Historical Basseterre

A brief history of Basseterre

In 1627 St Kitts was still “shared” by the French and the British.
Basseterre was founded by the French and it served as the French capital.
By 1639 the town was a large and successful port, commanding Eastern Caribbean trade and colonization. It became the capital of the entire French West Indies colony which included the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The French were expelled from the island by the British in 1727 and Basseterre became the capital of St Kitts.
Most of the city was destroyed by the great fire of 1867. The Methodist Church and the Treasury building (now The National Museum) are the only significant buildings that predate the fire.

Historical St Kitts Courthouse 1900s
Treasury building 1950 Basseterre St Kitts

Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Basseterre St Kitts

The Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

After the defeat of the French by the English in 1713, Roman Catholics were forbidden by law to worship in public.  An Act was passed in 1829 to finally to remove all restrictions on worship and as a consequence, there was a revival of Roman Catholicism.
The first church was built around 1856 and lasted until 1927 when the current church was built and dedicated on 6th December 1928.

In 1981 the church was elevated to the status of co-cathedral within the diocese of St. John’s, Antigua.

The Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a very beautiful and ornate church constructed out of grey stone. It is located on the eastern side of Independence Square.

independence square and cathedral Basseterre St Kitts

St George’s Anglican Church

St George’s is the largest church in Basseterre. It stands at the head of Church Street and resembles an English parish church in style.
St George’s has an interesting history and has been rebuilt over the years.
1635 The original (Catholic) church established on the site by the Capuchin Friars of Normandy.

  • 1672 The Jesuits built a church on the site.
  • 1702 The Church burned from a fire started in the roof.
  • 1723 St Georges becomes a Parish and the St Georges Anglican Church is established.
  • 1733 The first rector, John Beronville was appointed.
  • 1772 A hurricane destroys the roof.
  • 1776 Another fire destroys part of the church.
  • 1842 An earthquake seriously damages the church.
  • 1843 A hurricane reduces the church to ruins.
  • 1844 Construction of a new church is started and stops.
  • 1856 Construction restarts.
  • 1858 On the 25th March 1858 the church was consecrated by Bishop of Antigua .
  • 1867 The great fire of Basseterre completely destroys the church.
  • 1872 The organ is played for the first time in the new church.

Today, St. George’s continues to stand proudly at the head of Church Street and is home to many Anglican worshipers. It is also the location for the annual multi-denominational Concert of Christmas Songs.

St George’s Anglican Church

St Georges Anglican Church Basseterre St Kitts

The Treasury Building

This building was constructed in 1894 and was built from hand cut blocks made from the local volcanic stones.
The seawall and a wooden pier used to be directly in front of the building.
The archway was an entry portal for ship passengers and the dome on the top served as a lighthouse.
Today, the Old Treasury Building houses the St. Christopher National Trust, and the National Museum of St Kitts. as a constant gesture to its importance throughout its life on St. Kitts.
The building is a symbol of Kittitian culture and history.
The archway of the Old Treasury Building is today mirrored by the archway over the entrance to the island from the cruise ship pier.

Old Pier before port zante St Kitts

The Treasury Building

Treasury building / national museum Basseterre St Kitts

Berkeley Memorial Clock

Berkeley memorial Basseterre St Kitts

Berkeley Memorial Clock

In the center of the “Circus” stands the Berkeley Memorial.
This memorial features a drinking fountain as well as a clock.
There are four clock faces, each one facing one of the four streets leading to the Circus.
It was built in honor of Thomas B.H. Berkeley, a former president of the General Legislative Council in the 1880s.
It was designed and produced in the Sun Foundry by George Smith and Co of Glasgow, Scotland. Two other similar structures were produced by the foundry but only the one in St. Kitts survives.

The clock was actually renovated and repaired during 2018. With funding from the Urban Development Corporation, the work was completed by an American couple, JB Layman, a mechanical engineer, and his wife, Tannis Layman.  Americlock, a Missouri based company manufactured new escapement gear for the clock, copying the original 130 year old original

Independence Square

independence square and cathedral Basseterre St Kitts

Independence Square

Independence Square was named to commemorate St Kitts and Nevis achieving political independence on September 19th 1983.
The square was originally called Pall Mall Square and in 1750 it was the administrative, commercial and social center of Basseterre.
Where the fountain sits today was a platform used for selling slaves. Prior to sale they were housed in the basement of a building on the south side.
Today the square is bordered by the Co-Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and the present day court house.

Cathedral St Kitts

The Cenotaph

The original war memorial was unveiled in 1926, it was a simple monument with a brass plaque and was located east of the treasury building, where the Post office now stands.
The present memorial is located in Fortlands at the end of Bay Rd.
Unveiled by Princess Margaret in 1955 there are two brass plaques commemorating the heroes of both world wars.
Directly in front of the memorial are three tombs, each tomb is made of a different type of stone from each of the three islands of St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla (In 1971 Anguilla separated from the Trinity of islands).

The Cenotaph

Cenotaph Basseterre St Kitts

Full list of our History of St Kitts articles

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