Barbados Signal Stations

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Gun Hill, Barbados

The signal stations in Barbados originated during the slave rebellion of 1816. It was the first slave uprising in Barbados history caused by a false rumour.

The Barbados National Trust

Founded in 1961, the trust was formed as a body corporate under an act of legislature and is also registered as a charity. Its function is to establish and preserve the natural, architectural and artistic heritage of Barbados and to awaken the public to a greater awareness of Barbados’ historic and architectural riches.

The Barbados Signal Stations

I have visited Barbados on many occasions over the past ten years and am fascinated by its history, particularly The Barbados Signal Stations namely Gun Hill, Grenade Hall, and Cotton Tower. They have all been restored and are open to the public. This is heartening, as almost a century ago the signal stations in Barbados were rendered obsolete with the introduction of the telephone, and had been allowed to decay.

Cotton Tower and Grenade Hall

The National Trust took over Cotton Tower, St. Joseph in 1967 after it had ceased to be used by a succession of tenants and then was leased to the Barbados Light and Power Company for use as a sub-station, which kept it in good repair. The National Trust then leased it from the government at a peppercorn rent and Grenade Hall was also included in the lease. The Trust have since carried out some restoration work at Cotton Tower with financial assistance from the government which has kept it in much the same state now as it was in 1851.

Gun Hill and Moncreiffe

I have visited Gun Hill and Moncreiffe three times during the past five years and have learned more about the history during each visit. When I first visited five years ago, there were not so many tourists on the island of Barbados and it was possible to visit these fascinating signal stations in complete privacy and to feel the silence all around. However, in later years, busloads of tourists have arrived and it is not so easy now to capture the true atmosphere.

Gun Hill and Moncreiffe were military outposts before they were signal stations, situated on twenty acres of land on the highland of St George, commanding a breathtaking view from east through south to west. and although there was only barrack accommodation for only two or three officers and a small number of men, sometimes a whole regiment would sleep under canvas in camp. This signal station was built in 1818 to signal the approach of enemy ships and the safe arrival of cargo ships. It has since been restored by the Barbados National Trust in 1982.

Sculpture of British Military White Lion

A visit to the famous British Military Lion, carved by British soldiers in the 19th century is a must for visitors to Gun Hill Signal Station, as it is situated just below the station. The huge white lion with an upraised left front paw rests on a large globe representing the world. The sculptor, known to be Captain Henry John Wilkinson in the 9th Regiment of Foot (The Norfolk Regiment), Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General was assisted by four military labourers, M Brown, D.D. Nicholas, C Harris and Private William. Inscribed on the white lion is a quotation in Latin which translated says:

“He shall have dominion (also) from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth”

Fusilier Road leading to Gun Hill

The road leading to Gun Hill is named Fusilier Road built by the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the 1860’s and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret officially reopened Fusilier Road on January 30th, 1988. She was the Honorary Colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers incorporating the Royal Scots Fusiliers.