Cupids | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Cupids, Newfoundland and Labrador, incorporated as a town in 1965, population 743 (2016 census), 761 (2011 census). The town of Cupids is located in southwest Conception Bay on the Avalon Peninsula, about 80 km west of St. John's. Originally known as Cupers Cove (1610), other early variants of the name include Cuperts Cove and Kibby's Cove. However, the name Cupids Cove appears quite early: Sir William Alexander referred to it by this name in his An Encouragement to Colonies (1624). No one knows the origin of the name, but it may be an anglicized version of a Spanish or Basque name.


Cupids was the site of the first English settlement in Canada. It was established by the London and Bristol Company in August 1610. The first governor of the colony was Bristol merchant John Guy. Under the terms of the company’s charter, it was effectively the seat of the first government in Newfoundland (see also Politics in Newfoundland and Labrador). There are many other firsts associated with Cupids, including the first sawmill and brewery in what is now Canada (both built by 1613). In addition, on 27 March 1613, a son was born to Nicholas Guy and his wife, possibly the first English child born in what is now Canada (names of wife and son are unknown).

John Mason's Map of Newfoundland, 1625
John Mason compiled the information for his map during his time as governor of Cupids Cove (Cuperts Cove on the map). Like many maps of the period, it was printed with north at the bottom.

Most of the investors had lost interest in the colony by the early 1620s. However, Cupids was still an active settlement in 1624. Settlement also spread from Cupids to other parts of Conception Bay. By 1618 some of the Bristol men had moved from Cupids to Harbour Grace, and by 1631 Nicholas Guy had moved with his family to Carbonear. Whether the late 17th century occupation was year round or seasonal is difficult to determine, but a list compiled in 1698 records one settler living in Cupids.


Settlement at Cupids expanded greatly in the 18th century, especially after 1755 when the firm of Newman and Company, based out of Dartmouth, England, established premises there. Two major shipbuilding operations were established in Cupids in the late 1700s. Shipbuilding provided additional employment and attracted more people. However, most residents were employed in the fishery. Sealing was also important. Beginning in the 1820s, the seasonal Labrador fishery became an integral part of the local economy.

Archaeological Site

In 1995, archaeological surveys revealed the original colony. Excavations since then have uncovered the remains of four early 17th century buildings, numerous related features, sections of the enclosure erected around the settlement, and thousands of artifacts. The location, known as Cupids Cove Plantation, is a provincial historic site.


Since its discovery, Cupids’ archaeological site has become a significant tourist attraction and tourism has become an important part of Cupids’ economy. A number of residents are employed at the local Quin-Sea Fisheries processing plant. Many others commute to St. John’s.

Further Reading

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