright 2007   Janis Ringuette.  Limited excerpts are permitted but please credit the author.