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Item Ref:  BSL - 1815 Governor Keats

Admiral Sir Richard Keats, Governor of Newfoundland Grants Property to the Heirs and Assigns of Captain Thomas Pitts, late of the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles Regiment. Includes a detailed hand written Survey and signature by T. G. W. Eaststaff, Provincial Surveyor on the back with the boundaries of Quiddy Viddy Pond, Forest Pond Road, the Torbay Road and the King's Bridge. It notes a twenty acre4 encroachment upon Crown Lands.

Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, GCB, Vice Admiral of the White - Governor and
Commander-in-Chief in and over the Island of Newfoundland and its Dependencies

His title

His signature
Colonial Surveyor General of Newfoundland

His Signature


Click to Enlarge Survey

Seal of State

Docketing Leaf



Eaststaff trained at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich (London) from 1787 to 1793. He arrived in Newfoundland in 1795 and was employed as a military surveyor and draftsman with the Royal Engineers in St. John’s. He also accepted a lieutenant’s commission in the Royal Newfoundland Fencible Regiment commanded by Thomas Skinner, remaining with it until 1800. It was during this period that he accepted the part-time but important position of Civil Surveyor.

At this time St. John's was transitioning from a remote fishing and naval outpost to a permanent strategically placed city.  With immigration and commercial shipping interests developing, Governor Sir Eramus Gower ordered Eaststaff to conduct a formal survey of St, John's and lay out a new road dividing major properties for new settlement. By 1807 Gower Road had been laid out and a civil, as opposed to military, plan for development was put in place. It remained the principal plan of the town until the 1840's.

By 1812 the demand for land for "fishing rooms", residential, agricultural, dairy and commercial property led to a massive increase in land leases of crown land. Because of frequent encroachments on crown land, in 1814, Eaststaff was instructed by Governor Sir Richard Goodwin Keats to undertake a survey to re-establish the boundaries of government property. An accompanying register of deeds and grants which Eaststaff prepared enabled the government to develop a record of legal grants and to determine what land was available for future allocation. Eaststaff’s abilities were recognized in 1815 when he was appointed surveyor of lands for the colony. Here is a beautiful example of this effort by Eaststaff as he surveys a land lease originally given to Captain Thomas Pitts (also of the Royal Newfoundland Fencible Regiment) by prior Newfoundland Governor Molyneux Shuldham, 1st Baron Shuldham.  What had grown to a forty acre land lease was now resurveyed to twenty acres with twenty acres returned to the Crown as having been encroached upon. The end of the Napoleonic Wars found Eaststaff's service in Newfoundland abruptly terminated and in 1817 he was ordered to return to England, where he was placed on half pay pending reappointment. While in St John’s he had played an active role in the Congregational Church and served as secretary of the church’s auxiliary missionary committee.
               [Reference: David R. Facey-Crowther's, article in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online on Eaststaff]


Born on the 16th of  January 1757 in Chalton, Hampshire, England, Richard Goodwin Keats joined the Royal Navy in 1770, and in 1776 served on the Romney, Governor Admiral John Montagu’s flagship at Newfoundland. He was promoted lieutenant in 1777 and given his first command in 1789. Keats was a conspicuous figure in the naval history of England for the next two decades. Nelson described him as “a treasure to the service.” In 1807 he was promoted rear-admiral, and in 1808, following a brilliant series of actions in Danish waters, he was made a knight of the Order of the Bath. He was promoted vice-admiral in 1811, but the following year, his health damaged, he resigned his command and returned to England. On 18 March 1813, he was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of the island of Newfoundland “and the Islands adjacent including the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon and all the Coast of Labrador from the River Saint John to Hudson’s Straights the Island of Anticosti and all other adjacent Islands the Islands of Madelaine excepted.”

Keats governed as a summer and autumn visitor for three years. This was the traditional pattern of gubernatorial rule in Newfoundland; but local problems were becoming too complex, the population – by now at least 70,000 – was increasing too rapidly, for the island to be administered as if it were merely a seasonal fishery. “If Newfoundland be not a Colony by Law, it is so in fact,” Keats was assured by high sheriff John BLAND. The instructions given to Keats reflected a belated British recognition of the need for a new policy in at least one area: agriculture. He was authorized “to grant Leases of small Portions of Land to industrious Individuals for the purpose of Cultivation,” taking care to charge an annual rent, either nominal or real, depending on the circumstances of the lessee. When he proceeded to act on this instruction, Keats found that most of the land suitable for farming had already been taken up by encroachments. “I have found but little Land within the neighbourhood of St. John’s to dispose of,” he told the colonial secretary. None the less, by the fall of 1813 he had granted 110 leases, on pieces of property up to four acres in size, all in the vicinity of St John’s. Here is a prime example of Keats promoting agriculture by granting a resurveyed twenty acres to be used for agricultural purposes so long as a certain amount of land was cleared within a certain time (one third of the land in three years and all of the land within ten years). In the process he was able to free up another twenty acres which had been previously encroached, thanks to Eaststaff's survey. Keats’s term ended on 18 May 1816. He later became governor of the Greenwich Hospital for seamen, and was made an admiral in 1825.

                              [Reference: Patrick O’Flaherty's, article in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online on Keats]

An important document of Early Newfoundland and Provincial Canadian History.

Document Specifications:
 This is a beautiful one sheet document on batonne laid paper, watermarked "Golding & Snelgrove 1812" also watermarked with a seated Britannica in oval with crown over, signed "R. G. Keats" as Governor and "T.G.W. Eaststaff" as Colonial Surveyor and measuring 16" wide and 12 1/2" tall (400mm x 325mm). Condition is very fine. Handwritten and drawn survey on the back signed by the noted Colonial Surveyor, T. G. W. W. Eaststaff.

 Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd. .................................  $ SOLD

End of Item - BSL - 1815 Governor Keats

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