In the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda's database, 349 historical sites are recorded, 15 of which are in Barbuda.



There are 9 industrial sites, 109 mill towers and 40 military sites listed.

Most of this heritage is endangered.



History       Cathedral        Gunthorpes          Montpelier        Dungeons        Dockyard         Shirley Heights         Monk's Hill               Fort James       Fort Barrington      Andes Wreck      Martello Tower     Fort Berkeley      Redonda     Driving around


A   T H U M B N A I L   H I S T O R Y

The tropical islands of Antigua and Barbuda are located in the heart of the Caribbean about a thousand miles to the east of Jamaica and half that distance from Trinidad on the coast of south America. We are at 17ø N latitude, about the same as the Cape Verde Islands and Bombay and 61ø W longitude.

The island of Antigua was born out of the sea by a volcano about 30 million years ago. A young island in geologic time. On the northern flank of this volcano, reefs were formed, hence the greater part of Antigua is low lying and is composed of limestone rock.

The highest point of Antigua is 1,319 ft in the south-west and is called Boggy Peak, but the limestone Highlands of Barbuda rise to only 125 ft. The area of Antigua is 108 square miles, while Barbuda is 62 square miles. The population of the former is approaching 80,000, but the latter is relatively unpopulated at 1,300. Days and nights are refreshingly cooled by the gentle trade winds. Antigua boasts the largest expanse of freshwater in the whole of the Caribbean with a lake nearly two miles long by a mile wide.

Barbuda became separated from Antigua by about 28 miles, when the sea-levels of the world rose considerably at about 10,000 BC. Today parts of Barbuda are geologically flooded to form interesting lagoons. Here may be seen the largest breeding and nesting colony of the Magnificent Frigate Bird in the world. Barbuda supports a tremendous diversity of native
habitats, as yet unthreatened by development. Reef-fringed Barbuda may be one of the best kept ecological secrets in the West Indies. Her rugged scenery, beautiful beaches, (one at least 12 miles long), lagoons and abundant wildlife may be a resource as valuable as its fisheries.

Because of the abundance of conchshell and other protein producing marine species, Antigua appears to have supported more stone age people than any other island in the Lesser Antilles. Also, no other island could produce flint, so necessary in the making of tools for a stone age people. The first Antiguans were Amerindians from South America. The date for their first known existence is about 2,400 BC and was determined from the site of Little Deep at Mill Reef.

At about the time of Christ, agricultural seafaring Amerindians arrived on the blessed shores of Antigua and Barbuda and began to subsist by growing cassava, a local tuber plant still used to this day. These copper coloured Amerindians also knew the art of pottery making and settled in
many villages. To date, over 125 prehistoric settlements have been recorded in Antigua and Barbuda. According to the early missionaries, Antigua was then known as Waladli and Barbuda, Wa'omoni.

Columbus sailed past Waladli in 1493 and renamed the island after a famous miracle working virgin in Seville Cathedral called Santa Maria la Antigua . It was not until 1632 that Antigua was colonised by the English under Edward Warner, the island's first governor. Tobacco, ginger, cotton and the dye plant indigo, were grown by these early Europeans.

After a glut in tobacco, sugar was introduced, but was very labour intensive. Africans were imported to work Antigua's sugar industry from the 1640's and the cruel institution of slavery began in Antigua. The first full scale sugar plantation was at Betty's Hope and soon sugar became
king. Barbuda was leased to the Codrington family for "one fat sheep" per annum over a period of 300 years, and was used to supply their five Antigua sugar plantations with livestock, estate supplies and provisions. Relations were often uneasy and uprisings of the Africans were cruelly put down. The sugar industry was to continue for over three hundred years when tourism took over. Today over a hundred stone sugar mill towers dot Antigua's landscape in mute evidence of bygone days.

Emancipation of the slaves occurred in 1834, then the long road to Independence began. Antiguans only began to obtain their rights when trade unionism was introduced in 1939. Just under 150 years after emancipation, in 1981, full Independence was finally gained.



 What land was good for ancient Amerindian people to build on, is good for Antiguan developers as well today. Take for example. Jolly Beach, where the earliest known archaic people of our land lived nearly 4,000 years ago. Then there is Mamora Bay, Mill Reef, Curtain Bluff, all where the later Arawakan speaking Amerindians lived about 2,000 years ago. Why did they live in these and other similar places? They used the natural resources of the coastal environment, just as we, in a sense, do today.

      The Historical and Archaeological Society of Antigua and Barbuda and your Museum has taken two important steps to preserve undeveloped historical sites by informing developers of the historical importance of their land and how these resources could become a valuable asset to their development.  Suggested has been:-

It is hoped development companies and land use planners would thus become enthusiastic over the prospect of exploiting historical resources.  The Historical and Archaeological Society has, on occasion, been asked to peg out scientifically important areas where bush should be cleared by hand rather than by bulldozer.  A company once decided to use motifs and names that recalled the history and culture of the ancient developers of the same site. Let’s hope others will follow!






Two St. John's Anglican Churches have already stood on the site of the present cathedral.  The first was built of wood as early as 1681 and was said to be "totally destitute of beauty or comfort".  The second was constructed with English brick about 1720 when the first fell in disrepair and became too small.  The church was designed by Mr. Robert Cullen and had a short steeple at its western end.  After over a century, the church was elevated to the status of a cathedral when the Diocese of Antigua was created in August 1842.


As plans were being made to make the church worthy of its new status, a violent earthquake severely damaged it in February 1843.  Temporary repairs were made and in it Bishop Daniel Davis was    enthroned as the first Bishop of Antigua.

Next to the site of the first two churches a new purpose built cathedral was planned and approved by the House of Assembly.  The Governor, Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, laid the cornerstone on October 9, 1843 and on October 10 1847, the Cathedral was opened for divine service. It was consecrated on July 25, 1848.


The Cathedral is built of freestone and the architect was Mr. J. Fuller of Bath and the Clerk of Works was Mr. F. W. Rowe of Bristol. The interior is encased in pitch pine, intending to secure the building from ruin during earthquake or hurricane.  It has been described as "a building within a building".


The Cathedral is dominated by twin towers at the west end and provides a distinct baroque flavour.  They are 70 ft high and the cupolas that crown the towers are aluminum in colour.  At the time of erection, the edifice was criticised by ecclesiastical architects as being like "a pagan temple with two dumpy pepper pot towers", however in modern times the edifice has been cited as "the most imposing of all the Cathedrals of the West Indian Province".


Originally the south gate was the main entrance to the Cathedral. On top of its pillars are the lead figures of St. John the Divine and St. John the Baptist.  H.M.S. Temple is said to have taken these figures from a French ship destined for Martinique in 1756 during the Seven Years War.  The iron gates themselves date from 1789.


A centenarian, Samuel Smith in his memoirs (To Shoot Hard Labour), says the planters called the Cathedral 'Big Church' and that it frightened the people as a symbol of English power.  He also said that the Anglican Church catered more for the planter class, but the black people got more involved at about the time of World War I.  At last some black persons names were memorialised on the cathedral's walls.


Today, especially after the earthquake of 1974, the Cathedral needs much restoration work.

Much has already been carried out but funds are badly needed. For example US$55,500 is required for the roof; $590,000 for the foundations and stone slab floors, $55,500 for the clock; $370,000 for the Walker Organ and $55,500 for the perimeter walls. These are just a few of the areas that need attending to.


150th Anniversary Appeal

Donations for the 'Cathedral Restoration Fund' may be sent to Miss Cecile I. G. Davis, or to The Very Reverend Rudolph Smithen,  both addresses Box 71, St. John's, Antigua, West Indies. Photo by Deborah-May Lovell.


















The remains of this sugar factory is an important part of Antigua's history. Before the 21st century all sugar mills were owned by individual planters scattered over the island. Then when sugar cane output began to fail a central factory was built at Gunthorpes Estate in 1904. Here Antiguans were better able to communicate with each other, and seeing their exploitation, shop stewards were first formalised. By 1939, a trade union had been established. Soon an alliance between Government and a trade union led to the Ministerial system, thus a path to Independence was attained. Sugar ceased to be ground in 1972.






This is a fine example of a muscavado sugar factory of the late 19th Century, reputed to have been the finest in the Caribbean in the 1890’s.

The large horizontal steam engine remains with its enormous flywheel still sporting its governor and ornamental colours of yellow and green.  The engine is dated 1890 and was manufactured in Glasgow by McOnie, Harvie & Co.

There are two other steam engines, a high-speed one used for cutting cane prior to grinding and a small one for pumping water into the boilers, which still possess their massive pressure gauges. About 1945, the Antigua Distillery Ltd took over Montpelier, Lynch’s, Colebrook’s, Brown’s, Walrond’s, Harman’s and Hope’s

Estates.  The reason for buying the factory was to produce molasses for their rum distillery at Rat Island.

In 1952, the large overhead crane was brought in from Barbados.  Mr. Francis Nunes was the last Manager.  He held the position from Nov 1946 until Jan 1955.  The factory closed down due to labour troubles after the last crop in 1954. The last planter to live in the estate house was “Tank” Maginley, who in retirement, became host at the Kensington Hotel in St John’s.

In a field nearby is a private cemetery of the Harman family.  Buried there are Samuel Harman who died in 1759 and another Samuel Harman dying in 1767.  Their wives accompany them both.  (For details, see the Museum’s “Persons” database).

Overlooking the factory is the old windmill tower, which has now been converted into a large water tank.  It smiles down on what was once a glorious part of the time when sugar was King.  What a fine tourist attraction this ruin of an old sugar factory would make!


Machinery still to be seen:-

Two high-speed enclosed crank single cylinder double acting engines (one mentioned above).

One twin cylinder winch engine that works the conveyor system.

Two Weir double acting shuttle valve pumps for boiler feed Duplex pump, slide valve double acting (in pieces, near Weir pump).



SHIRLEY HEIGHTS (c. 1780- c.1850)


This military complex, within a short distance of the Dockyard, is not named after the fairer sex, but after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands, who strengthened Antigua’s defences in 1781. Britain had lost all her West Indian colonies (including North America) at this time except Antigua and Barbados. Much effort, therefore, was put into Antigua’s defences, mainly because of the island’s great sugar producing value and the important Dockyard. Shirley Heights may be divided into three sections:

  1. The Ridge and Artillery Quarters.  A Ridge, on which several ruins may be noted, leads to the Heights. The first buildings on the left are the Royal Artillery Gunner’s Barracks along with the Train of Artillery building (now a research centre), built in 1790 for 60 men. After the army left, it became a lunatic asylum.

  2. The Lookout. This high point (about 490 ft.) affords a superb view of English and Falmouth Harbours, the best view in Antigua.  Today, it is a Sunday afternoon rendezvous for a sampling of local music and culture. Behind the gun platform is the site of a flagstaff that once sent signals all around Antigua.

  3. Blockhouse. This is the easternmost part of the military complex, with a magnificent view looking over the south-east coast . It was designed as a place of last refuge, which is indeed the meaning of the word. A moat opposing the vertical cliffs was originally planned, but was never started. The Officer's Quarters is in ruin as are the out buildings, servants quarters, married quarters and stables. There is a fine powder magazine, cistern and catchment  that have received some restoration work.


TODAY - The complex is mainly in ruin except the Lookout that has been reutilised as a restaurant. Unfortunately, even though a CFTC historical architect drew restoration plans, the building was reconstructed as a profit making investment, the main problem being the use of dormers and the battlement built on where another section further north had been designated.

The splendid arches of three Officer’s Quarters were destroyed by various hurricanes due to the lack of preventative shoring up of the walls, (due to lack of funds). They now need to be rebuilt with the saved original masonry. The site is still a fine tourist attraction, mainly because of two of the best views  (of the Atlantic and of English Harbour) to be had in the island.



MONK'S HILL (Fort George), (1689-c. 1850)


Monk’s Hill is high table hill (588 ft. 204 m.) behind the village of Falmouth. There are extensive military ruins over the whole of its area. It was here that in 1689, the English settlers established a large fort that defended Antigua’s first town and harbour, that of Falmouth. The fort took sixteen years to build and was named Great George Fort after the Patron Saint of England. The hill himself was named after the owner of the land, Nathaniel Monk, who owned the estate that included the hill. 


The fortress was built as a place of last refuge in case of invasion by the French. Still to be seen, are large water cisterns used in case of such an attack. It was also useful as a stronghold and defence against Carib Indian attacks that emanated from Dominica and St. Kitts.  Over the following years, the fort was greatly strengthened. In 1712, many women and children were quartered on the hill, as invasion by the French was imminent.  The public records of Montserrat were also brought here for safety.  As soon as the danger was over, the women and children had to leave, as the House of Assembly had doubts as to voting the cost of the food that had to be sent into them.


In 1823 the Governor of the Fort was P. Horsford, the Lt. Gov. W. Byam and the Captain C. Taylor, who received a salary of £112. Unlike Brimstone Hill in St. Kitts, this fort was never attacked.  Possibly in those days it was thought to be impregnable, as it commands the whole island, looking down on all other parts.  In latter years it became a signal station. A black ball was hoisted on the flagstaff at 12 noon as a time check to sugar workers in the surrounding fields. It ceased to be used in this capacity in 1923.


A report to Parliament in 1912-13, indicated that the two powder magazines survived in fair order. Buttons of many regiments that have served in the fort have been found as a result of amateur archaeologists.  A grant of money was given by the Georgian Society through Mr. Angus Ackworth in 1956, so that today it is in a good state of  preservation. The main walls of the fort survive in a state of ruin, often in rubble, and the site is heavily overgrown.



A development plan for this heritage site has been made in the following UWI publication:

Built Heritage Conservation Tourism Planning in Antigua: The Case of Fort George Monk Hill

by Frederick D. G. Southwell, (1998)  Dept. of Survey & Information; Engineering, UWI. 146pp. 


                                                                                                     THE ONLY FORT WITH ALL ITS GUNS STILL IN PLACE

FORT JAMES, (1706- c. 1850).


This military heritage site is perhaps the most spectacular in Antigua as it still has its full complement of cannon in place. The guns in all other forts were all sold for scrap at sixpence/cwt in 1869, thus making James unique.


When St. John’s became larger than Falmouth and Parham about 1703, the northern entrance of St. John’s Harbour was fortified. The foundation stone for the present fort was laid with full Masonic honours in 1739. This inscribed stone may still be seen on the easterly corner. Much later, the inscription on this stone was nearly obliterated by some mischievous treasure-hunters, who had hoped to find coins behind it.


In the old days, it was the custom that every vessel passing the fort should pay a fee of 18 shillings to the Captain of the fort. If the ship did not comply, a shot was fired across its bows.  At one time a gun exploded while saluting a nearby ship and shattered the arm of a man tending the cannon. Fort James was never actually engaged in battle, but it must have been a great deterrent to French privateers from Guadeloupe that often raided St. John’s shipping at the turn of the 19th century.


There are 10 cannon on the ramparts of the fort, these fired a 24 lb ball with an 8 lb charge one and a half miles. Eleven men were needed to handle a gun, the gun itself weighs two and a half tons. These cannon today help visitors to the fort get a feeling of the past and are thus a part of Antigua & Barbuda’s historical heritage.



So as not to spoil the historical integrity of this ancient defence, development should be kept as simple as possible. The exterior of the inner fort building should be restored, while the interior could be a museum or art gallery. For more sustainable development we would suggest the interior could be modernized as a restaurant, conference room, gift shop or other commercial enterprise.


The guns and ramparts should be cleared of bush and labels placed on the various buildings. The powder magazine would make a fine art gallery. A guide would receive tips from visitors for lecture tours and he/she would keep the place clean between times. This is a very important heritage site.



FORT BARRINGTON, (1779- c. 1850).

Like a toy fort without its tin soldiers! It is a giant semi-circular gun emplacement dominating the approaches to St. John's Harbour. It is placed upon a hill on the harbour's south side. The lower interior is interesting to explore, for found there are dungeon-like rooms and a powder magazine. The ruin is also worth a visit for the magnificent view.



One of the purposes of the Museum is to research the nation's historical sites, which would certainly include the shipwrecks around Antigua and Barbuda. There is one, within a short distance of shore, at Deep Bay, near the Royal Antiguan Hotel. The research department believed it would be advantageous for tourism and for general interest to Antiguans & Barbudans if its history was sought. Some elderly people at Five Islands village remembered hearing about this marine disaster and made a guess at the approximate year. The National Archives were able to produce newspapers of that period and information was soon found in the Antigua Standard of 10 June 1905.


      The name of the ship was the barque "Andes", a three masted steel merchant sailing ship, that sailed from Trinidad on 5th June 1905 with a cargo of 1,330 barrels of pitch to be used for the paving of roads in Chile. As there had been no Panama canal yet built, the route around the tip of South America was to sail first north-east over the Atlantic, thence across the South Atlantic with the trade winds to Cape Horn.


As the cargo had been stowed badly, it seems heat had developed through friction caused by rubbing, enough to cause smoldering.  Capt. Rees Griffiths decided to put into Antigua, but the Harbour Master made the "Andes" anchor in Deep Bay, since she would have been a danger to shipping in St. John's Harbour.  When the hatches were opened to unload and inspect the cargo, the added air caused a conflagration. Her decks fell in and her rigging was consumed.  The "Andes" sank bow first on June 9th and there she still lies.  Today nearly 100 years later, the wreck of the "Andes" is one of Antigua's historical resources; Antiguans and visitors snorkel to explore her.  The wreck is most interesting from the general ship construction point of view and for the prolific and varied fish and coral life.


The Marine Areas Act of 1972 protects the wreck. Under no circumstances can anything be taken away from the wreck, leave it intact for future Antiguans and visitors to enjoy!

FORT BERKELEY, (1704 - c.1850).

English Harbour is the most historic part of Antigua. Time should be taken when visiting Nelson’s Dockyard, to follow the path to Fort Berkeley. It is only a ten-minute stroll each way and the unfolding views of the harbour are spectacular. The fort is placed on the peninsula forming the west entrance to English Harbour. It was started in 1704, or 21 years before the Dockyard was built. Its defences were later extended in the 1740’s. In this strategic position, the fort commanded the entrance to the anchorage, where naval captains careened their ships and sheltered from hurricanes.

On approaching the battlements from a footpath starting at the Dockyard dinghy wharf, a stone quarry may be seen on the right. It was here that the building material for the fort was taken. The fortified line, once known as the “Charles Line”, is further to the right. It was named after Commodore Charles Knowles, who once commanded at the Dockyard.  He added this line of battlements in 1745, when the fort was extended. On the left is a bombproof powder magazine, built in 1811 to hold three hundred barrels of gunpowder. Inside the entrance is a cooperage and shifting room for packing explosives. The next building was the guardhouse, for which there is an amusing 18th century reference to this building:

“The Guard is in great distress, the allowance of 9 pence a day not being sufficient at such a cold post to buy more than warm liquor”.

In 1989, the building was re-roofed by the National Park as a pilot restoration-training project funded by Canada. The restoration is accurate to the point that the stonework shows smaller stones were used to extend the wall height.  In 1751, the roof had been blown off by a hurricane. Therefore added height to the walls was needed to accommodate extra beams to strengthen the roof against future hurricanes. The restored mechanics of the inside structure demonstrates great strength, and it certainly survived the great hurricane ‘Luis’, experienced in 1995.

At the end of the peninsula is the site of the first 1704 battery. Peeping out of the battlements towards Guadeloupe is a twenty-four pound cannon, cast in Scotland during the reign of George III of England in 1805. Look for the King’s cipher on the top of the cannon and the date will also be seen. The calibre of the gun is 5.5 inches and it weighs twenty-five tons, taking eleven men to handle it. Its range was one and a half miles with an eight pound charge of gunpowder.

Over the wall at the extreme end, is an upturned cannon cemented in the rock. A chain was once attached and extended across the harbour entrance forming a boom to discourage the entry of attacking ships. The chain was lashed to old condemned masts, preventing it from sinking to the bottom of the harbour.

With this gun in the round bastion in which you are now standing, and extending along the lines, were twenty other guns. Fortunately, English Harbour was not attacked so the fort was never used in earnest, though it must have been a deterrent against assault.

On the east side of the Harbour above the 'Pillars of Hercules' (q.v. under Natural Sites) it is just possible to see the walls of a half moon shaped battlement. This is the only remnant of Fort Charlotte built at the same time as Shirley Heights military complex visible high up overlooking English Harbour. 

From this walk along the peninsula protecting the western side of English Harbour we can understand how well English Harbour with its vital naval dockyard was defended against attack, an attack that never happened as it was deemed too strong militarily.


Although Redonda is a dependency of Antigua and Barbuda, it is seldom mentioned and it seems not much is known about it here in our twin island state. Redonda is one huge rock with a few grassy patches here and there. It is an isolated, precipitous and forbidding island circled by sheer cliffs which fall almost perpendicularly for nearly a thousand feet into the sea beneath the summit on the western side. It lies between Montserrat and Nevis at distances of 15 and 25 miles, respectively and 35 miles south-west of Antigua. Redonda is a remnant of a volcanic cone and is one of the smallest islands in the chain of the Lesser Antilles. It is one and a half miles long by half a mile wide, and is exactly 971 ft. high.

The Caribs called the island Ocanamanru, and it is thought that weary prehistoric paddling seafarers immigrating or trading between the islands, used the island as a way station. On November 11, 1493, Columbus named it Santa Maria la Redonda meaning St Mary the Round.

Redonda was found to have much phosphate on the island due to the droppings of seabirds over the eons. In the 1860s, the island was worked for its bird guano because of a worldwide demand for calcium phosphate. Later, aluminum phosphate was discovered beneath the guano, and operations were transferred to mining this mineral.

Phosphates are a valuable constituent of gunpowder amongst as well as several other uses. Great Britain claimed the island in 1869 by planting a flagstaff there for fear the Americans might do the same. Queen Victoria made the island part of the responsibility of the Governor of the Leeward Islands and a few years later in 1872, Redonda was taken in as part of the Parish of St. John’s.

The Redonda Phosphate Company, an American firm, employed over a hundred Montserratians to mine the rock of guano as the material was called. The company paid the British government as represented in Antigua a royalty of 20 cents a ton. The best deposits of guano were on the northern part of the island, and indeed a horizontal shaft or cave can still be visited today. It is called Centaur’s Cave.

Baskets of rock were headed the length of the island by workmen to a small plateau on the southern end where there was the head of a cableway. In its buckets the valuable guano was lowered to a stone pier, where it was taken out to steamers in barges.

At the outbreak of Word War I, quarrying stopped due to shipping problems and because the market was mainly with Britain’s enemy, Germany. After the war, the company kept a skeleton crew to maintain the equipment. Technical advances made during the war rendered further mining uneconomical. The staff remained until 1929, just before which a hurricane blew most of the buildings away.

Redonda's rocky terrain, coarse grasses, and prickly pear cacti are home to a wide variety of wildlife including hermit crabs, lizards, twenty species of small moth, sooty terns, boobies, frigate birds and pelicans. A noteworthy resident is the burrowing owl (Speotyto cunicularia), which became extinct in Antigua after the introduction of the mongoose. The island is devoid of trees, though two were noted in 1979. In that year a scientific expedition, including a botanist, geologist, entomologist and an archaeologist visited Redonda. Insects include a beetle (Hymporus sp.), which is attracted to Redonda by the foul-smelling stench of nitrogenous excrement of seabirds. There are many goats of fine strain on the island. Their ancestors may have been left by seafaring buccaneers as a ready food in case of emergency.

Today, a few archaeological remains are evident on the small plateau where the workmen open water cistern. The footings of the Manager’s house may also be seen. The only remains of the cableway is a bucket and the large wheel around which the top of the cable turned to descend below. There are remnants of the stone pier left, but no sign of the steam engine that once powered the cable.

Access to the plateau is only available up a narrow ravine over which the cableway passed. It is filled with loose scree and if climbing with a companion ahead of you it is highly dangerous for fear of falling rocks.

Redonda is known worldwide for its curious catalogue of whimsical ‘Royal Characters’ created by famous British literary figures. There have been many 'Kings' of Redonda, there is a 'High King' and many pretenders. It all started in 1865, when a Montserratian ship-owner, M.P. Shiel descended from a long line of Irish Kings, decided to crown his son, Matthew, a king. With the help of the Bishop of Antigua at the peak of the rock, young Shiel became King Felipe of Redonda. Shiel later became a famous science fiction writer and vied with Jules Verne for London Sunday newspaper articles.

In 1936, a blood letting took place, making the Irish poet, John Gawsworth, King Juan I. In the 1940's and 50's several literary figures were given Redondan appointments, these include: Ellery Queen, Arthur Ransome, L. Durrell, Dylan Thomas, V. Gollanz, A. Knopf, Dorothy Sayers, Stephen Potter, J.B. Priestley and Rebecca West.

Power seems to be a wretched failing of the human race even to the extent of holding an influential meaningless title. This seems to be true for Redonda as much controversy has arisen over this fanciful title that really means nothing at all! Whoever now rightly holds the title of ‘King’ we are sure he has a philosophy of ‘Live and Let Live’, and prefers to go quietly about his business, just as he hopes that the fragile island of Redonda can be left to go quietly about the business of providing a safe environment for the birds and other wildlife that eke out a living on it’s craggy shores!

Full descriptions of about 30 other historical heritage sites may be found in "Heritage Landmarks of Antigua & Barbuda" by Desmond V. Nicholson.



Two valuable brass cannons have disappeared over several years. A report on their present whereabouts would be greatly appreciated!

1. Brass Land Cannon, 3 ins bore with George IV cypher.

   Marked: On breech "K25" and under "556".


2. Brass Land Cannon about the same as above, with similar style markings.



and some stories behind them


As one drives through beautiful Antigua certain interesting historical sights may be seen. This little guide is intended to inform the visitor of some worth seeing.



St. John’s is the capital city and main port of Antigua & Barbuda with a population of about 23,000. In 1842, it was raised to the dignity of a "city", when a diocese was created. It had been laid out on a grid pattern in 1702, but the streets are rather narrow for today’s vehicles!

The Cathedral—This is a ‘building within a building’ for the interior is encased in pitch pine intended to secure worshippers in case of earthquake. When it was opened for service in 1846, it was said to be ‘more like a pagan temple with pepper pot towers’. However, in modern times it has been said to be the ‘most imposing of all Cathedrals in the West Indies’.

The Museum of Antigua & Barbuda—Set in the old Courthouse of 1749, the museum tells of  Antigua & Barbuda’s history.  It has something for everyone; go in and enjoy the historic atmosphere in a cool oasis in the middle of St. John’s. Purchase gifts, meditate and forget the cares of the world.

Redcliffe and Heritage Quays— Here are two examples of urban renewal with shops and restaurants set on St. John’s Harbour. The former is housed within reutilised brick buildings while the latter has duty-free shopping within purpose-built modern construction.

FORT JAMES—A large fort at the entrance to St. John’s Harbour.

This is the only fort in Antigua where the original ten great guns are still in place. They date to George III’s  reign and survived a scrap iron collection of 1869.  Eleven men were required to handle one of these 2.5 ton guns that discharged a shot 1.5 miles distant. There is an inner fort, soon to be restored where an interesting detached kitchen may be entered.


This heritage landmark is the only remaining naval dockyard in the world designed to maintain wooden sailing warships of olden times. It was started as early as 1725, though it had been used as shelter from the mid 17th century. The first recorded ship at English Harbour, anchored to survive a hurricane, was a yacht.  It was a naval ship chartered to the King for the use of his Governor of the Leeward Islands.

Nelson— The famous British hero of Trafalgar (1805), Horatio Nelson, was here as Senior Captain (27 years old) in 1784. As a zealous Naval Officer, he enforced the Navigation Act, which stated only British ships could trade with British islands. America had become independent, so Nelson severely upset the Antiguan merchants by suppressing their long standing trade with the former British American colonies. At one time, if he had left his ship (‘Boreas’), he would have been arrested. The merchants were attempting to sue him.

Uses & Life—The Dockyard’s main function was to maintain and careen ships, thus saving the long voyage to America for docking. The yard was abandoned in 1889, and in 1930, restoration was half-heartedly started, and in 1951, it went full ahead. The National Parks Authority took over from the Friends of English Harbour in 1984.


This military complex, within a short distance of the Dockyard, is not named after the fairer sex, but after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands, who strengthened Antigua’s defences in 1781. Britain had lost all her West Indian colonies (including North America) at this time except Antigua and Barbados. Much effort, therefore, was put into Antigua’s defences, mainly because of the island’s great sugar producing value and the important Dockyard. Shirley Heights may be divided into four sections:

Dow’s Hill. Visit the 15 minute multimedia show and learn about Antigua’s history, heritage and culture. This interpretation centre was designed and built with Canadian aid in 1992.

The Ridge and Artillery Quarters.  A Ridge, on which several ruins may be noted, leads to the Heights. The first buildings on the left are the Royal Artillery Gunner’s Barracks along with the Train of Artillery building (now a research centre), built in 1790 for 60 men. After the army left, it became a lunatic asylum.

Blockhouse. A blockhouse is defined as a place of last refuge. Here is a fine view of the southeast section of Antigua and there are the remains of an Officer’s Quarters and a Powder Magazine.

The Lookout. This high point (about 490 ft.) affords a superb view of English and Falmouth Harbours, the best view in Antigua.  Today, it is a Sunday afternoon rendezvous for a sampling of local music and culture. Behind the gun platform is the site of a flagstaff that once sent signals all around Antigua.

CLARENCE HOUSEA Georgian residence.

This Georgian country house was built for the Commissioner of the Dockyard in 1806. At the present time it is not open to the public as it is being rebuilt after a recent hurricane, but the view of English Harbour and the Dockyard is superb. From about 1820 it became to be known as Clarence House. The house was then being used by the Governor of the Leeward Islands as his country residence.


This present day village near English Harbour is supposed to have been the first town of Antigua. In 1672, it possessed the only church of the island, which also served as a courthouse. Above this village is the famous Fort George on Monk’s Hill built from 1689 to about 1730. It was a place of last refuge against the attacks of Caribs and other European powers.


This is a large village on the way to St. John’s, so created and named after the emancipation of the slaves in 1834. Freetown is another village with a name associated with freedom.


This is another large village in the centre of the island. Here four parishes named after a Saint converge. This gave rise to the naming of All Saints Church in the 19th century. Later houses began to be built around the church.  Nearby was Freeman’s Estate (Jonas) where many Date Palms were supposed to have been introduced from Africa in the colonial times of the 18th century. Camels had been introduced as beasts of burden and these plants were to be used as their fodder.  The camels died of hoof disease in the comparatively damp soil of Antigua, but the palms lived on for us to see in abundance today.


This is a sugar plantation site where one of the two sugar mill towers has been fully restored complete with sails. With a small interpretation centre, this heritage landmark is well worth a visit. Betty’s Hope was one of the earliest sugar plantations, dating to 1651. In 1990, restoration began. Today about 112 sugar mill towers still dot the countryside of this independent nation, reminding us of the days of slavery under ‘King Sugar’.

ST. PETER’S CHURCHGeorgian architecture unique in the region, c. 1843.

St. Peter’s is a masterpiece of ecclesiastic Georgian architecture built in the Palladian manner and is unique in the region. It is beautiful in its splendid proportions, scholarly detail and fine workmanship. It is of irregular octagonal shape with its sides not of equal dimensions. It has a massive roof under which is a fascinating unique rib-like wooden ceiling, not unlike the construction of a boat. The head mason was black and was responsible for the smoothness in the joints of the walls and a very neat keystone, which he sculptured.

FIGTREE DRIVEA drive around the south-western quarter of the island.

A truly magnificent and picturesque part of the mountainous section of Antigua.. The first village passed is Swetes (named after a former estate owner) and on through to the village of John Hughes. A side trip can be made to the Wallings forest  natural reserve around an interesting 1890 reservoir. Fig Tree Hill has lush vegetation reminiscent of Dominica, and soon passed is Old Road village. Further on, a visit can be made to a very large hollow Silk Cotton tree (Hura crepitans) in which one can enter. Soon coastal scenery comes into view and more villages are passed on Antigua’s west side as well as Jolly Beach Hotel and Harbour.  This area is famous for the first Archaic Antiguans settled here about 4,000 years ago. After passing through the village of Jennings, the city of  St. John’s soon comes into view.

DEVIL’S BRIDGE—On the eastern  coast, a natural area.

 This is a remarkable example of natural sea-water erosion. A bridge was geologically created when a soft part of  limestone was eroded by the Atlantic Ocean. The foaming breakers below are impressive. In the days of slavery it was said that slaves came here to commit suicide, the devil having got into them.

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