Nelson's Dockyard at English Harbour

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Nelson's Dockyard at English Harbour

English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard are located 11 miles southeast of St. John's on the Antigua's main island road. Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; (268) 460-1379.

Fifteen-square mile Nelson's Dockyard National Park is a restored 18th-century naval garrison, a living museum somewhat reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

It was established in 1725 as His Majesty's Antigua Naval Yard at English Harbour, built by the British Royal Navy to protect ships anchored in English Harbour with cargoes of sugar.

English Harbour was important for its excellent anchorage: ships could ride out hurricanes there and repairs could be made under strong military protection.

The garrison's namesake, Horatio Nelson, arrived in 1784 at age 26. Legend has it he gained command of Antigua after his predecessor put out his own eye while chasing a cockroach with a fork. No reports are given of how much grog was consumed during the cockroach chase.

The site did not take Nelson's name until its restoration in 1951. Nelson served in the Caribbean from 1784-1787 and was dead 150 years before the dockyard adopted his name, something he might have found amusing since he and Antigua didn't suit each other well.

Nelson was extremely unpopular with both the locals and English merchants of Antigua because he insisted on enforcing the Navigation Act, which prohibited trade with foreign countries using foreign ships. American ships were also not permitted to use English Harbour.

Before Nelson's arrival, cargo vessels from the newly independent United States were carrying on a lively trade in Antigua with the well-bribed approval of on-site officials. Nelson put an end to this flaunting of the laws.

When Nelson left for home in 1787, he was so sick and so convinced he might die on the voyage, he had a puncheon of rum put on board his ship to preserve his body.

After the British and French ended their hostilities in 1815, the Dockyard gradually fell into decline. It was shut down in 1889 and reopened in 1961 as Nelson's Dockyard, with the newest name of Nelson's Dockyard National Park. The historical monument and well-equipped center for cruising yachtsmen. The main social center is the Admiral's Inn.

Like most of The Dockyard's buildings, the Inn is built of local stone and brick imported for ballast. Its 14 small rooms are furnished as they would have been a century ago, but it is the outdoor patio that attracts most of the attention as the area's favorite watering hole.

What once was The Dockyard's old copper and lumber store is now a restaurant and inn, imaginatively called The Copper and Lumber Store Hotel. It, too, has just fourteen rooms.

The building that Nelson lived in has been turned into The Dockyard Museum, containing charts, furniture and nautical memorabilia from the 18th and 19th centuries.

From The Dockyard, it's an easy walk to Fort Berkeley, situated on a thin spit of land overlooking the narrow entrance to English

Fort Berkeley defended the harbor not only with cannons but a chain and timber boom that would be drawn across to block the channel during sieges.

Nature trails lasting from 30 minutes to 5 hours crisscross the area, including the Lookout Trail that leads to the following site, Shirley Heights, which overlooks English Harbour.

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