Origins of the Name “Murney Tower”

Please note that this site is no longer maintained, nor current. Please go to for our current website

The Murney Tower Redoubt was built in 1846 because of the Oregon Crisis to defend the western approaches to Kingston and the St. Lawrence River from an American invasion. In dispute during this crisis (resolved by treaty 15 June 1846) was the boundary between British North America and the United States west of the Rocky Mountains, but there was concern hostilities might break out elsewhere. Similar Martello towers can be found in Quebec City and in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The four Martello towers (Murney Tower, Shoal Tower, Cathcart Tower and the Fort Frederick Tower) in Kingston - along with Fort Henry and the Market Battery - represented the city’s contribution to the defence of British North America. 

Even though a suggestion was made officially to name the tower after Sir George Murray (1772-1846), Master General of the Ordnance from 1830-1835 and again from 1841-1846, it became known very early in its history as the Murney Tower, named for Henry James Murney (1759-1835),  [datestone-murney-tower] a lake captain, who owned the land, Murney Point, since 1809. The name “MURRAY,” carved in stone on the tower, was later altered by changing one “R” to a letter “N” cast in lead and resulting in a hybrid name, “MURNAY.” Operated as a museum since 1925 by the Kingston Historical Society and five years later declared a National Historic Site, it is now known formally as Murney Tower National Historic Site of Canada.

In 2007, Murney Tower became part of the Rideau Canal and Kingston Fortifications World Heritage Site - the 14th World Heritage Site in Canada and the only one in Ontario.

Bibliography on Martello Towers
Cohoe, Margaret. “Sir John A. Macdonald Memoralizations and the Red Rose League.” Historic Kingston. 26 (1978): 59-60.

“The Construction of the Murney Tower - A Diary of 1846”. Historic Kingston. 29 (1981): 42-52.

Flynn, Louis. “In Retrospect: The Kingston Historical Society Since 1906.” Historic Kingston. 12 (1964): 21-22.

“The History of Kingston’s Martello Towers.” The Daily British Whig, Kingston, ON, 8 February 1893.

Lavell, W. S. as revised by R. A. Preston. “A Few Interesting Facts about the Murney Redoubt.” Historic Kingston. 11 (1963): 47- 51.

Moorhead, Earl. “Murney Point: Its Evolution within a Civilian/Military Dialectic.” Historic Kingston 35 (1987): 64-86.

Saunders, Ivan J. “A History of Martello Towers in the Defence of British North America, 1796-1871.” Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archeology – No 15. Ottawa: Parks Canada, 1976.

Stanley, George F.G. “Historic Kingston and Its Defences.” Ontario History v. 46. no. 1 (1954): 21-35.

________. “Kingston as Early Tourists Saw It.” Historic Kingston 1 (1952): 24.

Stewart, J. Douglas and Ian Wilson. Heritage Kingston. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1973.

Sutcliffe, Sheila. Martello Towers. Devon, UK: David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1972.