Nelson’s Dockyard reveals a cultural landscape that tells the exciting story of European battles for supremacy at a time when sugar was king. A natural hurricane shelter, the Royal Navy used English Harbour to maintain its fleet in the Caribbean. Nelson’s Dockyard became an important garrison, giving the Royal Navy an advantage over their main rivals, the French.
In 1784, Horatio Nelson, Captain of the HMS Boreas was stationed here to actively enforce Navigation Acts that regulated trade between English ships and enemy territories, including the United States. The enforcement of this legislation made Nelson unpopular among the planter class of Antigua and marred his four year stay on island.
Nonetheless, Nelson’s maritime history has left an imprint on this naval facility. Today it still provides safe haven for vessels and a livelihood for highly skilled craftsmen, shipwrights, and fisherfolk, descendants of the British sailors and enslaved Africans who contributed greatly to the development of this cultural landscape.
In place of warships and galleons, luxury yachts and motor vessels berth dockside. The buildings once used as officer’s quarters, workshops and storerooms have been renovated and are now restaurants, boutiques, pubs and hotels. The admiral’s house is the Dockyard Museum, exhibiting relics of the island’s earliest civilizations and of the Royal Army and Navy. And across the water, on a tiny hill, sits the beautifully restored Clarence House. Originally built as the residence of the Dockyard Commissioner, it was later used as the country home of the island’s Governors where royalty and other dignitaries have been entertained.