Castries Commonwealth Walkway

Saint Lucia / Americas

Saint Lucia is one of the West Indies’ volcanic islands, and part of the Lesser Antilles.  It is sometimes called ‘Helen of the West Indies’ because it changed hands 14 times, belonging variously to the French and the British.  It is part of the Windward Group, and at 238 square miles, the second largest after Dominica.  It was known as a leading exporter of bananas but has also acquired status as a leading tourist destination with its rugged mountains, the famous Pitons, and miles of sandy beaches.  It was the birthplace of Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, and is the only country of its size to have produced two Nobel winners – the economist, Sir Arthur Lewis, and the poet, Sir Derek Walcott. It has changed its name often, at one time called Iouanalao (land where the Iguana is found), then Hiwanarau and later Hewanorra.  From the late 16th century it began to be called Saint Lucia, the only country in the world to be named after a woman – in this case St Lucy of Syracuse, called that by the French settlers, the first Europeans to arrive there. Saint Lucia was first settled by the peaceful Arawak Indians around AD 200, as they escaped from the more belligerent Caribs.  They brought agricultural and ceramic traditions with them.  But in AD 800 the Caribs seized the island.  It was then discovered either by Christopher Columbus in 1502, or possibly earlier by the less well-known explorer, Juan de la Cosa.  In 1782 Admiral George Rodney defeated the French in the Battle of the Saints and in 1795 a bitter conflict took place between the English and the French and most of the island’s towns and villages were destroyed.  The following year Castries was burnt to the ground. In 1812 Castries was again destroyed.  By 1827 the English had established a legal system on the island and in 1838 the slave trade was abolished.  The coaling industry started up in 1863, Port Castries being the main coaling port in the West Indies for a hundred years.  It ceased to be a naval station in 1906, but international access was improved by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.  Castries was twice more damaged by fire, in 1927 and 1948. Citizens of Saint Lucia over the age of 21 were granted the vote in 1951, and the island was part of the West Indies Federation that existed between 1958 and 1962.  A new constitution was introduced in 1960 with government ministers appointed.  That lasted until 1967 when the island achieved self-government.  HRH Princess Alexandra presided over the full independence ceremonies in 1979. Castries is the capital city and one of the most modern in the Eastern Caribbean, due to the four fires, and in particular the 1948 one which wiped out most of the commercial sector.  The result was the chance to construct a well laid-out urban area.  The city consists of modern buildings, intermingled with surviving French houses – old wooden buildings with balconies and fine latticework.  It sits on the shores of the harbour, one of the best natural harbours in the Caribbean, almost land-locked and surrounded by hills.  Today the harbour caters for cargo containers as well as substantial cruise liners.   In 1785 Castries took its name from the Maréchal de Castries, the French minister for the navy and colonies.

5.6 miles / 9 kilometres

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What to see

  • Saint Lucia general view
  • Saint Lucia The Pitons
  • Castries barber shop sign
  • Castries local architecture
  • Castries general view
  • Castries french house architecture
  • Castries general harbour view
  • Castries general harbour view
  • Castries french house
  • Castries at night

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