Antigua - Exploring English Harbour & Nelson's Dockyard

Sun 6 Mar 2011 15:28
English Harbour and Nelson’s dockyard is one of the best known and most popular tourist sights in Antigua and from our experience it is clear to see why.
The port and dockyard installations were built between 1725 and 1746  and became Britain’s main naval station in the Lesser Antilles.  Nelson was stationed here in 1784 and eventually took over as naval commander.  Apparently Nelson did not enjoy Antigua and was resented for insisting on enforcing the Navigation Act, which meant he kept the port closed to trade for all but British ships.  The dockyard was abandoned by the Royal Navy in 1889 following a decline in Antigua’s economic and strategic importance to the British Crown. 
When a retired British naval officer, Captain Nicholson sailed into English Harbour in 1947, the dockyard was in ruins.  He was behind the first moves to restore the ruins into a life closely paralleling its old one – that of an active dockyard, which was suitably named after Nelson. The result is that today, the whole of Nelson’s Dockyard has been beautifully re-constructed to house hotels, restaurants and businesses managed by the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.  It is also the only working Georgian marina in the western hemisphere  and is an outstanding historic monument and a fitting scene for Antigua’s main port of arrival for yachts.  We anchored Nimue opposite Fort Berkeley overlooking the western entrance, which served at the harbour’s first line of defence.  A single cannon still symbolises the once inviolable English Harbour. On the opposite side of the entrance are the imposing fortifications of Shirley Heights and Fort Shirley Battery, which dominate the sea approaches.
Michael was keen to visit the small naval museum located in the Old Admirals House in English Harbour.  This was well worth a visit and we saw an abundance of nautical memorabilia and a room devoted to Lord Nelson himself.  We also toured the other sights in Nelson’s Dockyard, including the remains of the famous stone pillars, the last remains of the old Boat House and Sail loft.
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Lord Nelson and a room dedicated to him in the museum
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Michael standing to attention and Anne pretending to be Lord Nelson


The Copper and Lumber Store Hotel


With a dinghy dock right outside!


One of the restored buildings


The Boat House and Sail Loft Pillars (1 above and 7 pictures below)





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The Museum located in the restored Admiral’s House

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A transatlantic rowing yacht – The Womble


Michael testing out winches! (replicas of old capstans)


A Restaurant located up the stairs


Restored building housing small supermarket and offices
Next instalment – Shirley Heights