Newport Tower




 There is a Tower in a park in Newport Rhode Island that looks unlike any other construction in the Americas, but remarkably like certain buildings found in Northern Europe. I visited it in June 2003 with my wife.

The official local description for it is that it is "Vernacular, early period" and that it was built by the early British settlers to the colony. It is known to have been owned at one time by the grandfather of Benedict Arnold (who changed sides to the British in the War of Independence). Governor Arnold is said to have used it as a windmill.

However, this is not proof that it was built to be a windmill.

Edward Adams Richardson examined the building as an engineer and found it unsuitable for a mill - (American Society of Civil Engineers Transactions - Paper 3091)

In the War of Independence British soldiers occupied the building and unfortunately damaged it severely by using explosives. As a result the upper part is missing. There are no drawings available to show what the upper part looked like. It could well have been a lookout tower, a lighthouse as well as being a church.

The remaining part shows a fireplace which seems to be similar to those used in 14th century buildings in Europe, but unlike other surviving buildings from the colonial era.

Henry St. Clair
An alternative explanation is that the tower looks like a northern European construction of the 14th century because it was built by northern Europeans at that time. Specifically, the date suggested is 1398 when an expedition was led to the new world by Henry St. Clair, Earl of Orkney. It is plausibly argued that this expedition founded a colony in Nova Scotia at what later became Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. Henry St. Clair as Earl answered to the king of Norway, because Orkney was still part of that kingdom, but he was also an important nobleman in Scotland. He is sometimes referred to as Prince Henry, to indicate his nearly independent status in relation to the Kings of Scotland and Norway.

St. Clair's colonists would have been speakers of Gaelic and Norse, and possibly Norman French, but would probably not have used English.

This expedition is described in "The Sword and the Grail" by Andrew Sinclair, a descendant of Henry St. Clair. There is a good deal about Templars and Masons and similar matters, which I read with a certain amount of scepticism but it seems to me he makes a very good case for the reality of the 1398 expedition. (Almost everything written about Templars and Masons is highly controversial, and open to a great deal of speculation.)

The story briefly is that St. Clair sailed with Antonio Zen, a Venetian sailing master, guided by the story of a sailor who had already been to America - a man who had been as far as the Caribbean, and had met the Aztecs (but escaped being sacrificed) and had made his way back to the Viking settlements in Iceland and Greenland. This sailor died, days before the expedition left Orkney. St Clair will have had available to him the knowledge of the Vikings, who had reached North America but had not settled there permanently.

St. Clair's people sailed via Greenland and landed at the site of Louisbourg (where a Venetian Cannon of the right age has been dredged out of the water). The description of the site found in the Zen Narrative - from the account of the Antonio Zen who accompanied the expedition - fits that area of Nova Scotia very well.

They seem to have established a small colony on the site, and then later may have sent an expedition down the coast to Rhode Island where they built a typical Orkney round tower, probably as part of a church. Other markings, such as the Westford Knight have been attributed to this expedition. Of course the expedition to the south is more speculative as there is no documentary evidence in the Zen Narrative.

The colony died out because Prince Henry was unable to resupply it, after he was killed in battle fighting an English invasion of the Orkneys in 1400. Later his son was imprisoned by the English after being captured while escorting the heir of the Scots throne.

The surviving colonists then became absorbed into the local Indian communities - incidentally providing the Indian languages with some Norse and Gaelic words, noted by Barry Fell (to general scorn - see Speculations).

Sinclair says that the Indians of the Nova Scotia area had a traditional account of a stranger "Glooskap" which may well be a record of the arrival of Prince Henry and his colonists. It seems they treated the natives better than Columbus and his people, and both learned from the original inhabitants and taught them new skills - such as fishing with nets.

One can speculate about what might have happened if the European impact on the Americas had grown from this peaceful meeting, rather than the violent invasion of Columbus and his Spanish sponsors.

The Tower at Newport ought to be made Scottish territory.

Is this story true? Who can tell? It is coherent but unprovable.

Andrew Sinclair - The Sword and the Grail

 Some Pictures









This shows the fireplace, identified as of 14th century type, and unsuitable for use in a flour mill.

Other links

Redwood Library

Google will produce a huge literature

Arguments against pre-colonial existence

Last revision 4/10/09

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