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Castries, the principal town of St. Lucia, is the seat of government and is situated at the eastern extremity of the beautiful harbour which bears its name. In maritime circles it is better known as Port Castries.

It was originally called “Carenage” or petit Cul-de-Sac because it was a land-locked harbour used for careening ships while under repairs, and in the days of sail when wind-jammers roamed the Caribbean, this safe service earned for Port Castries the descriptive Virgilian legend: “Statio Haud Malefida Carinis”. This is as true today as it ever was: a safe anchorage for ships.

One can hardly be expected to compile a history of Castries without connecting its history with the glorious pages of St. Lucia’s history, moreso for the military and naval actions which took place in this area. We should need no reminder of the fact that Castries and its vicinity was largely St. Lucia up to the time of the last French surrender in 1803. Writing to Napoleon, Emperor of France, after his defeat, Brigadier-general Nogues, the last French Administrator of St. Lucia, made the following historic confession: “Had France not been deceived, it was her intention to have made St. Lucia the Capital of the French Antilles, the general market of the Windward Islands and the Gibraltar of the Gulf of Mexico.

This statement was more than a confession of failure to hold St. Lucia, it was a rebuke that the French Overseas Department had fortified Martinique at the expense of St. Lucia, and when the show-down came he could not withstand the British onslaught although he had put up an heroic resistance. In fact the Morne fortifications were taken at the point of the bayonet on 22nd June, 1803.

Breen’s history of St. Lucia published in 1844 defines the boundaries of the town as follows: On the north by an inlet or bay and the lands of Sans Soucis; on the east by the Chaussee and the Leslie Lands; on the south by the Castries River and Morne Fortune; and on the west by the Harbour.

Of course, in Breen’s time it was a small town of not more than 600 houses and a resident population of about 4,000 souls. Today, the town proper covers an area of about 105 acres with a growing population of over 15,000 and has pretensions to being one of the most modern little towns in the West Indies. It serves a further ten thousand persons in its suburbs.

Much of the urban area is reclaimed lands and this was brought about by a Government decree which granted freehold possession to anyone who enclosed any portion of swamp land under water, and who drained and filled it up. No doubt this accounts for some of the slums we have inherited. By some unwritten code something similar is now taking place in the Four-a-Chaux area.

The original capital of St. Lucia was called le Petit Carenage and occupied what is now the Vigie Airport, but on account of the exposed nature of the terrain it suffered severely from hurricanes. Transfer to the present site was begun in 1768 and in the hurricane of 1780 two houses only were left standing. This gave Government no choice but to quit and the capital was finally removed to its present site and named Ville de Carenage.

The name was changed to Castries in 1785 when Le Mareschal de Castries was Colonial Minister in the French Government and Baron de Laborie was Governor of St. Lucia. Around 1792, when the Republicans came to power in France, the name was changed to “Felicite-Ville” but this name was not popular and soon faded out. Finally, in 1794 the British re-captured the island and adopted the name Castries in preference to Carenage, perhaps due to the fact that the British Tories wanted to have no truck with French Revolution.

The early 19th century saw the end of the military see-saw between the French and the English in the Caribbean waters and a Treaty of Peace was finally signed in Paris in 1814 restoring peace and friendship between the two great nations and this amicable accord has produced the most cordial relations between our French neighbours of Martinique and ourselves on both sides of the Channel separating our two islands.

The Municipality of the town of Castries also has a very interesting history and prides itself on being the oldest fully elected municipality in the Windward and Leeward Islands.

The purpose of this exercise is to point out some of the bright spots of its colourful history St. Lucia’s historian Breen thought that “although St. Lucia’s progress had been retarded by a thousand vicissitudes-fires, hurricanes……… and foreign invasions, and political broils, and financial difficulties and even bankruptcy, yet there is no Colony that has passed through the ordeal of Emancipation with less detriment to the interest of public order…….” This is complimentary considering the troubled period he had in mind during the early 19th century.

In the post-emancipation days, and with the advent of steamships, Port Castries with its natural harbour came into its own as an important Coaling Station.

 

 

 Mayors

 

Peterson D. Francis

 

2016 - present

 

Shirley Lewis

 

2010 - 2015

 

Irving John

 

2005 - 2010

 

Peter I. Foster

 

2002 - 2004

 

Irving John

 

1997 - 2002

 

Adelina Auguste

 

1992 - 1997

 

Irving John

 

1991 - 1992

 

Adellina Auguste

 

1987 - 1991

 

Egbert Nestor Mathurin

 

1982 - 1987

 

John L. Bristol

 

1980 - 1982

 

Irving John

 

1977 - 1980

 

Dunstan McGregor Fontinelle

 

1976 - 1977

 

Joseph Hayes Desir

 

1975 - 1976

 

Hollis Duncan Davidson Bristol

 

1973 - 1974

 

Julian Robert Hunte

 

1971 - 1972

 

Joseph Hayes Desir

 

1967 - 1972