Battle Harbour is a summer fishing station, formerly a permanent settlement, located on the Labrador coast in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Battle Harbour was for two centuries the economic and social centre of the southeastern Labrador coast. Mercantile saltfish premises first established there in the 1770s developed into a thriving community that was known as the Capital of Labrador. It fell into decline following reductions in the cod fishery and a major fire in 1930, and was abandoned as a permanent settlement following government resettlement activity in the 1960s.
The Battle Harbour Historic Trust was given the fishing premises and other properties on the island, which it has preserved and operates as a museum. The facilities at Battle Harbour provide a commemoration of the life and society created there by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The site has been declared a National Historic Site of Canada.
The mercantile saltfish premises at Battle Harbour were established by the firm of John Slade and Company of Poole, England in the early 1770s. Lying just north of the old French Shore, Battle Harbour served as the gateway for Newfoundlanders seeking to fish in the resource rich waters of Labrador. The local population increased rapidly after 1820 when Newfoundland fishing schooners adopted Battle Harbour as their primary port of call and made it the recognized capital of the Labrador floater fishery. Battle Harbour remained in the hands of Slade and Co. until 1871, and during this time became a settled community, dominated by the fish merchants, but with its own evolving institutions, especially schools and churches. In 1871 the Slades sold Battle Harbour to Baine, Johnston and Company Ltd. who operated the site in much the same manner until 1955. The activity of these two firms at Battle Harbour serve as an accurate microcosm of the history of Newfoundland and Labrador's fishery over almost two centuries. In 1955 Baine, Johnston and Company Ltd. sold the premises to The Earle Freighting Service Ltd. who continued the site's operation until the decline in the inshore fishery at the start of the 1990s. At that time the site was donated to the Battle Harbour Historic Trust. The community's permanent residents had been relocated under a government-sponsored resettlement program from 1965 to 1970, although a number of families still use the site as a seasonal home.
The exact time by which Battle Harbour became a European settlement is unknown, but it is believed that the French did not fish north of Cape Charles before 1718. Captain George Cartwright first visited Battle Harbour in May and June 1775, and recorded in his journal that a privateer had sacked Twillingate and came to Battle Harbour on this coast and had taken a sloop of Mr. Slade's with about twenty-two tuns of seals' oil on board and destroyed his goods there. Later, in 1785, Cartwright had his provisions brought from Battle Harbour to Slink Point aboard a shallop belonging to the firm of Noble and Pinsent whose firm is believed to have had extensive fishery operations on the Labrador coast with base of operations at Chateau.
A year after Dr. Wilfred Grenfell's visit to Battle Harbour in 1892 he built a hospital there. One of the first in Labrador, it opened for year-round service with a qualified doctor and nurse on staff in 1893. In 1896 a new wing was added from the remains of two wrecked vessels.
In the fall of 1930 Battle Harbour was destroyed by fire so devastating that, Grenfell stated, even the Marconi Pole on the top of the hill was burned. The new school and the hospital were rebuilt at Mary's Harbour.