AMBLE WITH AVIS


Napoleon Bonaparte, whose imprisonment on St Helena in 1815 resulted in the garrisoning of Ascension Island.

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  of Georgetown (Page Two)

ADMIRALTY LODGE

This house was built during the late 1820's as a home for the Island Commandants. The building was also known as Bates Cottage, so it was probable that William Bate was the first occupant. This spacious building has excellent views of the garrison, and of the mountain settlement. A bridleway led directly from the cottage to the Mountain Road.
The cottage was described by Capt. Burnett in 1858 as being very comfortable, with a drawing room, a dining room, two bedrooms, a verandah and a cellar. A separate building nearby housed the kitchen, and a small water tank. Just below the cottage were stables for the Captain's mule, cow and pig. The Commandant also had a personal staff of a housekeeper, a cook, a handyman and a groom.
With the withdrawal of the Navy, the cottage was kept as a residence for the Governor to be used for his official visits. With the outbreak of WWII, the cottage was used to house the Royal Artillery detachment that manned the Hood's guns on Fort Bedford. Following the arrival of the American forces, the manning of this fort, and a third coastal gun was undertaken by them, and the Royal Artillery withdrew. During the war a telephone exchange was built under the cottage. After the war, the cottage was not restored, and was derelict for many years. It became the Island Club, and was the venue of many happy social events. The building became the Headquarters of the 1st Ascension Scout Group in 1987. It was demolished in 1998.

 

 

THE NAVAL STABLES

The buildings that used to house the Cable & Wireless transmitting station were developed from the old Naval Stables. The one original building had a mill on the Long Beach side, driven by a shaft through the wall. The transmitting station was expanded in 2940 by the addition of a Navy transmitter. Georgetown's power was generated in this building until the arrival of M.P.B.W, and the development of the English Bay Power Station.

 

 

LONG BEACH AND CLARENCE BAY

Clarence Bay has been the main anchorage of Ascension Island for far longer than the period of occupation. A George Maxwell produced an accurate map of the bay as long ago as 1793, describing the anchorage as a fine sandy bay. He called it "English Roads", while the South West Bay was called "French Roads". He wrote;

"Ascension is an uninhabited island about 20 miles in circumference. Composed of porous rock, calcined earth and pumice stone, the surface in general powdered as it were with sulphur, and hot vitriolic fumes pouring from the mountains destroying all vegetation. Not a blade of grass to be seen, though there are many wild goats; these may possibly have resevoirs of water and hardy plants to glean on the windward side where the destructive vapours cannot reach. The bay abounds with fish, particularly a small cod, but they have a black appearance, and when dead grow putrid remarkably soon, which should deter people from using them, as many have experienced their deleterious effects. Vessels bound for English Road should run down on the North Side, and take Pelican Point within two cable length, being a steep rocky shore, then brace up to fetch in with the bay, which they may easily do, to anchoring ground, the first stretch within one third of a mile of the beach, in 10 or 12 fathom water, fine sandy bottom, bringing the flagstaff on Constitution Hill to bear S.E. There is another bay under the south about two miles from Rat Corner, called French Road, and better frequented by turtle, but lies very open to the sea, and is dangerous for boats on account of its rocky beach and heavy surf. Vessels calling at Ascension for turtle often turn 50 in a night, from 3cwt to 5cwt each, and may be found in great abundance 8 months out of 12, say June, July, August and September excepted, when the season is too cold. They are wholesome, nutritious food, and prove a salutary refreshment to mariners on long voyages. It would therefore be a good maxim for vessels leaving the coast of Angola, with the wind at S.S.E or even at S.W to call at the island, being little or nothing out of their course to the West Indies, and would most assuredly be of infinite service, in correcting that putrid scorbutic habit, which prevails more or less on board of African ships especially if those concerned in that trade were to erect a few houses for the accommodation of the sick on shore, until the vessel is properly aired and fumigated, the turtle taken on board, and they might also have a supply of water, if cisterns were constructed for that purpose, as it might be done at a very moderate expense."

 

 

DUMMY TANK SAGA

There is often a reference made to the Dummy Fuel Tanks on Long Beach. The two tanks on the beach are in fact 420,000 gallon storage tanks that were actually in use. One tank was used to store petrol, the other diesel.

 

 

ROAD TO ENGLISH BAY

The road from the end of Long Beach was at one time one of the major highways of Ascension. There were altogether four roads leaving Georgetown; the road to South West Bay, the Mountain Road following the water pipe, the bridle path around the North side of Cross Hill, and the road to Comfortless Cove. The road to Comfortless Cove was also for many years the only way to reach English Bay, and the old road can still be traced for much of its journey. The road also made a branch off the N.E Bay, according to the 1908 survey, but this branch is now very difficult to follow with any certainty.

 

 

FIRING RANGE

Ascension Island possessed at the turn of the century a 1000 metre rifle range that was for many years used for .303 shooting. The firing point can still be seen opposite the laundry on Long Beach, while the butts are hidden in thorn trees at the far end of the beach.

 

 

THE LABORATORY

The purpose of this building is unfortunately unknown, although the title of Laboratory obviously suggests possible uses. From the departure of the Navy the building was used as a St Helenian married quarter. In the forties, it was in particular a transit quarter used to house incoming families while their permanent quarters were made ready. In 1950, the laundry was transferred to this location from the Pierhead area.

 

 

THE STOCKYARD

The stockyards were built by the Navy to house animals for use in the Garrison. Originally designed in three sections, with a covered yard, the stockyards were to house donkeys, cattle and pigs. In fact one record claims that pigs were never kept here, due to the problem of flies. Another source claims that a horse was stabled here until 1956, and after this the stockyard was disused. They were demolished in 1960.

 

 

THE TURTLEPONDS

Located on the site of a small boat harbour, the ponds were first built in 1829, they were enlarged by 20 feet in 1845. The ponds were in regular use to keep turtles alive. Turtles were turned nightly on the beaches during the season, and transported to the ponds by sea. They had large floats attached to prevent them from escaping, and they were towed to the ponds where they were lifted in by means of a davit. Stored in the ponds for long periods, they were dispatched alive to the Pierhead by a railway, and kept aboard ships until required. The practice continued for as long as the Navy was on Ascension, and occasionally afterwards. During WWII, Turtleburgers were a welcome addition to the US forces menu, with an allowance of one turtle per hundred men.

 

 

FORT THORNTON AND THE POWDER MAGAZINE

One of the first tasks for the sailors was the defence of the island to prevent it being used by the French in a rescue bid for Napoleon. Within days of arrival, two cannons were put onto what became known as Fort Thornton, and a small battery built, the fort then being named Fort Cockburn. Little is known of the smaller battery and powder magazine overlooking the anchorage. It was probably built in the early part of the island's history, but is not thought to be the original site of Fort Cockburn. It is possible that following the death of Napoleon, the guns were removed from both forts, or certainly were not kept up, as in 1828, a vessel was attacked by pirates in sight of the island, and the garrison were unable to do anything about it. New 18-pounder guns were acquired, two were put into the fort, one was put by the Tartar Stairs, and one on the Limekiln. In 1830 following the visit by Lt Brandreth, a start was made on the reconstruction of Fort Cockburn, an operation that went on for many years. The design included a blockhouse defence for 35 men, and was designed to be a self-contained unit. It is not known when the fort was renamed, but it was between 1847 and 1852. In 1847, a derrick was erected so that supplies of powder could be taken straight from the store magazines in Fort Cockburn onto the pier head. By 1913, the fort mounted one 6-inch gun and four 3-pounders. It was staffed by 19 men under the command of a naval boatswain. The blockhouse had been removed between 1904 and 1910, so the complement of the fort was not large. Part of the duties of the men was to provide a piquet force to man a point by the old target house at night. A similar force at Comfortless Cove was provided by the Eastern Telegraph Company.

 

 
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Last revised on the 1st of September 2002. For any comments or questions about the Society and its work, or this website, please e-mail us via this link in Ascension.