Tuesday, 14 May 2013

I have been to … the Historic Garrison, Barbados

The Historic Garrison Area of Barbados is a unique site that was recognised as such by UNESCO in 2011, when it was added to the World Heritage List. The site encompasses the existing headquarters of the Barbados Defence Force, the world-famous Savannah Race Course, and part of the coastline of Carlisle Bay.

During our visit we went to:
  • Bush Hill House – This is the house where George Washington stayed when he visited Barbados with his brother in 1751.
  • Charles Fort – The first permanent fortification built on Barbados.
  • St Anne’s Fort – This now forms part of the Officer’s Mess for the Barbados Defence Force.
  • The Drill Hall – This was originally a soldiers’ barracks that housed gunners of the Royal Artillery. It was built abutting St Anne’s Fort.
  • The Power Store – This was built underneath St Anne’s Fort, and now houses the National Armoury Museum.
Bush Hill House
Bush Hill House was a private residence that George and Lawrence Washington rented during their six-week long stay in Barbados in 1751. It was then only one storey high, but it was extended after it had been bought by the British Army and used first as the ‘Resident Engineer’s Quarters’ (1789) and later as the ‘Bush Hill Commanding Officers Quarters’.

The building was restored to its 1805 appearance after it was incorporated into the Historic Garrison Area heritage attraction in 2007. At that time it was renamed ‘George Washington House’.

George Washington’s bedroom

Lawrence Washington’s bedroom

The dining room

One of the original ceiling beams

Some of the furniture

The kitchen

Charles Fort
Charles Fort was built in 1650, and was originally constructed from wood and earth. It was designed to be low lying, and it had a commanding position on Carlisle Bay. It helped to defeat the Dutch invasion in 1655, when Admiral De Ruyter attempted to land troops on Barbados. In the early eighteenth century the original wooden fort was replaced by one built from the local coral stone, and it remained a military post until 1950, when all the fortifications on Barbados were declared obsolete. The fort’s guns were all dumped in the sea, and some of them remain there.

The fort now forms part of the Hilton Hotel complex, and some years ago it was ‘remodelled’ so that guests at the hotel could use it. As a result almost none of its original features – other than its shape – remain. It does, however, provide and excellent viewpoint from which to see Carlisle Bay.

St Anne’s Fort
St Anne’s Fort was built from local coral stone 1707, and it is hexagonal in shape. In its centre is a watchtower …

… and its walls are lined with artillery.

The Drill Hall
The Drill Hall was built from local coral stone in 1790, and was originally used as a barracks for soldiers. It was build abutting one of the exterior walls of St Anne’s Fort, and was remodelled in the 1820s when it became the Armoury and then the Garrison Headquarters (1881). Since 1979 the building has housed the Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes of the Barbados Defence Force as well as being the location of numerous state functions.

The imposing entrance has two staircases that lead up to the main door …

... and between the staircases a Rifled Muzzle Loading cannon has been mounted.

One room in the Drill Hall commemorates the West Indian and Barbados Regiments. Besides the colours of the former Barbados Regiment …

… there are numerous pictures that tell the story of the two regiments.

There is also a case containing 54mm-scale figures that represent the Band of the West India Regiment in their famous Zouave uniforms.

The Powder Store
The Power Store or Magazine was constructed underneath St Anne’s Fort from 1801 onwards. It now serves as the location for the National Armoury Museum, which is reputed to have the largest collection of English iron cannon in the world.

The Store is entered via a pair of doors in the wall of St Anne’s Fort …

… and once inside one sees the extent of the Museum’s collection. I hope to write a more detailed blog entry about the collection in the very near future.


  1. Nice set of photo's... those guns just dumped in the sea are begging for restoration though!

  2. Lee Hadley,

    The guns that are featured in the photograph were only a small part of the armament that had been dumped.

    You are absolutely right ... they do need preserving ... and the local museum service indicated that they hope to undertake the task as soon as they can.

    Ironically, just above the dump site are the ramparts of the re-modelled Charles Fort ... and Hilton Hotels have outfitted it with fibreglass replica cannons! I am sure that this makes sense to someone ... but it does not make sense to me.

    All the best,



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