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There has been a major archeological find in Barbados.

What appears to be a centuries-old underground water storage facility in Fort George Heights, St Michael was discovered over the weekend by workers of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).

Historians say the coral stone structure could date back to the 19th century. Barbados TODAY understands that the BWA was carrying out excavation work in the area adjacent to an old water tank with the hopes of installing a new facility.

However, after about half the structure was destroyed workmen stopped the demolition and officials were notified and historians called in.

A look at inside the old cistern. Several officials from various government departments, members of the Barbados National Museum and the Barbados National Trust (BNT) have already visited the site as they embark on investigations.

Some historians who spoke to Barbados TODAY on the historical find said the old, magnificent coral stone structure might have been built in the 19th century as an underground water storage facility.

With about 50 per cent of the structure already destroyed, Sir Henry Fraser and Dr Karl Watson have called on authorities to preserve what is left of it.

Watson, who is a past president of the Trust, described the “historic 19th century water storage underground facility” as beautiful.

Insisting that what remained of the structure should be preserved, Watson suggested that it could be used to tell a part of the island’s rich history.

“People would love to go and see it. You could have dinners in it. You could have concerts in it. You could think of many things to do. You have to,” he said.

The historian said it was the site where “the planned Fort George started but was then abandoned”.

He is especially happy that Chief Executive Officer of the BWA Keithroy Halliday was able to put a stop to the demolition.

“So we are now going to make recommendations. But our major and immediate recommendation is that no more demolition continues,” said Watson, who added that “50 per cent of it is lost, but what is there, the other 50 per cent, is outstandingly beautiful and really can be kept”.

The noted historian insisted that while a future purpose of the structure would have to be worked out, he was certain it had rich historic value “both in terms of the method of construction and appearance aesthetically”.

When a news team visited the area a number of bats were seen hanging from the inside while some sections of the structure had graffiti.

Sir Henry who could hardly contain his excitement, described the structure as amazing, insisting that it was of “enormous historical interest and archeological value”.

Professor Henry Fraser “It brings me out in a cold sweat. I am so excited to see these magnificent arcades — even a huge pot hanging on a bracket on the wall over there — this was a phenomenal structure,” said Sir Henry as he pointed to the vast remains.

“I would propose that there should be an immediate site committee established to come and look at it and plan how it should be further excavated, because it should not be done willy-nilly as has been done so far,” he said.

“Clearly there is a lot of damage to the structure, but there is a lot more to be seen, there is a lot more to be discovered. Clearly the Barbados National Trust, the Barbados Museum and the people at the Garrison Historical Consortium and an appropriate archeological and engineering team need to be established as a matter of urgency . . . This is of such enormous value for our history, for our people and for our tourism, of course. So this has huge intrinsic value as well as economic value,” he said.

Recalling that in the past he would go to the area “dozens of times” with his son to fly kites and pick dunks, Sir Henry said he had no idea of the structure he was walking on.

“It is just amazing,” he said.

“This is a solid structure, the walls are several feet thick. It is astonishing that this was hidden and there was no oral history or memory being passed on,” he added.

In a statement this evening, the BWA said It has been agreed that until further investigations can be carried out by the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, the Barbados National Trust and the BWA, work on the project would be halted.    

The new reservoir, which is to be located next to the existing Fort George Tank, will have an increased capacity of 300,000 US gallons of water and is necessary to improve the water supply to over twenty-five (25) heavily-populated neighbourhoods of St Michael and Christ Church. [email protected]

LINK ORIGINAL: Barbados Today

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