Situated 100km or so inland from the Bay of Fundy on the banks of the St John River, FREDERICTON, the capital of New Brunswick, has a well-padded air, the streets of its tiny centre graced by elms and genteel villas. There’s scarcely any industry here and the population of 85,000 mostly work for the government or the university. Founded by Loyalists in 1783, the city has retained several intriguing reminders of the British army in the Historic Garrison District, while the Beaverbrook Art Gallery is simply outstanding.
The Garrison District
West of City Hall the old British military base, occupied 1784 to 1869 to counter the threat of American attack, is preserved today as the Historic Garrison District. Walk along Queen Street to the Soldiers’ Barracks in front of the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design, a sturdy three-storey block that at one time accommodated more than two hundred squaddies. Built in 1826, the building’s lower floor is home to eight craft shops (June–Sept daily), while the upper levels belong to the college.
Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Lord Beaverbrook (1879–1964), the newspaper tycoon, was raised in New Brunswick’s Newcastle and moved to England in 1910 – becoming a close friend of Churchill and a key member of his war cabinet. In Fredericton his largesse was extended to the university, the Playhouse Theatre and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (beaverbrookartgallery.org), where an eclectic and regularly rotated collection of mostly British and Canadian art is squeezed into a dozen or so rooms, sharing space with an imaginative programme of temporary exhibitions.
Of the permanent work on display, Salvador Dalí’s monumental Santiago El Grande, depicting St James being borne up towards a vaulted firmament on a white charger, usually takes pride of place in the High Gallery near the entrance. The Vaulted Gallery contains some real gems: Leda (1945), a crayon drawing from Matisse, a classic mill scene from Lowry (1956), and a dark, brooding study by Constable, Scenes of Wood & Water (1830). The Sir Max Aitken Gallery features portraits by Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, while the Vaughan Gallery contains a mix of Flemish tapestries, porcelain, a couple of Ford Madox Brown pencil-and-ink drawings and “HMS Terror” Iced-in off Cape Comfort by early nineteenth-century artist George Chambers, a wonderfully melodramatic canvas, the creaking ship crushed by the ice underneath a dark and forbidding sky. On the lower level are galleries dedicated to modern art from New Brunswick with some Andy Warhol prints thrown in (including his Liz Taylor) and a selection of the Christmas-card works of the prolific Cornelius Krieghoff, including two of his finest, Merrymaking and Coming Storm at the Portage. Look out also for a couple of Winston Churchill’s own paintings.