About the CCC Services and Properties Councilors Past and Present. Castries City History Places of Interest Activities and Festivities

BUILDING A GREAT CITY


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A Brief History of the City of Castries.

Learn about the Castries fires

This is a picture of Castries after the 1948 fire

The earliest people who came to Castries over 2,000 years ago, found a bay enclosed by hills and fringed with mangrove from the Marina all around to Bananes Bay. The bay was rich in fish, conch and other seafood. Sans Soucis provided clams and birds, while ample fresh water was obtainable from the Castries River and from the La Pansée and Morne Dudon streams.

The first Europeans, adventurers, freebooters, pirates, found the bay a safe refuge. The French found the bay convenient for anchoring and mending their ships, naming their first base, in the area of the present day yacht haul-out. La Carenage (a place for careening and repairing ships). This facility gave Castries its motto:

“Statio Haud Malefida Carinis” — A Safe Harbour for Ships.

Transportation of the 1950's and 1960's

Between 1765 and 1768 a new town was built by the Baron de Micoud on the riverside site and called Ville du Carenage. In 1785 this town was named Castries after the Marquis de Castries, Marechal de France. The old town site continued to be called the Vieille Ville.  In 1793 General Ricard, recognizing St. Lucia’s adherence to the principles of the French Revolution, changed the names of all towns and villages in St. Lucia, Castries was called Ville de la Felicite - (Town of Happiness); this was ratified by Robespierre in 1794.

However, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, ended the happiness when he led part of a conquering British force in 1794; he renamed the town Charlottesville after his mother, Queen Charlotte of England. Some time after the Napoleonic Wars the town reverted to the original royalist name of Castries.

 

Central Library before the expansion

The fortunes of Castries have always been, and still are, influenced by the port activities. The port served the legitimate business of the north-west region from Cul-de-Sac to Gros Islet (ignoring the contraband shipped through Gros Islet)  As the main dock for agricultural products, warehouses were located in the area of Queen’s Lane. (The walls of the Carasco and Minvielle and Chastanet warehouses near Queen’s Lane still show the masonry work of the old sector).

Castries has been involved in ship repairing and commercial warehouse storage, and as a coaling port for nearly 100 years.

It also served as the British Military Headquarters for the Southern Caribbean (1888-1906), a communications centre (part of the trans-Atlantic cable system, and dockyard for the cable ships) and as a sugar port.

Port Castries in the 1960's

The present town grew up along the Castries River, and the Chaussee, a dirt road raised above the level of the mangroves.

Much of the town, from Micoud Street to the docks, was under water. Jeremie Street was initially called Rue des Mangles (Street along the Mangroves). The market place was near the waterfront.

Land was reclaimed by people being offered an area of water which became their land after they had filled it. A chained gang of slaves also worked on the reclamation.

Castries bay is now much smaller than before. Harbour development since 1970 has filled the entire waterfront from Bananes to the Marina, except the northern wharf.

Castries was spared the general destruction during the French Revolution. However, after a mauling of British troops at Vigie by French Republican troops (mainly freed slave soldiers) in April 1796, General Abercrombie's son leveled the town with incendiary bombs and cannon fire.

Destructive fires in 1813, 1927 and 1948 each leveled most of the town again. There was also severe hurricane damage in 1817, 1831 and 1980.

The original Garbage truck

 

The military invasions and presence did not only mean destruction. The largest single building boom took place under the British between 1888 and 1906.

Five million pounds were spend constructing all the brick buildings for garrisoning the troops on the Morne, at La Toc and at Vigie, still standing today and now housing Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, the police training school, the School of Music, and St. Mary’s College.

The fortifications and gun emplacements still stand after 100 years; together with the latest technology in wireless they defended the port of Castries from invasion. A new Victoria Hospital was completed to replace the Colonial Hospital which had been destroyed by fire. The market was moved to Jeremie Street, and Columbus Square was established in its place. Father Tapon erected the new Cathedral and St. Mary’s College.

About the CCC Services and Properties Councilors Past and Present. Castries City History Places of Interest Activities and Festivities

Contact.
Castries City Council, PO Box  Castries, St Lucia. Tel: 758 452 2121, Fax: 758 453 7294    Email: ccc@candw.lc