Friday, 4 July 2014

The Garrison

The day I visited George Washington House, I had a little time on my hands before my next appointment, so I decided to stroll across the street to the Garrison area and enjoy its beauty.

We are now at the centrepiece of the Garrison Historic Area.
The Garrison Historic Area includes Charles Fort, St Ann's Fort (now the home of the Barbados Defence Force), The Main Guard, George Washington House, The National Cannon Collection, The Garrison Savannah, and The Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

The Barbados Garrison (St.Ann's Garrison) was the largest in the British colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Established in 1780 as the military headquarters for the Imperial Forces stationed here until the early 1900's, it functioned for 126 years as a British Garrison.
It was the first Garrison of the West Indies.
It was part of the defense network of the island which had 20 forts and 26 batteries around the island at the time ......this made Barbados one of the most fortified islands of the British West Indies.
Along with its strategic position, the island was very wealthy with the cultivation of sugar and the English defended it with vigour.
Any enemy ship attempting to attack the well-armed militia of the island would have found itself under continuous fire as the coastline was heavily guarded....none of them ever succeeded.
Ligon, the historian, in 1657 described the island as being "able to muster 10,000 foot and 1,000 good horse."

The Garrison Historical Area is home to several interesting 19th-century military buildings, grouped around the Garrison Savannah. Built in the traditional colonial design, they were built out of brick brought as ballast on the ships from England.
Most of these buildings now serve as offices and we will visit more of them in my follow-up posts.

With the withdrawal of the British troops in 1905, several of the Garrison properties were sold and others were donated to  the Barbados Government.
The buildings of the British Garrison hold the distinction of being one of the most well preserved colonial garrisons in the world due to the efforts of the Barbados National Trust, The Government with aid of the Private Sector as well as the Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium Inc.
This dedicated preservation of the Garrison's rich military history was instrumental in Barbados being added to the UNESCO World heritage List on June 25, 2011 as the "Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison."

The cannon at the Garrison facing the Garrison Savannah racetrack which used to be the parade ground for the troops.  
These cannon are a part of The Barbados National Cannon Collection.
The Main Guard Building is in the background.
A hoard of iron cannon were left behind after the withdrawal of the British forces in 1905.

Major Mike Hartland (now deceased) undertook the responsibility of locating and documenting the many cannon that were being unearthed around the island.  The cannon were littered all over the island and they were being found on old military grounds, gardens and abandoned properties, and even in the sea.
After the discovery of so many of them, "Major Mike" as he was affectionately known decided to contact Charles Trollope, an English apple farmer who was also a world authority on fortifications and ordnance....he was invited to the island to catalogue the collection.
He brought with him copies of the Royal Armoury archives which are stored in the Tower of London.
Yep, the English as well as the Spaniards, kept meticulous records of all their bullion. which included guns shipped to and from the West Indies.
When checked against the archive records it was found that more than half of the cannon were cast in the 17th century.
A wonderful article here on the many intriguing guns and cannon that were found.

The Barbados National Armoury was opened in 2004 and included in this impressive collection is an Elizabethan cannon of 1600, the only one known to exist anywhere in the world.  We will be visiting the armoury in the future, so look out for that post.
Let's continue our ramble among the cannon.
Details of the inscriptions on the cannon.

Cannon of all sizes
The beautiful Drill Hall building in the background is on the grounds of St.Ann's Fort.  It was once the soldiers’ barracks but now serves as the Officers’ Mess, the Sergeants’ Mess and the Corporals’ Mess of The Barbados Defence Force.

Some of the cannon muzzles are filled in.......

.....while others are open, and to my dismay, folks are using them as rubbish receptacles (even though there are many garbage bins around the area.)

There are three vacant bases amidst the displayed cannon and according to Major Jackman, these will be filled shortly with cannon found at Port Ferdinand.

Benches under shady trees  where one can sit awhile and enjoy the scenery.
The benches were designed and made here on the island.

The Garrison Savannah Racetrack
A six furlong race course.
I enjoyed my ramble around the Garrison, there was so much to see, and I love being immersed in history....just wonderful.
I also visited the Main Guard Building so we will be headed there next.


  1. Reading articles like this make me wonder how history was taught at school. I don't remember at all. All I do recall is that I loathed it. Mind you since my late teens I've had a particular interest in sea warfare and the Nelson era in particular so an article like this is directly relevant.

    1. We do have a statue of Lord Nelson here, so maybe it's time for me to write a post on the role he played here on the island.
      To be honest, History at school was not my favourite subject, but I did pay attention to everything taught during the lesson.


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