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History of Portsmouth

The main town situated at Prince Rupert Bay on the North-West coast of Dominica in an area called by the Caribs: Ouyouhao, and by the French: Grand Anse. After the occupation of Dominica by the British under the terms of treaty of Paris, the land between the North River and Indian River was chosen as site for the capital of the island. It was surveyed and laid out in 1765 by Royal Engineer, John Simpson, with a grid design of streets around a central square (now part of Benjamin’s Park), on the east side of which was to be the house of Assembly, Court House and Government offices. A jail on the banks of North River and Governor’s House on the banks of Indian river as well as a Market Place and careenage at the mouth of the river was the main part of the design. The town was named after the important naval seaport of Portsmouth in the south of England. Streets were named after leading British personalities of the day: Egremont, Queensborough, Rodney and others. But because of the surrounding swamps the place proved to be unhealthy for the first settlers due to the incidence of malaria and yellow fever carried by swamp mosquitoes. Therefore, in 1768, the decision was taken to make the capital at the small French village of Roseau instead. But the superior bay and port of Prince Rupert, where the Royal Navy came for wood and water had to be guarded, so a major garrison was constructed on the Cabrits. The town was however, an active seaport, harbouring at different times, squadrons of the Royal Navy, North Americans whaling ships, Confederate ships durng the US Civil War, Banana boats, Sea planes serving Dominica, yatchs and local inter-island trading vessels. Over the years, Portsmouth continued to develop and offered services such as immigration and customs for the yachting industry at Rodney Bay - a very popular anchorage for visiting yachts. The Ross Medical University has enhanced the popularity of the town and a myriad of restaurants, supermarkets and mini-marts have arisen to meet this market.

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