The ruins of Codrington House, known locally as “Willy Bob” or Highland House, are situated on the highest part of the island, about three miles north of Codrington Village. The view from the house is the best way to see most of the coastline of Barbuda. The floors and lower walls and a large cistern are all that remain of the family settlement of the slave owners, the Codrington family from Gloucester in the UK. Although the village is named after them there are no Codringtons currently living in Barbuda. Read the historical notes to learn more about the colonial history of Barbuda.
The Castle was probably one of Barbuda’s most significant structures although only a well remains on the site today. This watercolour – reproduced in and taken from the research of David Watters from his 1997 publication ‘Historical Documentation and Archaeological Investigation of Codrington Castle, Barbuda ‘ – is the most extensive knowledge we have of its history. It shows the Castle on the left of the picture. Watters’ findings suggest that the Castle was first constructed in the 1680’s, was seized in a successful slave rebellion in 1745, and in 1783 had a ‘good view of activities in the village.’ It had walls of up to twenty feet high and three feet thick, with turrets and towers and was constructed of local limestone. It was said to be ‘a most impressive building’ in 1840 but in 1843 was nearly destroyed by a large earthquake. Although it was rebuilt it was finally left dilapidated until the 20th century when it was destroyed to use the stone to build the Ginnery – below.
The Martello Tower
The Martello Tower (or River Fort) is near the beach at River, three miles south of the village. It is impossible to miss this site, all visitors pass by it at some time – on their way to Coco Point or the other beaches on this coastline. The tower has a raised gun platform and extremely thick walls, but is missing the floors and is now usually home to rather ferocious bees! It was built by the British to defend the island but there was a fort on the site before, probably built by the Spanish who fought the French, Dutch and English for control of these islands.
The Government House is located in the centre of Codrington village, behind the Post Office. The building dates from 1694 and has a block by the gate for a rider to stand on to mount and dismount a horse. The building was lived in by the island ‘Wardens’ who were the representatives of the British Government from the time the Codringtons left Barbuda until as recently as 1976. The house has been severely damaged by various hurricanes and has yet to be repaired but could be a nice museum.
The Ginnery stored salt and cotton from the days of the slave trade to well into the 1900s. The salt can still be tasted as it has so permeated the walls and you can see dates and quantities stencilled on the beams. Since then it has been used for a school classroom and for regular Council meetings. In this picture you see the remains of Castle well, with the Ginnery in the background.
Other original buildings and structures
In Codrington village are many original buildings, old houses, and dry stone walls. Some have been incorporated into newer buildings and others remain. At one time the whole village was walled to prevent animals from entering. There are several wells that were dug during slavery that are still used by Barbudans for their water supply, and scattered around the island are many ruined stone look-outs and storage buildings. The one at Gun Shop Cliff, to the east of Highland House, is said to have been erected in the late nineteenth century as part of a phosphate mining operation which took place in one of the caves.
Some of the very old wooden houses no longer exist as they lose the fight against termites, or as people build new and better accommodation, but there are still examples of the traditional styles of building, and some pretty houses with great character to be seen in Codrington that are still in use today.