The British called it their Mother Colony.
The French disagreed and claimed it for themselves. They
waged war over it, and then decided to share. The French
took the middle part, the sections now known as Basseterre
and Capisterre, and the English took the two ends, that
is, the Palmetto Point-Sandy Point area on one side and
the Cayon-Nicola Town area on the other side; and they
agreed to share the south-eastern peninsula. But the truce
did not last. They went to war again and fought until both
sides were exhausted. Finally they decided to let the British
keep the whole of it. That in brief is the early story
of St. Christopher, or St. Kitts as it is generally called.
As was the custom at that time, the Church
followed the flag – the colonists both of sections
undertook to provide for the spiritual needs of their people.
When Sir Thomas Warner colonized the Island in 1623 he
was fortunate to obtain the services of a John Feathley,
a member of a distinguished Oxford family and a Fellow
of All Souls, who established the first Anglican Church
in the Caribbean at Middle Island. By the middle of the
century five parishes had been established. On the leeward
side were Holy Trinity Palmetto Point, St. Thomas Middle
Island, and St. Anne Sandy Point. On the windward side
were St. Mary Cayon, and Christ Church Nicola Town.
In 1727 the capital of the Island was
removed from Old Road to Basseterre, and in 1734 the former
French lands were divided up into civil and ecclesiastical
parishes. In Basseterre Quarter two parishes were created,
namely, St. Georges and St. Peter. St. George’s Parish
included the town of Basseterre, the plantations immediately
surrendering it and most of the Salt Pond Peninsula, while
the St. Peter’s Parish embraced the rural parts to
the north of the town. In the Capisterre Quarter two parishes
were also created, that is, St. Paul and St. John.
On Sir Thomas Warner’s first visit
to the Island he landed at a place, which came to be known
as Old Road. The Church, which was built in this area,
was dedicated to St. Thomas, and the Parish was styled ‘St.
Thomas in the Middle Division’. Later it came to
be known as “St. Thomas Middle Island”. When
Sir Thomas died in 1648 he was buried in this Church, but
when the old building was pulled down the present building,
which replaced it was erected higher up the hill, so that
the tomb now stands in the Churchyard.
The French built fine Church buildings
in their area, but were at first less fortunate than the
British in attracting suitable priests minister in them.
As a consequence they appealed to the Religious Orders
in France to come to the rescue. The first to answer this
appeal were Capuchins, and soon there were Capuchin Friars
both Basseterre and in Capisterre. Shortly after the Carmelites
established a House on the lower slopes of Monkey Hill
to the North of the town of Basseterre, and Brothers of
Charity opened the first hospital in the Island in what
is now known as Church Street.
In 1646 Philippe de Poincy, Governor-General
of the French Antilles, came to reside in St. Kitts and
expelled the Capuchins from the Island. He replaced them
in Basseterre with the Jesuits, Who immediately began their
notable ministry in Basseterre; and so begins the story
of the Church of St. Georges, Basseterre.
There is no record of the actual building
of a Church in St. Kitts in St. Peter’s Parish, but
authorities are of the opinion that the building now used
as a Church is almost certainly of 17 th century construction
and most probably were one of the buildings of the Carmelite
Friars, perhaps the Chapel or Refectory.
The English had been much slower in the
construction of Churches. As late as the last years of
the 17 th century Frances de Jau, the priest in charge
of the English Parishes on the windward side, complained
in a letter to the Bishop of London the he possesses only “ one
old wooden building and two small buildings of wild cane
and thatch’d, while the French have two stately stone
The records of the Island show that in
St. Kitts as in Nevis there were planters who encouraged
their slaves to accept baptism, during the rectorship of
the Revd. John Julius Kerie (1812 – 1825) the St.
George’s Church Registers record large numbers of
slave baptisms on the plantations, particularly on Buckleys,
the estate of Abednego Matthew, situated close to town.
Mr. Matthew was at the time one of the richest of the Basseterre
planters and a devout Churchman. He may possibly have carried
the example of Mr. Cottle in Nevis, for it is said that
one of the fields of the estate was called, Negro Church
field, and may still be so called.
For more information on St. Kitts, visit the official website of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority