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Velina and Antonio Espinosa recently traveled to Napa Valley’s wine country. She works for the Santa Ana School District, 38 years of service, and he’s Retired from the Santa Ana School District, 43 years.
Letter From Barbados, Pt. 2
Capt. Michael Barnes, Retired, Harbor, reports from the Caribbean.
Letter from the Garrison
If your Caribbean cruise docks in Bridgetown, I would suggest you catch a cab and visit Saint Ann’s Garrison, also known as the Barbados Garrison.
This large historical area is about two miles south of Heroes Square in Bridgetown. The Garrison is home to the Barbados Museum, Guardhouse and Clock Tower, Bush Hill House (also known as the George Washington House), the Garrison Savannah horse race track and a collection of other military buildings. The original buildings were wooden, built in 1705 to accommodate British officers and soldiers, but because of hurricanes were built and rebuilt many times, until the development of the sugar industry changed that. Sailing ships carrying their heavy cargos of sugar to Britain needed ballast for their return journey. The British military needed bricks to build more permanent buildings, which is why visitors see all these red brick buildings today.
The Garrison’s Barbados Historical Society Museum, located in the old 19th century military prison, is a good place to begin your outing. Established in 1933, it has an excellent display of colonial times under British rule with more than 500,000 artifacts. It is a rather old-fashioned museum, but worth a visit. There is an ample parking lot for visitors who are driving. Walking from the museum to the racetrack, you will pass the Royal York Rangers Memorial (37th Regiment of Foot). Constructed of coral stone and freshly whitewashed, it stands in the center of a small traffic island.
British officers stationed in Barbados have used a former parade ground to racehorses since 1845 — wealthy merchants and planters used to wager on the officers racing. Along the six-furlong clockwise track today is where the annual Barbados Gold Cup race for thoroughbreds takes place. There is seating in the stands, or enthusiasts can stand outside the perimeter track fence and watch the race free!
To arrive at the next spot to visit after the racetrack, visitors should continue walking alongside the track until they reach the white monument in the middle of the road; it’s dedicated to the soldiers and wives of the 36th regiment who died in the great hurricane of 1831. Once there, turn left and walk past some of the oldest cannons found in the Caribbean, located in front of the Georgian-style main guardhouse and red brick clock tower. The tower was built in 1803 by the British as a military courthouse and command post; they used it until they left the island in 1905. Over the main guardroom entrance pediment is the coat of arms of King George III, constructed in “Coad” stone (a type of pottery).
The Garrison’s high mortality rates (caused by yellow fever and malaria infecting the European troops) along with Britain’s war with France resulted in a shortage of troops. One solution was to offer plantation slaves their freedom and pay equal to the British troops to enlist. Two regiments of 1,000 men each were formed and named the “West India Regiments;” they served in the British Army for more 120 years.
In 2011 to celebrate Tourism Week, the Barbados Tourist Board began its own version of Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace by creating Changing of the Sentry, a ceremony at the old Main Guard building. The guard and band consist of retired Barbados Defense force personnel wearing the same style of colorful Zouave uniform chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858. This event takes place at noon on Thursdays (check for COVID delays); it lasts approximately 15 minutes. There is an opportunity to take photos with the sentries after the ceremony concludes.
If time permits, retrace your steps back to the white monument and cross the road to visit the “supposed” house where President George Washington stayed.
To be continued…
As always, have calm seas and a following wind.