Rock Bay - a castle like mansion burned to the ground - all we have left are some pictures and some memories.

Who Knew 100x100 2015By Mark Gillies

January 22, 2015


Part 2 of a 2 Part feature

Pic 1 Peter Carroll

Peter Carroll 1807-1876 was a wealthy man, a land surveyor, a co-founder of The Great Western Railway, and a businessman who served on many corporate boards.

When Rock Bay opened, it was spectacular to see. Peter Carroll had selected an ideal location for the mansion, overlooking Burlington Bay from the north shore line located at the far western end. Below the mansion sitting high atop its high ground, was a jut of land that ran way out into Burlington Bay. This land was to be known as Carroll’s Point, and the name is still in use today.  You could say that Peter Carroll’s closest neighbour, towards Hamilton, was Sir Allan MacNab, who lived in nearby Dundurn Castle.

Peter Carroll loved to entertain. His wife was the former Henrietta Martin. They married in 1836. Together they entertained the wealthy and put on countless lavish galas. Most guests at the time lived in Hamilton, and they would ride to Rock Bay Castle in their fancy carriages from the city out to Peter and Henrietta’s estate, horses prancing along York Boulevard, across the Burlington Heights, turning right at the Valley Inn Road, proceeding down the hill, and then driving up to the front gates which were located just about where the Woodland Cemetery main entrance is now.

Pic 2 Rock Bay Castle

Rock Bay Castle was a mansion in Aldershot owned by Peter & Henrietta Carroll, a venue for high society galas. Guests, in this photo, can be seen enjoying themselves at Rock Bay Castle.

The lane way to Rock Bay was long and it was winding. Colourful gardens adorned both sides of this beautiful lane. Peter had oak trees planted on either side of the lane. Over time, the oak trees provided a covered arch, all the way to the handsome port cochere. Many of these trees can still be seen on the Woodland Cemetery grounds.  Stepping out of the carriage upon your arrival, there were many servants tending to your every need. As you walked up the steps to the front entrance way, the great wooden door would be opened for you, and then you entered into a beautiful wood paneled hall, and proceeded to one side into a circular reception hall, graced with a large fireplace. In the fireplace would be a fire, well-seasoned oak logs would be crackling and burning. This reception hall was 2 storeys high, and to one side was a circular staircase that led you up to a balcony with a window that overlooked the estate’s property.

From this same balcony room, several doors would lead you into the bed chambers. Rock Bay had a beautiful drawing room, and within it was something quite rare for Upper Canada at that time. It was a beautiful grand piano. The windows in the mansion were adorned with heavy curtains of brocade. To light the estate in the evening, scented candles were found to be everywhere. Beautiful family portraits painted in oil were hung on most walls inside this magnificent home. Rock Bay was breathtaking.

The focal point of Rock Bay was the exterior’s large square tower, similar to one seen on Scottish baronial castles.
When you were either entertained at Rock Bay Castle, by Peter & Henrietta Carroll, or at Dundurn Castle by Sir Allan MacNab, guests knew they were in a special circle of the elite, and from this, they had a chance to enjoy the benefits of high society.

Pic 3 Peter Carroll Monument

Peter Carroll’s monument is in historic Hamilton Cemetery. Peter died from small pox in 1876. His legacy is now forgotten.

While Peter Carroll was on a business trip to France in 1876, he managed to contract small pox. When he returned home, he tragically died a few days later on September 18th. Henrietta, herself contracted small pox from Peter, but survived this attack. Peter was buried in Hamilton Cemetery. However, the importance of Peter’s death and his funeral were overshadowed by another event that captured all of the headlines in Canada and the United States. A man from Hamilton, named Cyrenius Chapin Roe, a machinist by trade, unveiled his invention that totally captivated everyone. Cyrenius was more commonly known as C.C. Roe, and his invention was patented as “Steam Man”.

Pic 4 Steam Man

C.C. Roe from Hamilton invented the world’s first robotic man, called “Steam Man”. It took North America by storm. Many events of real importance at that time were relegated to the back pages of newspapers.

This was the world’s first robotic man capable of walking upright, and “Steam Man” could perform feats of strength. The world was captivated by this man’s invention, spawning many articles and stories everywhere.   C.C. Roe and his family travelled all across Canada and the United States with “Steam Man”, as people flocked to see this marvel of modern technology for themselves.

Pic 4A Steam Man Back of CardHenrietta, after recovering from small pox, continued to live at Rock Bay. When she became too elderly to live there on her own, she went to live in Hamilton.

There, Henrietta died of senile debility on July 20, 1907.  While Henrietta, as a widow, was still alive and living at Rock Bay, my own grandmother Mabel Henrietta Hunter and her sisters, Lydia, Maud, Nellie, Ethel, Edna & Jessie, as young girls in the 1880s and early 1890s would play at Rock Bay with the jovial elderly lady. Henrietta Carroll taught the young girls how to make various crafts.

My great grandfather, Arthur Hunter, was an original Aldershot market gardener, and the Hunter family lived in Peter Carroll’s Bay View cottage as tenants. When my grandmother was born in 1883, it was at Rock Bay mansion. My great grandparents, Arthur & Elizabeth Hunter gave Mabel, my grandmother, the middle name Henrietta, in honour of Henrietta Carroll, a lady who was quite adored by the Hunter family.

Pic 6 Rock Bay after fire

Rock Bay Castle suffered the fate of a devastating fire. Henrietta Carroll lost everything. The building was eventually demolished. The stone walls were crushed into gravel.

And what became of Rock Bay? Sadly, this beautiful mansion burned to the ground around 1908.  The stones from the building were crushed into gravel. Some say, that this same gravel was used for the new roads winding throughout Woodland Cemetery. This could be true, I do not know.

As for the name Rock Bay, where did that name come from? No one knows for sure. Some say, it was named after Peter Rock, who owned the Maple Leaf Hotel, located in the Market Square in Hamilton. I don’t believe that is true.

Peter Rock did not arrive in Hamilton, until around 1890, many years after the death of Peter Carroll. My own theory is, it was a combination from two sources. “Rock” could have been in reference to the stone from Queenston, used to build the mansion’s walls, and “Bay” would have been the reference to Burlington Bay.

What’s really unfortunate is Rock Bay Castle, this beautiful mansion from the 1850’s is no longer with us. We lost a beautiful jewel from the past.

Mark Gillies will next tell you about Harry Lorimer, another forgotten person from Burlington’s colourful historical past. A humble man, Lorimer made a huge impact on Burlington, not just once, but twice. Lorimer’s house at 504 Burlington Avenue was recently removed from the City’s Heritage Registry for lack of historical significance, a decision many find totally incomprehensible, myself included.

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3 comments to Rock Bay – a castle like mansion burned to the ground – all we have left are some pictures and some memories.

  • Lynda Johnstone

    I just found this website and remember the Gazette when it was the main newspaper published. Thank you for the historical articles of Burlington’s long lost past. I grew up in Burlington and I too hope that others are reading the history.

  • Glenda Dodd

    I’m saving everyone of these articles in a special file, do not want to lose any.

    Editor’s note: everything published in the Gazette is kept – just use the search engine or the archives t find what you want.

  • Glenda Dodd

    Can’t get enough of these articles, everyone in Burlington should be reading them.