Barbados Pocket Guide

Signal Stations in Barbados

Canon at Gun Hill Signal Station, St. George, Barbados

Signal Stations

The main purposes of the signal stations across Barbados was to warn of approaching ships, cane fires and also slave rebellions on the island. After the slave rebellion of 1816, plantation owners became somewhat paralysed by fear and this actioned greater emphasis for safety. As a result, by approximately 1818, a total of six (6) signal stations were erected all across Barbados.

 

signal-station-barbadosThey were Highgate in Wildey, St. Michael, Gun Hill in St. George, Moncrieffe in St. Philip, Cotton Tower in St. Joseph, Grenade Hall and Dover Fort in St. Peter. By 1870, the island of Barbados saw an additional five (5) erected around the Bridgetown area. They were Commercial Hall (current site of Carlisle Car Park), Queen's House, Government House, Central Police Stations and Needham's Point.

 

These strategically placed signal stations across Barbados were tall enough to command an extensive view of the island's relatively flat landscape and another full view of the ocean. By so doing, the plantation owners were able to physically scan the land between each signal station and communicate with each other via signal fires and semaphore. 

 

The specific signals that might have been used in the instance of a slave rebellion are unknown. Other signals which could have been secret, have not been recorded.

 

The Flag Method

Based on the height of the signal stations across Barbados, messages were sent via flags of all shapes, colours and combinations. Of significant importance as well, was the height at which these flags were raised as each level carried a different signal meaning.

 

The main connection among these signal stations took place on the top floor as they usually had holes in the walls that were directed towards the other signal stations. This method made it easier for signalmen to find their exact position throughout the island. If lights were used at night, these holes came in quite handy.

 

The Semaphore Method

Semaphores are a system of conveying information by changing the position of a flag, light, etc.

 

With the emergence of the telephone in 1883, the presence of signal stations across Barbados dwindled as this method of communication was not as prevalent as before. The last signal station in Barbados was closed in 1887.

 

What was once used as vantage points for security and safety are now readily used as vantage points for Barbadians and locals to absorb the absolute beauty that the island of Barbados has to offer.