With Robert Phillpott & David Baker
On Saturday 25th November 2023, 20 children and 7 adults attended the Port Louis archaeological day trip.
The group started their day at Mr Pete Gilding's house. The house was originally the barracks and was built by the detachment of Royal Sappers and Miners who arrived in 1842 with Governor Moody. Pete showed the group around the outside of the barracks and a very special plaque made by Darren Christie. The Wooden plaque has the inscription 'VR' (Victoria Regina) in gold writing. The plaque was put in place on Monday the 4th of December.
The group were delighted to spend the day with Robert Philpott, renown archaeologist, and David Baker, archaeologist and worldwide expert in pottery.
Rob has been a huge inspiration to Sandra, who is often seen with his archaeological survey books in hand. So much so that Sandra refers to one as her 'bible.' Rob led the group over to the Governor's house and explained that this would have been where the French and Spanish Governors would have lived. Rob was teaching the group to look at the "humpy bumpy's" in the ground and imagine they were standing in the Governor's saloon.
A tree stands in the centre of the foundations of what was the Governor's house and peering under is a stone cellar. Above this area is a stone corral and stable which is recorded to have been Luis Vernet’s house where you can still see a window which has been filled in. In Mrs Vernet’s diary she mentions seeing a church out of this window. Pete thinks the French church may have been located near the new stables as there is a stone structure nearby (yet to be explored). Nearby you can view Yates valley, named after Thomas Yates (Royal Sapper and Miner). His house and gardens were established and led up to the gorse bush on the side of the hill.
The group then walked down past 'Pig’s Brook', to look at the impressions the gardens left in the ground. Robert talked about the French house and the Fort on the hill. It was then down to the valley to learn a bit about the very first French Governor's house.
The group was starting to feel a little bit hungry, so they headed down to the cottages once occupied by gauchos, where the group had a snack. This was the opportune time to run through some history about the gauchos, including Antonina Roxa and her horse-riding and cattle handling skills. The group also talked about Andrez Pitaluga, a gaucho who arrived from Gibraltar in 1838, worked and returned home and came back to the Falkland Islands to lease and buy land. Salvador Farm is still run and owned by Nick and Anne Pitaluga.
Pete had left some old pottery pieces out for David Baker. Dave talked about the age of different pieces and the year in which they would have been made and used.
The group then headed over to the Spanish church foundations and then to inspect the Government corral impressions. Next it was on to the house and gardens near the shearing shed.
No trip to Port Louis is complete without a little fossil hunting! The group searched hard and were rewarded with fossils, shells, a cow horn and many other random objects. Hayden, a geologist, was able to help identify what type of fossil were found.
The group then walked up to Dickson’s store to view the canon and French battery. Soon after, the group walked over to the cemetery and stumbled across a fresh water well which used to supply ships in the early 1800's. Near the old fence heading towards the cemetery a Falklands Frittillary butterfly flew around us - if you haven't seen one, they are a bright orange and not something you see in Stanley.
Arriving at the graveyard, Rob talked about the smaller walled enclosure the French built and the larger walled enclosure which was built by the British later. It has been recorded that there are around 200 people buried within the enclosure - however, it is unknown where, and who, is buried there. Sandra talked to the group about Matthew Brisbane near his tombstone, and the massacre which took place, and the survivors who escaped to Hog Island.
Finally, the group explored the Spanish Fort. There is a very large impression where you can clearly see the entrance and the depth they dug to, creating a pentagon shaped fort which was placed on the highest point overlooking the harbour. This is in line with the Spanish Battery near the coastline near the entrance to the harbour - the perfect position to spot the enemy arriving.
A massive thank you to Pete Gilding for allowing the Past Finders to explore Port Louis. A huge thank you to Rob Phillpott and David Baker for sharing their extensive knowledge on Port Louis - we all thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Thank you also goes to Hayden Eldridge, Geologist; Emma Goss, Archaeologist; Alison Barton, Marine Archaeologist; Marty Pole-Evans, Andrew Miller and Alice Sowman for all your help, much appreciated.