The BARBADOS GARRISON HISTORIC AREA (St Ann’s Garrison) functioned as a British Garrison for some 126 years, and was in fact the first Garrison of the West Indies. Today the focal point of the garrison complex is the Savannah, which is now the island’s only racetrack.
The Barbados Militia (Estab. 1640) is one of the oldest in the British Commonwealth, serving until British troops arrived in 1780. The Garrison was later established making it the second oldest of its kind. At which time it became the military headquarters for the Imperial Forces stationed on the island until 1905.
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The Royal Navy forces were not established here until the Napoleonic Wars of 1803 – 1815.
100 Old Garrison Buildings
Spread along the southern outskirts of Bridgetown is a veritable community of approx. 100 old garrison buildings of historical and architectural interest, built from a period beginning in the 1660s and continuing into the 1800s.
In 1785 the British Government established permanent land forces in the Windward and Leeward Islands with Barbados as headquarters. Construction of the British Garrison then began in 1789 leaving behind a legacy of buildings, artillery and artifacts.
They were some (20) forts and (26) batteries around the island dating from the 1600s, making Barbados one of the most fortified islands of the British West Indies during that time.
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The Garrison Historic area occupies 151 acres, and is also the exact location of a house where George Washington stayed for six weeks while visiting his sick brother in Barbados. The house is today simply called the ‘George Washington House’ or ‘Bush Hill House’ due to its location at the top of Bush Hill. It was where the first president of the United States stayed in Barbados during the year 1751 on his only visit outside of America.
On November 30th 1966, the Garrison Historic Area was also the location where the ceremony was held for the lowering of the Union Jack (British flag), and the raising of the Barbados flag, thus ushering-in full independence for the country of Barbados. See the Famous Historic Garrison Tunnels.
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Ringing the track and weaving up and down the small gaps and roads surrounding the area are the many buildings that made up the Garrison. Some of the buildings are private homes; others have been converted to offices and places of business, while others sit abandoned.
An effort is now underway to continue the restoration process of many of the buildings as well as to develop an interpretive centre and make the island’s enviable National Cannon Collection more available for public viewing. This collection constitutes the largest cluster of 17th Century English cannons in the world and is also home to one of only two cannons in existence containing a gun with Oliver Cromwell’s crest. Some of the cannons can be seen in front of the Main Guard facing the racetrack.
Between 1905 and 1906 the British Garrison was withdrawn after the Barbados Regiment was formed in 1902 as the Barbados Volunteer Force. This volunteer unit provided local defense for the island and included soldiers who were part of the South Caribbean Force and the Caribbean Regiment. Some of these soldiers served in both the 1st & 2nd World Wars.
After the withdrawal of the British troops many properties were sold while others were donated to the Barbados Government.
Throughout the years, due to the commitment of the Barbados National Trust, the Government of Barbados, the Private Sector and the Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium, the buildings of the British Garrison in Barbados have become one of the most comprehensive and well preserved colonial garrisons in the world.
The Barbados Historic Garrison Area spreads from the Esplanade on Bay Street to the South Coast Boardwalk in the Hastings area.
The preservation of the Garrison’s rich military history in this area has led to Barbados being added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
On June 25th 2011, “Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison” was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Official Inscription Ceremony commemorating Historic Bridgetown and the Historic Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was June 13th 2012
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