You're Gunner Love The Garrison
It was home to the most famous American of all time, houses one of the most extensive collections of cannon in the world yet a secret lies beneath that few have explored. And the good news is it's just a short walk from Coconut Court.
This is The Garrison, known today mainly for its horse racing and as the only place outside the USA that George Washington lived, albeit for a short period during 1751.
HQ of the British West India Regiment
Here in Barbados, a youthful Washington was impressed with the warm hospitality and genteel behaviour of the islanders - nice to know that something's don't change! It was his first glimpse of a wider world outside his home of Virginia and made a lasting impact.
Just a stone’s throw from The Garrison Savannah race track is the former plantation house where the eventual first president of the USA stayed. Now called George Washington House, it was restored in 1999 and is well worth a visit.
While on Barbados, Washington mixed with the island’s military and civilian elite and noted fairly quickly that Barbados was “one entire fortification”. The Garrison was the headquarters of the British West India Regiment and consequently the most fortified British island in the Caribbean.
Evidence of this remains even today. Dotted around The Garrison and inside The National Armoury (housed in nearby St Ann’s Fort) is the largest collection of 17th century English cannons, including the famous Commonwealth Cannon.
It bears the crest of Oliver Cromwell, the man responsible for the execution of King Charles I of England.
After Cromwell’s death, royalty was restored and the first act of Charles II was to remove all traces of Cromwell’s rule. All of Cromwell’s cannons were destroyed, apart from one which remains here at The National Armoury (the other's in The Tower of London). Less famous cannons are littered around the coast and can also be seen guarding the entrance to Carlisle Bay at Charles Fort, a short walk away at Needham’s Point.
Also inside the armoury is the first Barbados flag, raised in 1966 at The Garrison when the island became independent of Britain. A much larger and newer version flies today at the spot of this historic occasion.
Once a week, there’s a re-enactment of the changing of the sentry. This takes place in front of the 1814 clock tower (that’s not the time, it’s the year it was built).
And below The Garrison is a network of tunnels, built by the British, but only unearthed and opened to the public recently. One of the tunnels runs from George Washington House.
It is thought they were built as open ditches to drain the swamps which were on the site before the British arrived. They were then enclosed with arched ceilings and used as secret passageways to move soldiers around the south coast.
Punch and Duty
Mark Blades is the maintenance manager at Coconut Court Beach Hotel. He has worked at the hotel since 1986 (apart from a four year break from 2003).
Mark also meets and greets guests with his homemade Pirate Punch and makes the family speech at the end of the manager’s rum punch party. Coconut Corner threw some questions his way to find out what makes him tick.
What do you like best about your job?
My job allows me to be creative. I really enjoy meeting people, working with my family and our staff.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
Travel and spend time with my family
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Friendly, dependable and punctual
What’s your top travel tip?
Things don’t always go according to plan. Just roll with it!
What do you love most about Barbados?
The hot and sunny climate. We can travel anywhere quickly from Barbados. My family and friends live here.
Do you have any goals or ambitions?
Work at Coconut Court for as long as I can. Enjoy my life and my job with family and friends.