Monday, August 30, 2010

The Birth of Barbados

Did you often wonder why Barbados is referred to as the “coral island”? Well, it’s not just because we have the beautiful coral stone on the island or because the other Caribbean islands are volcanic and we are coral-based.

Geologically, Barbados is one of the most fascinating formations known to man. Barbados geological development is the result of a collision between the Atlantic plate and the Caribbean plate. Our island, over the period of about a million years, was born of the gradual accretion of the oceanic sediments and regular tectonic uplifts caused by the Atlantic plate being pushed under the Caribbean plate which literally forced Barbados to ‘pop’ out of the ocean.

The island however, did not take its present shape all at once. Barbados presented as a gradual rising (over some 500,000 years) when coral reefs were created in clear, shallow waters which surrounded the exposed part of the Barbados ridge. At different intervals between 500,000 to 120,000 years ago, Barbados became enlarged by tectonic uplifts which pushed these reefs out of the water. These sea reefs are now ‘inland reefs’ which present as terraces and cliffs that can be seen as you drive around the island.

The unique activity of Barbados' geology also explains why we have so many caves, the most fascinating and beautiful of which is the popular Harrison’s Caves. Very simply put, the caves came about as a result of continued rain and ground water eroding the surface and structure of underground coral beds. The porosity of coral limestone bedrock also acts as a natural filter for rain water which is tapped in reservoirs and pumped throughout the island as excellent potable water to Barbadians.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Barbados Military History Part 6 Buildings of the Garrison Savannah

Buildings of the Garrison Savannah

1. The Main Guard

The Main Guard is the central point of the Garrisons and looks out on what was once the Parade Ground and now the race track. This structure was erected in 1804 and was used among other things as a court martial with the prisoners being housed in a guard house to the North.

Interesting features are the clock and the coat of arms.

The clock is dated 1803 and was made by Dwerri and Carter of London a noted cock maker. It is thought that the two dials were added later.

The coat of arms is the George the III Coat of Arms. It is unique and was designed especially for this building. It is made of Coad Stone, that is not a stone but a ceramic made to resemble stone. The Formula was invented by a Mrs Elanor Coade in 1779 and its foremost property is its durability. The Coat of arms is dated 1803 and faces directly into the prevailing weather and has withstood 3 major hurricanes. Both King George the III and IV  about enthusiastic about Coade Stone and so it is said that perhaps this piece in Barbados may have been commissioned by one of them.

The Veranda and its cast Iron trimmings were added later by Mr Darnley Dacosta who purchased the building in 1906 for the use of a private club "The Savannah Club". The building was later purchased by the Government in 1989 and renamed the Main Guard

2 Ordnance or Royal Artillery, Barracks (Stanford House.

This building was built in 1812, when gunners were no longer required it was used to house the military band before being first turned into apartment and then commercial units

3 The Cannon

This is a collection of cannons that form the nucleus of the National Cannon Collection. This collection includes one cannon that dates back to Oliver Cromwell's time

4 Officers Quarters (Horseshoe Manor)

These were the quarters for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers in 1824. It was on the opposite side of the road that the Ordinance Hospital was built in 1804. This was condemned in 1822 because it blocked the breeze from the officers and so was torn down and a new hospital was built in 1828 opposite the Savannah.

5 Regimental Engineers Quarters

This is the remnants of the Engineers Yard which once extended down Bay Street. An Interesting Architectural feature is the lantern which may have been used to allow hot air to escape  but also provided a look out for the engineer in residence.

6 Monument

This Monument commemorates the 14 soldiers and one married woman killed by the "awful visitation"  the hurricane of 11th Aug 1831.

7  Bush Hill House. The Commanding Officer Royal Engineers Quarters

This location will always be most famous for being the house where George Washington stayed on his fate full trip to Barbados. The house has been expanded since his visit but it is known to be the oldest house in the area and was in existence in 1804. The water mill and bath house were in existence by 1793.

8 The Monument

This Monument was erected to commemorate all those who fell in action in Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1809 and 1810

9 The Military Prison  (Barbados Museum)

The 'New Prision' Built in 1817-1818 is now known as the the Upper Court Yard the other building were completed in 1853. These surround what was formerly a concrete exercises ground. The Complex became the Barbados Museum in 1933.

10 Barracks Block A, B & C

These Barracks were built together in 1807-1808 and were said to house 400 men each. They were damaged in the hurricane of 1831 but rebuilt.  Barracks C was to be the scene of a Grand Ball on the 12th of August preparations were being made for the ball when the hurricane hit. They are now utilized as Government offices.

11 Stables (cherry Tree Cottage)

In 1936 the stables were converted into a house by jacking up the roof and inserting a second story of coral stone.

12 Ordnance Hospital  (Rafeen, Geneva and Letchworth

in 1826 Approval was granted for construction of an Ordnance Hospital. The iron work was sent from England in 1828. and the building completed before the hurricane of 1831. It is believed Geneva was the main hospital. Following the abolition of the Ordnance department in 1855 during the 1860's the building was converted for use as the soldiers library and recreation room. It is also said to have been uses for armature theatricals.

13. Bridge Majors Quarters now known as the Bridge House.

The single story section is the oldest section of this building and is described as the Bridge Majors Quarters in 1819. Sometime after 1862 it became the residence of the Chaplin  until it was sold in 1905. The building has been used as a home for the elderly, a hotel and restaurant and is now a doctors offices.

14. Stone Barracks. Later West India Barracks.

Completed in 1791 built of stone and brick with two floors measuring 265 by 44ft and housing 450 men. It was badly damaged in the hurricane of 1831 and subsequently rebuilt. It became known as the West Indian Barracks when the West Indian Regiment had its mess and quarters there during the late part of the 19th century. Between the departure of the British forces and the establishment of the Defence Force it provided living accommodation for government officials.

15 Stone Barracks

Also completed in 1791 described as the officers barracks, this to was damaged in the hurricane of 1831. It was rented out as flats in 1834. It is also noteworthy that the current cream colour is the original color of all the Garrison buildings.

16 Tunnel

Unknown to many there lies a tunnel that leads from St Ann's Fort to the Parade Ground.

17 St Ann's Fort

Originally known as St Ann's Castle. This Fort was constructed on an acre and a half. It was built in the shape of a hexagon. It had massive walls and a magazine was built in the center. The Magazine was demolished in 1811 as it was not bomb proof and its contents transferred to Charles Fort.
During the 1840's a look out point was constructed. This point formed part of the Islands signal stations and and between 1914 and 18 it became a wireless station and communicated with ships as far away as the US coastal area.

18.  Barbados Military Cemetery

The Present cemetery came into use in 1820's and is today cared for by the Barbados Military cemetery Association. The Cross of Sacrifice was erected in 1982 and the memorial building in 1984. The building houses information on various military units involved in the Garrison and the location of the headstones. Past and present service men are eligible for burial. There is also a memorial to the first Prime Minister of Barbados Sir Errol Walton Barrow who was a flying officer in the Royal Air Force. Another memorial that can be seen is one for the World War soldiers who perished in battle or went missing forever more.

19. Charles Fort.

Originally named Needams Fort but renamed Charles Fort after Charles the II in 1660 it was constructed by Barbados Militia in 1650. It was later incorporated into the British Garrison in 1836 fifty years after the decision was made to build a Garrison. Needhams point Signal station which was within the perimeter of the Fort was erected in 1816 and was one of the Islands signal stations intended to provide early warning of a French attack or a slave uprising. The wooden structure was destroyed by the 181 hurricane rebuilt and destroyed again by fire from a lightning strike in 1929.

20. Rum Store (Island Inn)

Built in 1804 it is shown in 1824 at the Commissariats Rum Store, built in stone and housed 500 cask of rum carrying 120 gallons each. This now forms part of the Island Inn Hotel

21. Shot Hall (Barbados Yacht Club)

What is now a private club was  in 1824 the quarters for the Officer Commanding the Royal Engineers.

22. Commissariat Provision Stone (Barbados Light and Power)

This building was built between 1793 1nd 1801. It was designed to accommodate 3500 42 gallon cask. It was bought by the Barbados Light and Power in 1909 which was responsible for its restoration in 1986 and now houses the headquarters for the company.

24. Military Hospital

These buildings were erected in 1803-1806 and were damaged by the hurricane in 1831. They were not restored until 1840 when they were again used as a Hospital. They were later sold as apartments in 1928


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Barbados Military History Part 5: The Garrison Historic Area Part 3

By the end of the 18th century all the wars and talk of war in the Caribbean had ceased the British Government questioned the need for military forces in the West Indies and they contemplated removing them. In 1894 the Secretary of State for the colonies the Earl of Rippon contacted the colonial governments with proposals to dispose of Military property that was no longer required.

In 1905 Governor Gilbert Carter was notified of the British Governments plans to remove the British troops from the Island in the near future. The British government on the removal of the troops provided protection to the islands via a fast naval cruiser permanently stationed in the region and a naval squadron would visit every winter.

With the removal of the troops also came the end of the £80,000 that helped to support the local economy. The House of Assembly wrote King Edward the VII expressing their regret at the British Governments decision but the British government decision was irrevocable.

In November 1905 the last British troops remaining in the Garrison sailed away followed in January 1906 by the 1st West Indian regiment. Only a few staff officers remained to wind up departmental affairs.

During the coarse of the British Government disposing of the military properties they had once occupied they handed back over to the Barbados Government the military installations that belonged to them These included: Charles Fort, st Ann's Fort, Gun Hill &The Barracks at the North face of St Ann's Fort. The Barracks were then fixed up and partially used as a gymnasium for the Barbados Volunteer Force and rooms downstairs were allocated for the Police Force.

The Barbados Government bought Queens House and after leasing the Savannah they bought it outright in 1912 with the agreement that it be kept as an open space available for military exercises. They also bought the military prison  and the neighbouring married women's barracks but these were later demolished to build the Garrison secondary school. The Iron Barracks and Stone Barracks also belong to the Barbados Government.

All that is left of the Naval Dockyard is one small building on the Mobil oil compound. The site of the Naval Hospital is now the Navy Gardens residential area and the garrison Chapel. The Military Hospital was turned into residential apartments and is called Pavilion Court. The Main Guard was purchased privately in 1906 and was called the Savannah Club but was later purchased by the Barbados Government in 1989 and the name was reverted to the original title of the Main Guard.

The glory days of the Garrison may be long over but that does not mean that shadows of her past do not linger. One can almost imagine the troops practicing drills on the field and a your George Washington watching on with great interest. Today there is still life at the garrison especially on racing days as the old Savannah has been turned into the islands race horse track. With races being organized by the Barbados Turf Club

Monday, August 23, 2010

Barbados Military History Part 5: The Garrison Historic Area Part 2

The Garrison was rapidly expanded due to the renewed outbreak of war with France in 1803
In 1802 marked the beginning of the expansion of St Ann's Garrison beyond that which had been called the Kings Boundary.During 1802 and 1803 roughly 48 acres of land was purchased along with 8.5 acres for the General Hospital that was built between 1803 and 1806

The Ordnance Hospital and houses for its medical staff were constructed on the West side of the Savannah at the top of Bush Hill in 1790.

Bush Hill House was purchased as a residence for the commanding officer Now known as the George Washington House

The Main Guard was built in 1804 and the adjacent barracks followed in 1812

Where the Light and Power now occupies was once the Military Stables, storehouse and then the used as a workshop for the Royal engineers.

Construction on the East Side of the Savannah did not start until 1805 while Barbados was threatened by an attack of the French. This threat was thwarted by admiral nelsons timely visit to Barbados and the victory he won at the battle of Trafalgar. Even after this there were concerns of the long term safety of the island and in 1807 materials where supplied and three brick barracks were constructed by slave labour to house an additional 800 men.

The Engineers department stretched  almost to what is now known as the Bay Street Esplanade and at its northern boundary a long narrow pond ran parallel to the sea shore and turned sharply eastward bisecting bay street. The Army built a bridge which remained until 1884 called the Barrier Bridge to facilitate communication with Bridgetown

In 1804 The Commissariat rum store was built in preparation for the Royal Navy Dockyard on the road leading to Gravesend and could store 500 casks. A small guard room was also constructed to house a guard for the Rum Store. Now known as the Island Inn Hotel

In 1806 a Naval Hospital was constructed to sever the Naval Dockyard and remained open until 1816
when the dockyard shut down and the naval base was moved to Antigua. All remnants of the Dockyard and hospital were destroyed in the 1831 hospital

In 1817 the new prison was built in Dalkeith on just over 6 acres it was later expanded in 1853. This building now houses the Barbados Museum

Following the Hurricane of 1832 and the cessation of the wars with France the Garrison ceased to expand and started to decline.

Provided with the compliments of your friends at Glory Tours. The #1 Provider of Sightseeing Tours in Barbados

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Barbados Military History Part 5: The Garrison Historic Area Part 1

From 1655 large fleets of British ships and soldiers were visiting and Barbados making it there base of operation. In the early years there were no barracks for them or provisions, the care and expense of the officers fell in the hands of Barbadians themselves. After repeated visits this became quite burdensome  especially considering it was at a time when the island was quite impoverished. The legislature of Barbados was moved to petition the British government for a permanent garrison to be built on the island.

It was not until 1780 that it was finally decided by the British Government to station a permanent garrison on the island.

Before plans for the Garrisons had been made in 1778 France in alliance with the USA declared war on Britain and Louis XVI gave orders for all Britain's possessions in the west indies were to be attacked.  By 1780  Dominica, St Vincent and Grenada had been captured and word came to Barbados that it would be next in was under this grave threat that more troops were to be sent and stationed on the Island.
 Buildings on Bridge and Marhil streets were utilized and a house was was purchased for the general. on Constitution Hill in the grounds of the present Queens Park. The following October Barbados was devastated by a Hurricane and in 1782 President Dottin head of the Council and at the time acting Governor was forced to inform the Secretary of the State that it was impossible for him to find additional accommodation for the additional troops due to arrive. The decision was then made to purchase the land at Constitution Hill where they erected barracks some 300 feet length also erected a new house for the general. The house was first called Kings House and then renamed Queens House in the reign of Queen Victoria. The house still bears the name today.

After the American revolution ended in 1783 the French threat was removed. The Treaty of Paris saw to it that the islands of St Kits, Nevis,Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Tobago to Britain. At this time Britan decided to establish permanent land forces in the Leeward Islands with Barbados being the headquarters.

It was eventually decided that the Garrisons should be built near Charles Fort and St Annes Castle. 16 acres were purchased in 1789 and construction began by the early 19th century most of the buildings had been completed and had grown to cover 64 acres. Not including St Annes Castle or the Fort as they belonged to the Colonial Government. The Garrison in Barbados is in fact the largest in the Caribbean.

Many of the buildings were construsted of London brick. brought out as ballast in ships which returned with sugar. Some 60 of the original buildings are still in existence today. There are some striking examples of British Military Architecture of the time with wide verandas and arches to keep the buildings cool.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shipwrecks of Barbados

Barbados diving is known for its wreck sites and reef formations. However,
due to the enormous amount of fishing done off the island, large fish are
seldom seen by divers. The marine park at historic Carlisle Bay is home to five shallow wrecks; the Berwyn, Ctrek, Eillon, Bajan Queen and the Fox. Abundant with tropicals, small groupers and eels. Rare species such as frog fish, bat fish and sea horses. A macro photographer's dream.  The SS Stavronikita. The island's signature wreck is a 365-foot Greek freighter sitting in 70 to 140 feet of water.


In 1919 a French military ship came into the harbour. “The Berwyn”. The crew really enjoyed the island of Barbados and wanted to stay longer. The captain said over his dead body and a sunken ship. Well, they all got to drinking, got into an argument and the crew sunk the ship.
The 60 foot French boat sits upright and intact n 20 to 25 feet of water, only 100 yards
from shore. This site is often used as a training dive for scuba or resort courses. The intact iron structure is heavily encrusted with coral, allows for easy penetration, and portrays a classic shipwreck background for wide angle photography. A local dive operator has set up a fish feeding station on the site, so be sure to bring some food for the local inhabitants.

During World War II, a ship named the Cornwallis was sailing near Barbados where a German U-Boat hit it with torpedoes. The Cornwallis was taken ashore and repaired. On the 3rd December 1944 when on route from BARBADOS for ST JOHN (N.B.) carrying a cargo of sugar in bags and mollas ses in barrels she was torpedoed by German submarine U-1230 and sunk.
43 crew lost from a total of 48 The Cornwallis sunk in the deeper waters off the shore of Barbados. Then, when the Carlisle Bay marine park was set up, they moved the hull of the Cornwallis closer ashore.


The Elion, came to Barbados from Columbia. The ship was seized by local authorities and searched. They pulled off the interior wall of the ship to discover that the walls of the entire thing was lined with marijuana. The government maintained control of the ship. After all the legal issues were taken care of, the Elion was brought out to the marine park in Carlise Bay and sunk there.


The Bajan Queen is located in Carlisle Bay ~ 35ft ~ She was Barbados’ first tugboat named the “Pelican” when the Bridgetown Harbour was being constructed in the 1960’s. A decade later, as more modern tugboats were purchased; the Pelican was then converted to a party boat called “Bajan Queen”. The Bajan Queen holds many memories for thousands of Barbadians and visitors alike. After years of operation as the party spot the Bajan Queen was donated to the Coastal Zone Management Unit. From there with the assistance of our very own Andre Miller the Bajan Queen was cleaned up and sunk on 19th May 2002 in Carlisle Bay Marine Park. She now sits only a few feet below the surface and is accumulating some excellent fish life and good coral diversity.


Carlisle Bay ~ 45ft ~ The Ce-Trek, a derelict boat constructed of cement was sunk in January 1986. This shipwreck sits in deeper water on the northern edge of the park and is home to nice coral, soft coral and sponge growth.


This vessel, according to Willie Hassell, owner of Willie's Watersports, is
a 160 foot long steamer that was scuttled intentionally in 1985 to form a
fish haven. She sits in 50 feet of water and has already attracted a nice
assortment of fish.


The Pamir wreck is a 155 foot freighter that was also intentionally scuttled
in 1985 to attract fish. She lies completely intact in 50 feet of water about
100 yards offshore. Located on the northwest side of the island, this wreck
can be visited by boat, or divers can reach her by swimming from the

Straronikita Shipwreck

Stavronikita after the fire. Note the SOS painted on her hull in an attempt to summon help to the stranded
crew. Photo courtesy W.M. Schell, negative by Charles F. Schell. The Stavronikita is probably the most popular wreck on Barbados. She was a 365 foot Greek freighter built in Denmark in 1956 and originally christened the Ohio. On August 26, 1976, while en route from Ireland to the Caribbean and carrying a cargo of 101,000 bags of cement, the vessel caught fire, killing six crew members and injuring three others. An explosion that followed the fire destroyed all of the ship's radio equipment, making it impossible for
the stranded crew to call for help. Twenty four crewmen drifted in the open sea for four days before being rescued. The Stavronikits was then towed to Barbados. A year went by, and the vessel was still anchored off Carlisle Bay, Barbados. On October 24, 1977 , she was purchased at an auction for the sum of $30,000
by the Parks and Beach Commission. The ship was then stripped of all the machinery and brass that could be salvaged. She was cleaned of pollutants, namely the 70,000 gallons of oil being carried in her fuel tanks and towed to a spot just 400 yards offshore on the west coast of the island. On November
21,1978, the U.S. Navy demolition crew set seven charges totaling 200 pounds and blew holes in the ship's hull, causing her to sink. Today, the huge wreck Stavronikila rests in Exploration around and inside her pilot house by her bow where the vessel's name can still divers should not miss.

Lord Combermere  & Lord Willoughby
The tugboat Lord Combermere is sunk near Batt’s Rock on the windy west coast.

Locatted  in 40ft of water, this small wreck is surrounded by a variety of corals and sponges and is home to many smaller fish. A good beginners dive. Its sister ship, the Lord Willoughby rests in 60 feet of water about a mile away.