African Location Church To Benefit From New Phase Of Restoration


Another round of restoration works will commence on the St Philip’s Church that is located at Kingstown, Tortola.
During a press briefing earlier this month, Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith announced that the works on the site will restart: “We will continue to assist with the restoration of the St. Philip’s Church,” Premier Smith told the media.”
The announcement that another phase of work will be commencing on the project was made as part of the Premier’s declaration that enhancements are being done for the upcoming tourism season: “We are getting ready on the tourism front and improving our offerings. We have made a commitment to have new enhancements ready for the upcoming season,” Hon. Smith said.
The announcement of the restoration work was made back 12 November, 2014 during an introductory event for the newly formed Association for the Preservation of the Virgin Islands Heritage (APVIH). At that time, it was mentioned that restoration will include the installation of over 100 stone markers, log wood or stone benches, and a stone tiled walkway.
The ground breaking ceremony for the project took place on 2 May; and the actual work commenced a few days ago. The work is being done by Newton Construction and it is expected to span six to eight weeks.
It was stated that the initial tasks would include the construction of a stone fence/wall at the front of the Church/ Burial ground. The fence/wall is being done in the traditional Virgin Islands stone work style and it was noted that it would take a little longer than other regular work.
During the coming weeks it is expected that the landscaping and marking of some of the graves would also be done.
In an attempt to solve some of the problems affecting the Africans liberated from slave ships seized in BVI waters, in 1831, the local administration gave grants of land at Kingstown (not Kingston as some would have us believe). On the site they created a settlement assisted in a supervisory manner by Methodist missionaries and the Collector of Customs. The place became known as “The African Location” and was given a decent appearance. An architectural sketch taken from a watercolour painted on a contemporary map can be seen on the cover of Vernon Pickering’s “Concise History of the British Virgin Islands”. The unspoken policy of isolating the liberated Africans was fulfilled two years later when a church, St. Philip’s, serving also as a school, was established at Kingstown. In spite of the 1807 Abolition of Slavery Act, privateers from St. Thomas continued to trade slaves in the BVI. When illegal slave-ships were seized in BVI waters their cargo was sometimes brought to quiet spots at Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda) or more often to Jost Van Dyke where the Africans were sold to St. Thomian planters.
The ruins are the only reminders of Kingstown’s past. Nothing remains of all the homes built in the area. The Masters’ House was destroyed in the 1916 hurricane, so was St. Philip’s.