Also known as St. Ann’s Garrison, this 150-acre area functioned as the British Garrison for 126 years and was the first of its kind in the West Indies. It is also one of the most intact British Garrisons in the entire world. This area was said to have fantastic defence capabilities for the British. The Garrison Historic Area Project was launched on Sunday October 21, 2007 and has been crucial in developing the Garrison Historic Area as one of the premier heritage tourism sites in the Caribbean.
Although there are currently no cricket facilities, this area was the scene of the first inter-colonial cricket match in 1860 between Barbados and British Guiana (now Guyana). Quite fittingly, arguably one of the best Barbadian and West Indian cricketers, Sir Garfield Sobers, knelt before Queen Elizabeth II to receive his knighthood at this site. This area comprises of a number of sites of historical interest in Barbados. It spreads from the Bay Street Esplanade to the South Coast Boardwalk in Hastings. Thus many of the buildings that made up the Garrison have been transformed into private homes and businesses. However, some of the sites that continue to make up this UNESCO designated World Heritage Site are:
The Barbados Museum and Historical Society
- Established in 1933.
- Records and preserves pieces of Barbados’ history and cultural heritage.
- Located in the building that was one a British Military Prison.
- Upper section was built in 1817 and the lower section in 1853.
- It was the creation of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in the Garrison Historic Area that stimulated the transformation of the historic Garrison buildings into visitor-oriented facilities.
- Erected in 1650.
- The oldest and the largest fort in Barbados.
- Built in 1970.
- In 1822 was used as an Armory.
- In 1881, it became the headquarters for the Garrison.
- Just as the Barbados Museum and Historical Society was once a British Military prison, the building that houses the Drill Hall was used as barracks for soldiers.
- Since the late 18th century, it has been used as the messes for Officers and Sergeants of the Defence Force.
The Garrison Tunnels
- Previously provided drainage for the Savannah.
- Also said to have allowed discreet movement of persons, whether dead or alive, from the Garrison area to the beach.
- Stretches over two miles beneath the Garrison.
George Washington House
- The only place the late George Washington (aged 19 at the time) ever visited outside of the US (visit occurred in 1751).
- Provides an insight into that period of George Washington’s life.
- Built in 1906.
- Was previously the residence of the Medical Officer to the General Hospital for the Garrison.
The Main Guard
- Current headquarters for the Barbados Legion and the Barbados Poppy League.
- Distinguished from all other buildings as it houses an imposing yet impressive clock tower.
The National Armory and St. Ann’s Fort
- Built in the 18th century.
- The home of one of two remaining Commonwealth Cannons in the world. The one currently at this location is from 1652.
- Acts as a home to many 17th century English Cannons.
- Also houses the best collection of these cannons ever to be seen in the world and also some from the 16th century
- Holds an impressive gun collection.
- Located here are English military memorabilia including portraits of former soldiers and unique maps.
The Garrison Savannah
- Was the parade ground for military barracks.
- The track was built in 1905, the oldest in the Western hemisphere.
- Also hosts various activities such as Easter kite flying and parades.
- The home base for the Barbados Rugby Club.
Other aspects of this World Heritage Site include the building that now houses The Barbados Light and Power, formerly the Commissariat Provision Store before it became the Garrison Theatre; there is also the Barbados Military Cemetery located between the Charles and St. Ann’s Forts. This has been the burial ground for ex-servicemen, women and their families since 1780. Additionally, the property where the Barbados Yacht Club is located was formerly Shot Hall. Created in 1810, Shot Hall was the residence of the Officer in charge of the Royal Engineers. The location of the Barbados Turf Club Officers was formerly the residence of the Military Engineers Officers. Finally, there is St. Matthias Church, which used to be the Garrison Church for the British Forces. Currently, it is the church for the Barbados Defence Force as well as other military units. In the graveyard of this church, a tomb was erected in memory of those crew members who died on the H.M.S Dauntless of yellow fever.
Designation as a World Heritage Site
On June 25th 2011, the Garrison Historic Area was listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list. In their words, this site represents “an outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Great Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire”. This designation is crucial for the island, as it has marked Barbados as an ideal destination for those who love history and have a keen interest in heritage tourism. It also reflects that the area is not only of national and regional significance but of international significant as well, as it is crucial to world history.
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