During the late 19th Century Blackwoods Screw Dock was one of the most sought-after facilities in the Americas for repairing naval vessels.
Officially opened in 1893, the Screw Lifting Dock was the brainchild of engineer John Blackwood, who pioneered the technique of lifting large boats out of the water for repairs and cleaning.
Today it remains the only one of its kind in the world.
The dock is said to have contributed significantly to Barbados’ maritime industry, when the island was the centre of shipping to and from the Americas in the 19th century.
By 1897 up to 1,500 foreign vessels would anchor each year in Carlisle Bay, to take advantage of the dock’s facilities. During the World War II submarines and several other vessels attached to the British Navy in Trinidad were sent here for repair.
The dock has been derelict at its location on Cavans Lane for almost 40 years, having last operated in the late 1970s. But now it is about to come back to life, this time as a tourist attraction, thanks to the efforts of CEO of Foster & Ince, Martin Ince.
Beginning October, it will be opened to locals and visitors alike; the historical structure will be maintained, while the modern element of a bar will be added.
“The screw dock was basically there to repair and fix all these boats that came into Barbados to build the economy, to bring in goods.
“We set up a bar and put the museum here to showcase it because it is the last screw dock in the world. We heard that there was one in Singapore but that one basically fell down and broke up,” Attractions Supervisor Kian Ingraham told Barbados TODAY.
A picture gallery has also been opened on site, showcasing various aspects of Barbadian culture as well as artefacts from the maritime industry.
“We will be open seven days a week at our picture gallery, we have a few artefacts here and pictures that tell the whole story about the screw dock. Also the railway which started from town going all the way . . . up to St Andrew past Chalky Mount. We have the sugar industry but a lot of people know about this when it comes to making rum; we have a few pictures of the kings and queens and princes [who] came to Barbados to visit.
“All the tour buses come through here, let off tourists, they come to look at the museum, look at the actual screw dock. We have signage around the whole place so you can read about it also. Afterwards you can have a drink at the bar or go and spend the day at the beach,” Ingraham added.
The dock is also part of the UNESCO-designated Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, and last week tourism officials paid tribute to the facility, choosing it as the venue for the launch of this year’s Food and Rum Festival.
“Nearly 200 years ago when Barbados was a hub and main thoroughfare for the world’s notable cargo vessels, Blackwoods Screw Dock was famous for the workmanship of its ship repair crew.
“These seafarers and boat builders enjoyed their rum and their stomachs, and thus it is fair to assume that a lot of food and rum was consumed right here on this spot, making it the perfect location for which to launch the 2016 edition of the Barbados Food and Rum Festival,” CEO of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Billy Griffith said then. It is hoped that the dock will be preserved for years to come, given its historic significance.