Great Thatch

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Great Thatch

British Virgin Islands

Great Thatch ruin - 2.jpg
The ruin on Great Thatch

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Location: 18°22’60"N, 64°43’0"W

Great Thatch is an uninhabited island of the British Virgin Islands, lying off the south-west shore of Tortola. It is one of the westernmost islands in the Territory.

The island is said locally to take its name from the famous pirate, Edward Teach (better known as "Blackbeard"), although there is little evidence Blackbeard ever sailed in the Virgin Islands.

Although presently uninhabited, Great Thatch was formerly occupied, and boasted a customs house and mail exchange where the mail would be delivered from Charlotte Amalie in the United States Virgin Islands by skiff after the packet ships had called there.

The unrest

The island was the site of significant act of civil disobedience in 1856, three years' after the British community of the British Virgin Islands had largely fled during the insurrection of 1853. On 24 November 1856 the sub-Treasurer of Tortola sought to seize a boat belonging to an inhabitant of Thatch Island, as it was then known, for trading without a licence. He was assaulted and his crew badly beaten. Two days later a force of four constables was dispatched to arrest the offenders, but upon their landing they were obstructed by a crowd of 40 to 50 people. They persisted in making the arrest, and were also severely beaten. The following day, a force of some 30 men, principally rural constables, twelve of whom were armed, landed on the island to quell the insubordination and apprehend the perpetrators of the violence.

In the event, it was only the intervention of Wesleyan missionaries who were influential amongst the inhabitants which enabled arrests to be made without further violence. Isaac Dookhan cites this as an example of the general spirit of unrest which prevailed in the Territory during the 1850s.[1]

There remains a significant ruin on the island, although it is extremely difficult to access as the paths are all heavily overgrown.

The island was formerly in private hands, but was repurchased by the Government of the Territory in September 1997, and is now a national park.


  1. See generally, Isaac Dookhan, A History of the British Virgin Islands, ISBN 0-85935-027-4, at pages 150-151
The British Virgin Islands

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