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.

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