Garrison Historic Area Walking Tour, Bridgetown

Garrison Historic Area Walking Tour (Self Guided), Bridgetown

St. Ann's Garrison, more commonly known simply as "The Garrison", is a small district in Barbados situated some 2 miles south of Heroes Square in the capital-city of Bridgetown.

This historic area is dominated by a horse racetrack, located on the 30 acre parade ground called the Garrison Savannah. Here, in the mid 18th century, wealthy prominent Barbadians and regiment troops started the sporting tradition of horse racing.

During both the 18th and 19th centuries the Garrison was the base and headquarters for members of the British West India Regiment stationed in the country. In 1751, the future leader of the American Revolution and first president of the United States, George Washington, also stayed here, for six weeks at the district's Bush Hill section, with his sick brother. The restored property in which they abode, now called the “George Washington House”, is a standalone attraction at the Garrison.

Apart from George Washington House, the territory contains several other historically significant buildings. Many of them once housed the Regiment units of the British Garrison, including the one that today accommodates the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, and surrounding structures. Among them there is also a so-called Main Guardhouse with a Clock tower, built around 1803.

To explore Bridgetown's Garrison area in more detail and to learn more about the history of the place, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Garrison Historic Area Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Garrison Historic Area Walking Tour
Guide Location: Barbados » Bridgetown (See other walking tours in Bridgetown)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: HelenF
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Barbados Museum & Historical Society
  • George Washington House
  • Main Guard House Clock Tower
  • Garrison Savannah Racetrack
  • St. Ann's Fort Drill Hall
  • Needham's Point Lighthouse
Barbados Museum & Historical Society

1) Barbados Museum & Historical Society (must see)

The Barbados Museum is housed in an old military prison built in 1818. It's located in the St. Ann's Garrison, adjacent to the Savannah and racetrack. The museum and historical society has been based here since the 1930s.

The museum features numerous galleries and exhibits about the island, its people, culture, and history. Mostly, this is a traditional museum with photo galleries, antiques, and collectibles that tell the story of Barbados. The museum has over 500,000 objects in its collection, although only a small percentage are displayed.

In addition to cultural artifacts, there are displays describing the island's natural history and coral structure. There is also a children's exhibit called "Yesterday's Children" that explores history through the eyes of little ones. The museum is also home to a rare collection of Barbados historical maps and the Shilstone Memorial Library.

The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Sundays. It's closed on public holidays.
George Washington House

2) George Washington House (must see)

The George Washington House is a 18th century plantation home that was occupied by the man who would become the first President of the United States. It is located in the historic Garrison area of town, on the top of Bush Hill. At the age of 19, Washington lived in the house for two months in 1751. At that time, the house was called Bush House.

One thing that makes this house unique is more of a statement about Washington's life than the house. This is the only place and the only country that Washington visited during his lifetime outside of colonial America.

The two-story house is entirely restored and decorated as it would have been during Washington's stay in 1751. As a result, you see day-to-day furnishings like beds with mosquito netting, chairs, and basic crockery and cutlery. From these items, you can gain some fascinating insights into how people made do during that time.

The second floor hosts a more traditional museum, with items described by audio and visual aids. One display recounts Washington's fight with yellow fever while on the island and the third-generation Barbadian doctor who treated him and restored him to health.

Additionally, the museum is home to countless artifacts of island life. You'll find reminders of the days of slavery, which was still practiced on the island during Washington's visit. You'll see barbed-neck collars, spiked manacles, and agricultural tools like sickles and cane bills.

The house itself has been remodeled over the years. When Washington visited, it was only one level. The second story was added in 1845, and it was impossible to remove it when the home was renovated and restored in 2007.

The George Washington House is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Allow two or three hours to see all of the exhibits and grounds. The house is owned and maintained by the Barbados National Trust. During a visit to the island in 1997, US President Bill Clinton presented a plaque commemorating Washington's visit to the island.
Main Guard House Clock Tower

3) Main Guard House Clock Tower

The centerpiece of the Garrison area of town is the Main Guard. With its clock tower and impressive stature, the building has kept an eye on the historic Garrison Savanah since it was built around 1802. The Main Guard is part of Saint Ann's Fort, the remainder of which is across the street.

Saint Ann's Garrison was the headquarters of the British West India Regiment. The Regiment was a division of infantry units of the British Army stationed throughout the British colonies until 1927.

The Georgian-style Main Guard building is one of the island's architectural treasures. It is embellished with the coat of arms of King George III carved from Coade stone and an impressive clock tower. After the Regiment dissolved in 1906, the building was the home of the Savannah Club. Now it is owned by the government and is presently home to several official offices.

If you're lucky, you'll spot some of the military veterans who volunteer at the Main Guard. They often perform duties in full dress uniform, the same as the original West India Regiment full dress. The Barbados Defense Force is based at St. Anne's Fort.

On display around the Main Guard is an impressive collection of 26 historically important cannons. Barbados has one of the best collections of 17th-century cannons in the world. An effort was undertaken to catalog and preserve them, and researchers discovered many rare and valuable pieces. The oldest is from 1620, the youngest is from 1820, and the collection includes some one-of-a-kind treasures.
Garrison Savannah Racetrack

4) Garrison Savannah Racetrack

Originally, the Garrison Savannah or Savannah in short, was a parade grounds for the West India Regiment stationed at St. Anne's Fort. But horse racing was popular back then, too. Regimental officers would race their horses against those of the wealthy plantation owners.

Today, the Savannah is still all about horse racing. It is home to the popular Barbados Turf Club. The club hosts the annual Barbados Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, and on Gold Cup Day--the first Saturday in March--the place is packed. Other races are much more relaxed and are perfect for wandering around, meeting the locals, and relaxing at the track.

The Savannah remains one of Barbados' most popular recreation spots. On any given day, you'll spot people of all ages and from all walks of life out enjoying the day. You might see walkers, runners, rugby players, kite flyers, or folks just relaxing and people-watching.

The track is also home to the Barbados Independence Monument. Here, the Union Jack--the flag of the United Kingdom--was lowered on November 30, 1966, and the flag of the independent nation of Barbados was hoisted in its place.

You'll notice an impressive collection of cannons and guns all along the racetrack. Interestingly, Barbados is home to one of the world's largest collections of 17th-century English iron cannons. To date, more than 400 have been discovered on the island. You'll spot them all over, from the Main Guard and Savannah to other sites on the island like Charles Fort and the Gun Hill Signal Station.
St. Ann's Fort Drill Hall

5) St. Ann's Fort Drill Hall

Drill Hall is the largest and most prominent part of Saint Ann's Fort, directly across the road from the Main Guard. Drill Hall was built on the fort's walls in 1790 and was first used as soldiers' barracks. Later is served as a commissariat.

Today, Drill Hall is the Officer's Mess and home to the Barbados Defence Force.

Saint Ann's Fort was started in 1705. At one point in the late 1700s, there were 40 different forts located around the island. You can see some historic maps of the fort locations at the Gun Hill Signal Station. Saint Ann's is the only remaining fort with an intact observation tower.

Alongside the fort is the Barbados National Armoury. This is the official home of Barbados' extensive collection of cannons and guns. You'll spot portions of the collection all over the island, with many found at various locations around the Garrison.

Directly behind the fort is Drill Hall Beach. It's a popular spot with surfers. During the winter, winds make it popular among windsurfing, which Barbadian competitors are known for globally.
Needham's Point Lighthouse

6) Needham's Point Lighthouse

Needham's Point Lighthouse in Carlisle Bay, the parish of Saint Michael in the southwest coast of Barbados, is one of the four historic lighthouses in the country still extant. The other three are at South Point, Harrison Point, and Ragged Point.

Unlike the rest of these lighthouses, Needham's Point has a stationary rather than rotating beacon. Owing to its stationary nature, the lighthouse lens was half red and half green to allow sailors to know whether they were on the port or starboard side of Carlisle Bay and thus navigate safely around the peninsula.

Built in 1855, this octagonal masonry tower – now painted white with a black lantern – is the island's second-oldest lighthouse. It is now inactive and partially restored by the Hilton Hotel which owns the lighthouse itself and surrounding grounds. Because of its proximity of a large block of rooms, the lighthouse can only be seen from the beach to the south of the hotel.

During the period of its active use, the focal plane of the lighthouse was 43 ft (13 m) above sea level and flashed at 8-second intervals. The new Needham's Point First Lighthouse, located close to the old one, is a metal mast painted in red and white horizontal stripes, with a white and red beacon 9 meters high. Its range is 14 nautical miles (about 26 km) for the white light and 10 nautical miles (about 19 km) for the red light.

The Hilton site is also the location of Charles Fort. The view from here is spectacular and will give you an idea of the location's importance in defense and sea navigation. Cannons still line the wall of the fort, strategically positioned as they would have been back in the 1600s.

The site of the lighthouse is open to the public; however, the tower itself is closed.

Walking Tours in Bridgetown, Barbados

Create Your Own Walk in Bridgetown

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Bridgetown is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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Bridgetown Introduction Walking Tour

Bridgetown is the largest city on the island of Barbados. It was founded on the shores of Carlisle Bay, a cove on the southwest coast. The harbor is the natural location for ships to anchor, and Barbados is one of the first landfall points after crossing the Atlantic from Europe.

Originally, the island of Barbados was visited by various Amerindian tribes. Evidence has shown that permanent...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles