Where: Various locations around Barbados
Trip Date: 10/21/17-11/11/17
My first international article! Don’t get too used to it though, I don’t think I will do this too frequently. As some of you know, I recently returned home from a three-week vacation on the sunny island of Barbados in the Caribbean to visit my lovely girlfriend and her family. While there, I saw enough stuff for several more posts, so get ready for about a month of reading about Barbados.
Also, it has been over a month since my last lighthouse post, and on this blog that is unacceptable. So I will rectify that today with some history of the lighthouses of Barbados.
Some Notes on Barbados’ Lighthouses
- Barbados as a whole has not been especially great at preserving some of its historic sites. Some of that has changed in recent years as heritage tourism has become a growing industry, but the natural beauty of the island has remained the primary draw (and for good reason). This is particularly true of the lighthouses. Most have been left largely unattended, with little documented history available to the public. There is evidence that this, too, is changing, but for now, I will impart to you the relatively short histories that I could find.
- Only four lighthouses currently exist on the island, the oldest being constructed in the 1850s. As previously mentioned, there is not much documented history on the lighthouses, but since Barbados was a major port during the British Colonial era, I have to believe that the island had some sort of light signal system prior to this. But I have no information to back this up. There was a system of signal towers across the island used for military purposes, and these may also have acted as light stations (more on these in the next weeks). But again, I have no proof of this. If anyone knows more about this, let me know.
And now, lighthouses.
Ragged Point Lighthouse
Near the easternmost point of Barbados, on the very scenic cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, sits Ragged Point Lighthouse. The light was built in the Parish of Saint Phillip in 1875. Although the tower is only 97 feet tall, the focal plane of the lighthouse is 213 feet because it stands atop the cliff.
The tower and keeper’s cottage are in a state of disrepair, the lantern room is rusted and the glass is broken in many places. However, this lighthouse does show signs in a change in Barbados’ apathy towards historic sites. Earlier this year the Port Authority began the process of restoring the tower as a navigational aid and tourist attraction. Already scaffolding surrounds the tower, and the lower section has been recently painted. But, disrepair or not, this tower nestled in the beautiful coastline is quite a site.
Needham’s Point Light
Back in Bridgetown on the southwest coast, on Carlisle Bay, stands Needham’s Point Lighthouse. This is the second oldest lighthouse on the island, built in 1886. A light station had been established on the bay as early as 1855, and a notice in the July 6th, 1886 issue of the London Gazette informs mariners that on the 1st of September, 1886, the light at Needham’s Point was to be moved to a new lighthouse some 207 yards from the “present lighthouse.” This is the only reference I could find that alludes to the existence of lighthouses on the island before the current ones.
Hilton later purchased the land surrounding the lighthouse and built the hotel that now stands next to it. It is easy to mistake this lighthouse as simply a decoration constructed by the hotel, but rest assured, this is an actual historic lighthouse. This is probably the best-preserved lighthouse in Barbados if for no other reason than the hotel likes to keep it looking nice for its guests. However, because there is hotel directly in front of the tower, you can only see it from the beach, which means I could not get an angle of the lighthouse that included the beautiful blue bay behind it.
Harrison Point Lighthouse
At the far north of the island in the Parish of Saint Lucy is the youngest lighthouse in Barbados, Harrison Point Lighthouse. Built in 1925, this tower is 85 feet in height, However, like Ragged Point light, the focal plane is much higher—194 feet—because it stands on a cliff.
Supposedly this lighthouse is also known as Maycocks Lighthouse, although when I said this to my girlfriend she looked at me like I was crazy. So apparently the people who know this as Maycocks Lighthouse are not the locals.
Supposedly the tower is open for visitors, but when I was there it was not monitored and was surrounded by unkempt growth. Like Ragged Point, this tower was also rusted and weathered, but showed some signs of impending restoration.
South Point Lighthouse
The fourth, final, and oldest lighthouse in Barbados is at the southern end of the island, creatively called South Point Lighthouse. Unfortunately, this was also the only one that I wasn’t able to visit. I did, however, get a distant view of the tower from the boardwalk in Hastings.
I will have to plan another trip to the island so that I can finally say that I have seen all the lighthouses in one country (I don’t have to mention that there were only four).
The island of Barbados is a very beautiful place, and its lighthouses are no different. Though they may not be the most well-kept, there is a beauty in their solitude. Many of the lighthouses I have visited were mobbed with visitors, so it was a nice change of pace to enjoy these sites in peace, seeing them as they once would have been: silently marking the coasts of Barbados. While it will be nice to revisit these sites after their restoration and (hopeful) historical interpretation, they will lose that quality of privacy. But that may just be the price to ensure their survival in the near future.
It occurs to me that most of my readers are probably not familiar with the geography of Barbados. I know I understand things better when I can see them, so I have put together a map pointing out the locations of the lighthouses.