Life on Mars – Georgetown discovered

The stone buildings down by the pier head have survived much better.  The St Georges Tank pokes up above the rest, where water from Green Mountain was stored for use in the town.  And the Main Store, a massive tuff warehouse down in a dip close to the beach still looks imposing.  The Operational Services team are the main users of this building, storing kit and parts and those little-metal-loops-that-you-are-not-sure-what-you-can-do-with-them-but-you-had-better-keep-them-just-in-case.  It was reputed at one time to be the largest stone building in the southern hemisphere, and it sits amongst a few other similar store houses where the public works people keep their kit.

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the Water Tank

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Edsel on the “Cricket Wicket”

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The Stores – largest stone building in the Southern Hemisphere?

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From the Stores up to the centre of Georgetown

Heading out from the Exiles to the north you come across a beautiful little whitewashed church.  This is the Anglican St Mary’s.  The Catholics meet in an even more interesting place – the Lady of our Grotto which is set in a volcanic cave down near the US Base. Back round the main street in Georgetown you have buildings which at first sight appear modern, but often they were around when the original barracks were put up.  Here you find the courthouse, the police station, old storehouses (the Africa Store is a name to conjure with) , the Bowling Alley, the Stables.  If you look at an old plan of the town you can see how the barracks were set out, and the residences that are apparently scattered about the edges of the institutional buildings were planned carefully as well.  And to some extent the division of class or rank is still prevalent in Georgetown.  The more senior government officers have expansive villas on a ridge just behind the play area, down by the hospital or at the north end of town looking out over Long Beach.  The more junior officials’ those with families, will likely be up round the back of town in rather run down villas.  Younger couples, maybe just starting out, will often be allocated in the area known as Chinatown.  This is made up of rows of terraced units between the stores and one of the forts.  And the single people are given little digs, almost like student accommodation, close by the Saints Club.  Over the course of my visits a new set of small houses were also built on the road out to the US Base and there were mixed opinions as to their utility.  Some said they were poky and lacking good airflow, others were relieved not to have termites eating away at their walls or mould growing up the insides.

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Chinatown

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Chinatown and the Pier Head

Georgetown is a coastal town, but for many they will ignore the sea for most of the time.  Maybe because the ocean here is always in turmoil.  Even within the relative shelter of Clarence Bay to which Georgetown abuts, the sea is rolling and powerful.  The town sits on low rocky bluffs which section off big sandy beaches.  Atop these bluffs are Fort Thornton and Fort Hayes that were set up in the marine barracks period.  Fort Hayes is open every weekend for a few hours and is a typical 19th century defence – thick walls bunkered down in the hillside.  I found the pink plaster work on most surfaces a little off putting, but it certainly had the capacity to have defended Georgetown if the need had arisen.  The most intriguing piece of kit still left there is the old metal signalling equipment by which this fort could communicate by semaphore with the others.

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Fort Hayes

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Georgetown from Fort Hayes

Fort Thornton is more difficult to explore although it is accessible, and in between is the Pier Head itself.  For most of the time this is a quiet spot for locals to hang out and have a few beers.  The teenagers tended to congregate down here late at night at the weekend and let off steam, much to the aggravation of older residents in Chinatown and up on the ridge.  Only when the RMS or other boats are in the offing will the Pier Head really come to life as the launches work hard to bring people back and forth and barges are loaded and unloaded by a massive crane on the pier itself.

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Semaphore Signalling Gantry

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