ST. LUCIA’S HISTORY

Saint Lucia was first inhabited sometime between 1000 and 500 B.C. by Ciboneys, hunters and gatherers who made their way from South America. They inexplicably disappeared leaving little evidence of their presence on the island. Sometime after 200 A.D. the peaceful Arawak Indians arrived whom archaeological sites show to have been adept in pottery, weaving, farming and boat building. The Arawaks named the island, Iouanalao, which meant ‘land of the iguanas’.

Around 800 A.D. the more aggressive Carib Indians arrived from South America quickly seizing control from the Arawaks by killing their men and assimilating the women into their own society. Descendants of the Caribs are still found in Saint Lucia today.

Although it is possible that Christopher Columbus sighted the island on an earlier voyage, discovery is generally credited to his navigator from earlier voyages, Juan de Cosa, who returned to the Caribbean in 1499 and made note on his maps of an island he called El Falcon. While some confusion still exists about the actual first discovery, it is known for certain that the island, labelled as Santa Lucia, appears on a Vatican globe dated 1502.

The first European to settle in Saint Lucia was the infamous pirate, François Le Clerc, nicknamed Jambe de Bois, which means ‘wooden leg’, which he wore. Beginning in the late 1550s, Le Clerc used Pigeon Island in the north as a staging ground for attacking passing Spanish ships. Connected in the late 1970s to the island itself by a constructed causeway, Pigeon Island is now a National Landmark which features historic ruins and a museum with a wealth of information and artifacts from the island’s past.

Early European attempts to establish settlements all resulted in failure at the hands of the war-like Caribs. The Dutch established a fort in what is now the town of Vieux Fort in the island’s south in 1600 but didn’t last long. The British were the next to arrive with 67 colonists in 1605, having been blown off course on the way to South America. After only five weeks their numbers had dwindled to only 19 due largely to Carib hostility. Those survivors escaped in a canoe and made it to Venezuela. In 1639 the British arrived again with 400 settlers but were completely wiped out by the Caribs in just 18 months.

In 1651 a group representing the French West India Company arrived from Martinique. Their leader was a military officer named De Rousselan who was married to a Carib woman. With her assistance he was able make peace with the Caribs and ‘purchased’ the island from them. De Rousselan died in 1654 and the Caribs again began attacking the French settlements.

It didn’t take long before the French and the British began battling over the island. In 1664 the British sent a force of 1,000 men to Saint Lucia to oust the French but after two years only 89 were left mostly due to disease. Over the next century and a half possession of the island changed hands 14 times between the British and French.

The early value of the island to the Europeans was found in its sugar plantations for which slaves from West Africa were brought in to work the fields. The first plantation was established by two Frenchmen in 1765. Fifteen years later there were more than 50 sugar estates in operation.

Near the end of the century, the French Revolution occurred. It didn’t take long until the ideas of the revolution arrived in Saint Lucia; a guillotine was set up on the square in the town of Soufriére and was used to execute French Royalists. In 1794, the French governor declared that all slaves were free, but only a short time later the British invaded again in response to the concerns of the wealthy plantation owners and restored slavery after several years of fighting. Castries was burned in 1796 as part of that battle between the British and the slaves and French republicans.

Britain eventually triumphed, with France permanently ceding Saint Lucia in 1814. The British abolished the African slave trade in 1807, three years after former slaves in Haiti had gained their independence as the first black republic in the Caribbean, but it was not until 1834 that slavery was actually abolished on Saint Lucia. Even after slavery was officially abolished, all former slaves had to serve a four-year ‘apprenticeship’ which forced them to work for free for their former slave masters for at least three-quarters of the work week, meaning final freedom did not come until 1838.

After Emancipation, many former slaves were unwilling to stay on as labourers on the plantations and the owners were forced to seek alternative manpower. Indentured East Indian labourers began arriving in 1882 to assist in the sugar industry which accounts for their presence and cultural influences clearly evident in Saint Lucia and throughout the Caribbean today.

The sugar industry, in decline for well over a century following the abolition of slavery, was gone by the 1960s, when bananas became the major crop in the island’s agricultural industry.

While Saint Lucia became an independent state in 1979 within the British Commonwealth of Nations, the island has in many ways retained more vestiges from its historical French influences including the Creole Patois ‘second’ language, town and village names, family surnames and its impact on local culture as is pervasive in music, dance and other aspects of the arts. The British contributions are primarily evident in the English language, the educational, political and legal systems.

 

Pigeon Island National Landmark

 

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Pigeon Island National Landmark is heralded as one of the most important monuments of Saint Lucia’s history. It is a vivid representation of the cultural and historical monuments of international, civil, military and marine cross currents, characteristic of West Indian historical change. A living museum within a natural setting, Pigeon Island is being nurtured through careful protection and intelligent development to serve the intellectual, cultural and recreational needs of all who visit this historic site. The picturesque, 44 acre island reserve, off the North West, was originally surrounded by water but was joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway in 1972. Recognizing the need to secure this site where the balance of late eighteenth century naval power was decided, the Government of Saint Lucia designated Pigeon Island as a National Park in 1979 and as a National Landmark in 1992. It is open to visitation 365 days a year. Pigeon Island National Landmark has a number of heritage attractions and amenities which include:
  • Ruins of military buildings used during the battles between the French and the British for the island of Saint Lucia.
  • An Interpretation Centre describing the rich history of the island.
  • Two beautiful beaches.
  • A restaurant featuring local cuisine.
  • A pub and restaurant with a historical theme.
  • A lookout point at the top of the Fort which gives a panoramic view of the Northwest coastline.

Pigeon Island was first occupied by the Amerindians, mainly Caribs. The island was later occupied by pirates whose leader was a Norman Captain called Francois Le Clerc. He had a wooden leg and was known to the French as Jambe de Bois. The French who owned the island in 1778 declared war on the British, who retaliated by attacking them in Saint Lucia and capturing the island. The British then built a Naval Base at Gros-Islet Bay, heavily fortifying Pigeon Island. From there they were able to monitor the French fleet in Martinique which resulted in the defeat of the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. Pigeon Island was therefore a key factor in the Battles between the British and the French. In 1909 a whaling station was established at Pigeon Island. Legislation to control whaling in 1952 put an end to this operation. Pigeon Island was leased to Josset Agnes Hutchinson, an actress with the D’Oyle Carte Theatre of England in 1937.

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When the American established a Naval Base at Rodney Bay in 1940 she left the island. In 1947 she returned to establish a thriving yachting industry, entertaining many guests and giving the island the reputation of a paradise island. She relinquished the lease in 1970, finally retiring to England in 1976. Pigeon Island was restored by the National Trust as a landmark encompassing all aspects of the rich heritage, with emphasis on the glorious period of the late eighteenth century, when the spill-over from the American War of Independence reached the Caribbean. The presentation of this island to the visitor revolves around the Battle of the Saints Theme, which is the focus of a display in the Interpretation Centre located in the restored Officers Mess original build in 1803. Adjacent to the Interpretation Center is the Pigeon Island shop where specialized souvenirs, books, prints and gift items are sold. Pigeon Island National Landmark does more than just excitingly presented history. It is also white sands, luxuriously maintained grounds and home to a variety of tropical flora and fauna. Just minutes away from the capital city of Castries, it is perfect for a half or full day outing tailored to your specific needs – total relaxation or for the more adventurous, an exciting expedition.

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Whatever your preference, a camera is a must. Pigeon Island offers some of the most breathtaking photo opportunities. —- Pigeon Island is one of the Caribbeans most historic landmarks and certainly one of the most beautiful spots in St. Lucia. While Pigeon Islands rich history dates back to pre Columbian times, it is most famous for its role in the 1782 Battle of the Saints. For it was from Pigeon Island that Admiral Rodney monitored Fort Royal in Martinique and set sail to intercept the French troops; fortuitously preventing their rendezvous with the Spanish and saving Jamaica for the British Empire. Pigeon Island is 44 acres of sloping grasslands, dry tropical forests, beaches and twin peaks. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway and is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. It has been restored by the St. Lucia National Trust as a National Landmark, encompassing all aspects of its rich heritage, for the educational, cultural and recreational needs of all. Pigeon Island is eight hundred and fifty meters long and about four hundred meters wide, with an area just over forty acres. The predominantly features are the twp peaks, joined by a saddle, with a spur to the North East running into the sea. The French declare war on the English in 1778 as their part in assisting the cause of America War of Independence. The English then attack St. Lucia in one of the most successful Naval and Military engagements in December 1778, at the Battle of Cul-de Sac. The English, having captured St. Lucia from the French, established a Naval base at Gros-Islet Bay and heavily fortified Pigeon Island. After the Spanish fleet sailed for Havana, and the French for France, Rodney took the English fleet to the coast of North America leaving Commodore Hothom with a small squadron at Pigeon Island. On the 11th and 12th of October, the most destructive hurricane ever recorded in the West Indies crippled the English fleet at Pigeon Island and Carenage Bay. The H.M.S. Thunder (74 guns) and Beavers Prize (18 guns) were lost with all hands, the H.M.S. Vengeance (74 guns), the St.Vincent Snow (14 guns), the Blache (32 guns), the Chamelions (14 guns) and the Brune (32 guns), were all badly damaged at Carenage or Gros-Islet. In December, however Rodney arrived with reinforcements.

 

Morne Fortuné

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Morne Fortuné is the summit of a ridge, which rises to a height of 852 ft from the point La Toc – the southern arm of the Castries Harbour. Morne Fortuné means “Hill of Good luck” which is far from the truth, since this area was on many occasions the bloody battleground between the French and the English. It was later renamed Fort Charlotte 1794 by the father of Queen Victoria of Great Britain after a battle victory.

In 1768, the French decided to move their chief town from it’s exposed site at Vigie to its present location. Morne Fortune was there after fortified to protect the harbour. During the period of 1768 to the later part of the 19th century, most of the earlier buildings have disappeared. Only four buildings of French origin remain on the Morne (the Powder Magazine and three of the Guard Cells). Many of the buildings built by the British during their occupation have disappeared or fallen into ruin (for example, the Pavilion, residence of the Governor was destroyed in a hurricane of 1817). The remaining buildings on the Morne were built during the latter part of the 19th century.

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In the latter part of the 19th century, Morne Fortuné served as a garrison to defend the Castries Harbour, which was then a coaling station. Coal was brought to the Harbour from abroad, and dumped onto the wharf, while coal-burning ships called at the port to refuel. In 1906 the British garrison left Morne Fortuné.

Morne Battery (Apostles Battery)

The Morne Battery is situated above the eastern side of Morne Road at the north side of its junction with Henry Dulieu Road. It is also referred to as the Apostles Battery, perhaps in memory of the four guns once mounted on the site. The official War Office name for the site is Morne Battery. Construction of the battery started on June 1st, 1890 and completed on July 31st, 1892, at a cost of £6696.00. The Battery is considerably retired from the coastline – the nearest point being about a mile away, and it is 1¼ miles from the entrance to the Castries Harbour.
Castries; not protected; vested

The Powder Magazine and Guard Cells

The Powder Magazine and Guard Cells were built by the French during the period of 1763-1765, therefore making them the oldest existing buildings on Morne Fortuné. The Powder Magazine was used for the storing of gunpowder /ammunition. It’s walls were built very thick so as to contain any explosion which may have been caused due to it’s contents. The Guard Cells served as gaol cells for soldiers. Next to the Guard Cells are the stables, which were also built during the period of 1763 – 1765.
Castries; Not protected; Vested to the Trust

27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot

This regiment of the British Army originated in Co Fermanagh in Ireland in 1689. Its very first overseas posting was in 1701 to the West Indies. During its seven years there, as well as suffering dreadful loss of life from disease (including its commanding officer), the regiment helped in the capture of the island of Guadalupe.

The capture of St Lucia in 1796 was the second time the 27th Regiment was involved in the capture of the island. The first time was in 1778, but the island was later returned to France. In 1795 a large expedition sailed from England to recapture the island. The army was led by General Abercrombie. Successful landing were made on the island and the main French fortress on Morne Fortuné was besieged.

General Abercrombie attributed the successful outcome of that siege in no small part to the bravery of the 27th Inniskillings. He therefore gave the regiment two significant honours. The surrendering French garrison marched out of the fortress and laid down its arms before the ranks of the 27th and, in addition, Abercrombie granted the regiment the unique honour of having its Colours flown from the flagstaff of the fortress for an hour before the Union flag was raised.

Castries; Not protected; Vested

The French and British Cemetaries

These are the burial grounds of French and British soldiers and civilians on the Morne. The only visible sign of the French burial ground near to the British Cemetery are two nameless tombs.In the British cemetery lay some of the past Governors of St. Lucia. The last Governor to be buried there is Sir Ira Simmons in 1974. This was also the burial grounds of a few civilians, military personnel and their families. The earliest known grave is that of “Emillia, wife of Major-General, Alex Wood, C.M.G.” who died on November 8th, 1810. There were also mass graves at this site, of persons who died from epidemics of Yellow Fever, Cholera etc.
Castries; Not protected; Vested

Prevost Redoubt

Prevost Redoubt was named after General Prevost who was the Lieutenant Governor of the island from 1798-1802. This area served as a look out point where a few men were stationed with muskets. From this site, the view of the entire Castries Harbour, the Vigie Peninsula, Rat and Pigeon Island, gave it the reputation of being an ideal look out point. It has been earmarked as the site for the National Heroes Park.
Castries; Not protected; Vested to the Trust

Maria Islands Nature Reserve

 

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The Maria Islands were declared a Nature Reserve in 1982 by the Government of Saint Lucia in recognition of their special function as a wildlife habitat and their unique flora and fauna. There are over eighty (80) plant species found on Maria Islands. The island is home to five endemic reptile species such as the world’s rarest snake – the Kouwés snake (Saint Lucia Racer), The Saint Lucia whiptail (Zandou), The Worm Snake (non poisonous), The Pygmy and Rock geckos as well as several species of cacti and undisturbed tropical plants on the vertical cliff.The islands are set about one half mile from Pointe Sable on the South East coast of Saint Lucia. Maria Major is 10.1 hectares and its little sister Maria Minor is 1.6 hectares. The island is also a major nesting site for migratory birds which travel thousands of miles from the west coast of Africa to nest annually. It is usually closed for the nesting season which runs from May to August. This time frame is adjusted annually by the Saint Lucia Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture depending on the birds’ migratory patterns.The Saint Lucia National Trust has been conducting special environmental education tours to Maria Islands since the early 1980s. The Maria Island tour is a wonderful outing for the nature lover! It is many tours in one!
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The knowledgeable guide escorts visitors to Maria Major by a local fishing boat, which pulls ashore on one of the most spectacular white sand beaches. The exciting walk showcases the unique and breathtaking views of the town of Vieux Fort the Pitons and the entire Pointe Sable area.The waters around islands are surrounded by coral reefs, making them great for snorkeling.Maria Islands can be your own island in the sun for a day.
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RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR VISITORS TO MARIA ISLANDS NATURE RESERVE

Preamble

The Maria Islands were declared a Nature Reserve in 1982 by the Government of Saint Lucia in recognition of its special function as a wildlife habitat and for the unique wildlife which exist there.

These rules and regulations are established to guide the conduct of visitors and to safeguard the integrity of the Maria Islands Nature Reserve.

  • Persons with serious ailments/health complications, particularly heart and respiratory, must inform the attendant Tour Guide or booking agent before commencement of the tour.
  • The Trust shall not be held liable in instances where no notification is given in respect of serious ailments or medical complications.
  • The tour is limited to persons within the maximum age ceiling of seventy (70) years, except in instances where special written approval is granted by the Trust.
  • Visitors are to note that there is a general `close season’ period, which is observed annually to protect nesting migratory birds. This period runs from May to August during which time there will be restricted access. The extent of restriction will be determined on an annual basis and will be influenced by prevailing conditions such as numbers of birds, location of nesting activity etc.
  • The following item and activities are strictly prohibited within the confines of the Maria Islands Nature Reserve: use of cigarettes and alcohol, use of sirens and alarms or any form of loud sounds, knives, machetes and matches or lighters, flammable liquids e.g. gasoline. Fires are prohibited.
  • Visitors are to note that it is unlawful to remove from Maria Islands any items such as shells, rocks, soil samples, plants, plant parts and any aspect of flora and fauna or natural resources.
  • Visitors are expected to respect the integrity of Maria Islands by observing the following: no littering, no breaking of branches and picking of leaves.

 

 

 

Morne Pavillon Nature Reserve

 

The designated 18-acre Morne Pavillon site has a rich and interesting history as part of what is now the 3000-acre highly developed Cap Estate area.The name of the site is derived from the time (1700 period) when the French Civil Commandant, Baron de Longueville developed a cotton plantation at the northern end of St. Lucia and planted his flag on the Morne Pavilon area: He also built a port at nearby Anse BecunePrior to the establishment of the current Cap Estate, the property belonged to the Floissac family, who leased a major portion of Cap to the U.S. government in 1942 for the construction and operation of a military base on upper Cap, including a two x 155mm shore battery and supporting structures with over 200 men.This initiative was undertaken due to German submarine presence in the Caribbean and the sinking of two ships in Castries harbor.The facility was installed to protect the US Air Base at Reduit and St Lucia from possible invasion and use of Martinique by German submarines.When the war situation became focused on Europe, the base was eventually determined to be unnecessary and was evacuated in April 1943.The land was returned to the Floissac family who sold it to Col. Harrison in about 1956 who had intended to establish a cattle ranch and an up-market residential estate. After his death it was sold to a syndicate who began development of the 3000 acre Cap Estate.The 18-acre Morne Pavillon site at the top of Cap Estate was sold to Herbert Lutz in 1966 who made an effort to build a vacation home on the site. The home was never completed and when Mr. Lutz died in 1983, his son Christopher Lutz of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA inherited the property.Following the loss of the adjacent green belt to development of Mount du Cap in early 2002, a group of interested Saint Lucians and Cap residents collaborated to initiate an effort to preserve the Morne Pavillon site. This effort resulted in the decision by Christopher Lutz to donate the property to the Saint Lucia National Trust for a Nature Reserve and Heritage site. This effort was successfully concluded in December 2010.The group of residents who initiated the discussions with Mr. Lutz have formed a group called Friends of Morne Pavillon, and continue to collaborate with the Trust to help develop and manage the property.

Pointe Sables Environmental Protection Area

 

The Pointe Sable Environmental Protection Area (PSEPA) is a coastal strip in the south of Saint Lucia which extends from Moule-a-Chique to Pointe de Caille, just north of Savannes Bay. This 1038 hectare site was designated an environmental protection area under the Physical Planning and Development Act of 2001 in August 2007. The PSEPA was also a demonstration site for Saint Lucia under the OECS Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods Project (OPAAL) which officially ended in July 2011.The Pointe Sable area is replete with natural, cultural and historical assets worthy of conservation, sustainable use and protection, depending on which of the assets we refer to. The Maria Islands are a treasure trove in and of themselves with their amazing flora and fauna, some of which, such as the much talked about kouwess snake and the St. Lucia Whiptail Lizard which bears the same colours of the Saint Lucia national flag are endemic to the island itself. From the top of Moule-a-Chique, one can get a panoramic and breath-taking view of the south of Saint Lucia.The PSEPA also possesses the largest basin like mangrove in Saint Lucia known as the Mankote Mangrove. This mangrove is home to a variety of flora and fauna, in particular seventeen (17) species of fish. It is also a marine reserve and is declared as a wetland of significant value under the RAMSAR convention of 2002. Savannes Bay, which is adjacent to Mankote Mangrove is a major fish landing site in Saint Lucia and is noted for producing the largest volume of lobster in the island. The PSEPA also includes large areas of sea grass beds and various types of coral reef. There are several resource users, namely, seamoss producers, fishers, charcoal producers, horse-back riders, crafters, tour guides and operators of soft adventure activities such as kayakers, windsurfers and divers . who make their livelihoods from the resources within the PSEPAIt is definitely an amazing area well worth experiencing.

Anse la Liberte

 

The Anse La Liberte site is located mid way along the island `s West Coast in the small fishing village of Canaries.The site which can be reached twenty-five (25) miles South-West of the capital Castries, was donated to the Trust in 1990 through the Nature Conservancy in the United States. The site consist of 133 acres and features an impressive diversity of plant species, ‘Brigand’ caves and a small beach. The site has an interesting history which is captured in its name Anse la Liberte, which when translated into English means the ‘ Bay of Freedom.’ This name was derived from the fact that the site was the venue for major post-emancipation celebrations, by newly freed slaves. This accounts for some of the ‘brigand sites’ (caves etc.) which can be found at Anse La Liberte.During slavery, the beach was used by slaves from the nearby Anse Mahout sugar estate for recreation and bathing. Evidence of this past era can still be seen in the caves used by freedom fighters found on two of the trails at Anse La Liberté.The site features a diverse landscape featuring ridges and valleys, with both dry scrub forest and rainforest plants as well as many varieties of edible fruit trees remaining from the former agricultural estate. Some 17 species of birds have been sighted at Anse La Liberté, and the charm of bird life at the site is best experienced generally during early morning and late afternoon.