Travel Tips

5 Interesting Facts About Nelson’s Dockyard

By Yacht Getaways Team
on  May 04, 2018

We begin each Caribbean yacht getaway in Antigua’s spectacular English Harbour because it provides the opportunity to explore Nelson’s Dockyard, the world’s only surviving 16th-century naval station.

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Its Construction Began in the 1740s

By the early 1700s, English Harbour was regularly frequented by British naval ships but the construction of important maintenance dockyards didn’t begin for another two decades. Initial construction on Nelson’s Dockyard began in the 1740s and reached completion in 1765, before additional work took place between 1773 and 1778.

Britain’s Loss of the American War of Independence Boosted the Strategic importance of Nelson’s Dockyard

At a time when Caribbean sugar was largely funding the British Industrial Revolution, Nelson’s Dockyard became a fundamental component of the protection of British assets because its ship maintenance facilities were absolutely crucial to the British fleet.

Learn More About Nelson During your Yacht Getaway

Nelson wasn’t particularly enthused about being sent to Antigua in 1784 to enforce the Navigation Act, and his letters tell of his melancholy and ongoing difficulties with mosquitoes. During his time in English Harbour, it is said that Nelson had six buckets of salt water poured over him at dawn every single day.

Six Decades of Abandonment Resulted in Major Restoration Works

As the sugar industry began to wane, Nelson’s Dockyard was deserted by the British Navy in 1889. Earthquakes and hurricanes caused extensive damage over a period of 60 years, until restoration work began in the early 1950s. The dockyard was opened to the public in 1961 and you can still see 1740s graffiti etched into one of the fringe walls.

Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016

Nothing can forgive the treatment of the enslaved people whose labour was used in the dockyard’s construction, but it is significant that this architectural feat is now working for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. UNESCO protection has been a real boost to Antigua and its 90,000-strong population, allowing this beautiful nation to stand alongside other outstanding locations, including the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal in its own right.

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