An Archaeology of the Petit Nord

Cabins and dormitories

Although fishing rooms were relentless economic operations, fishermen also needed places to rest and socialize. Captains and probably other officers too used the exclusive Captain's Table cookroom for accommodation. But only so many men could sleep in the crew's cookroom, so most fishermen had to make do with improvised accommodations, at least until the 19th century. We know that men sometimes slept in hammocks in the enclosed part of the stage, though this would be difficult when fish processing continued on into the night, as it often did. In early centuries, ordinary crewmen seem to have made do with informal huts, clustered around the stage area. In the 19th-century, as the fishery became more industrialized, crews made a stronger separation between work and other activities and built dormitories on upper terraces, overlooking the stage area.

(L) Rough stone pavement of a cabin at the water's edge of the Champ Paya fishing room (EfAx-09,
Feature 1532).

(R) Corner of a small cabin, at the water's edge, just next to the stage, created by piling sods on natural rock
outcrops around a rough gravel floor, at the Champ Paya fishing room (EfAx-09, Feature 1432).


The use of sod, timbers and sails to construct cabins means that they often leave only ephemeral traces. The lack of above ground remains also reflects practice of dismantling or destroying the structures of the fishing room at the end of each season, common particularly before 1800. Nevertheless, these structures are occasionally visible as rectangular vegetation shadows of introduced plants, or as low linear earthwork banks.

(L) The flagstone floor of a dormitory structure is revealed on the hillside above the stage area at Champ Paya,
Cape Rouge Harbour (EfAx-09, Feature 1156).

(R) The stone threshold of the same dormitory structure shows evidence of wear from the passage of fishermen's

Archaeological excavations at Champ Paya have provided tangible evidence of crew accommodations from several periods. Besides the Captain's Table (see cookrooms), archaeologists uncovered the remains of informal hearths and small turf cabins with cobbled floors in the stage area. In the terrace above the area where processing went on, excavators also uncovered the flagstone pavement of a 19th-century dormitory. This was likely a tent-like structure, covered with a sail, judging by the iron tent peg recovered. The dormitory faced one of the ramps used to move fish to the upper terrace and the entryway was paved with large flagstones, probably to control mud. The worn threshold of the doorway is still visible so it would seem that this feature was in used for some decades.

(L) Fishermen's cabin interior. Interpretative drawing by Cynthia Robbins for the French Shore Historical Society.
(R) Fishermen's dormitory interior. Interpretative drawing by Cynthia Robbins for the French Shore Historical