Page 30 - Yachter Spring 2024
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                                   The principal risk at sea was Piracy, so to prevent this, one small “5th Rate” naval vessel of 36 Guns was assigned to protect the fleet, but this could provide little more than token defence at sea. The fleet embarked in August 1722. One ship set out later from Boston with more supplies and livestock; breeding sheep and pigs, poultry and black cattle.
The fleet assembled after their Trans- Atlantic voyage at Barbados, which was under British rule, before continuing to St. Lucia
in December 1722. However, as the Duke’s fleet was assembled, news of the venture
had reached the King of France. France had
a strong and long established presence in Martinique, just 20 miles to the north of St Lucia, where there were also a small number of French settlers. The French King was incensed by this British venture and sent an order to Martinique that if the Duke of Montagu’s fleet landed on St Lucia they were to be repelled by force.
This unwelcome news reached Captain Uring on his arrival, but he considered the threats to be a “gasconade”, a bluff. So the expedition went ashore, and celebrated, drinking a toast to King George, killing a
cow and celebrating Christmas with a good British roast lunch. Within days, a French force of 1400 men was sent from Martinique, landing on the north coast just a few miles from where Uring’s had established Fort Montagu. The French marched to surround the British settlers – who had only a handful of men capable of carrying arms - inadequate to defend, let alone defeat, the French. Uring sent urgent messages to Barbados for help
but none came – so he had no alternative and had to withdraw. He considered colonising
St Vincent instead, but was rebuffed by the forewarned islanders, so Uring took the fleet north to Antigua, which was under British rule, where it was dispersed. The Duke’s grand plan ended as a very costly failure.
So, to overcome failure of his Sugar- importing venture, the Duke conceived a
new plan. In 1724 he issued a Prospectus, promoting the advantages of his new port
and offering land to applicants who would build brick houses according to his plan
and bring their skills and trades to the new Montagu Town. They were offered additional land for stock or crops and duty free rights “throughout the King’s Dominions”. To make this possible the Duke commissioned work to clear the dense woods and “smooth the land” to form a gentle slope down to the riverside, build the roads, construct a quay and build
a storehouse from materials brought from
a former wool fulling mill at Beaulieu. The wide street was planned to accommodate Markets and twice yearly Fairs. The Duke built the first houses for Salt Officers and his Estate Steward who was also the Vicar, but despite the generous terms other residents did not arrive - so although the construction of the
planned Montagu Town was not realised, the Village of Buckler’s Hard was founded.
The fortunes of the embryonic Buckler’s Hard changed twenty years later when the Royal Navy had to defend the British Isles in sea battles against the Spanish and the French. The Naval Shipyards could not produce enough ships, but Buckler’s Hard on the banks of the River with plentiful supplies of oak from the Estate and the New Forest was ideal – so shipbuilding for the British Fleet began, and flourished, from 1745.
Since then, the buildings of the Village have endured, little changed, for 300 years. Next time you walk down to the riverside at Buckler’s Hard, or enjoy the incomparable view of the cottages from your boat, you will know that there is more to the history of this beautiful place than meets the eye.
Ken Robinson CBE

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