HOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO: HISTORIC 1803 DESCRIPTION & AQUATINT


HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: A HISTORIC DESCRIPTION & AQUATINT FROM 1803

I recently traced the history of Hole-in-the-Wall, Abaco through maps from the 16th century onwards – its significance, the name changes, and so on. To see that post CLICK HERE . I have just come across some historical material about HITW that is so fascinating that I have awarded the accolade of a separate post, rather than lumping it in with the earlier one. The extract below is from THE NAVAL CHRONICLE (Vol 9) * for January – July 1803. It gives a short but detailed description of the Hole in the Wall in the context of a remarkable sketch (reproduced as a Plate in the book) submitted by the contributor, who signed himself  ‘Half-Pay’. That was the name traditionally used in both Navy and Army to refer to the pay or allowance an officer received when in retirement or not in actual service – or, metonomously, to the officer receiving the reduced pay. I greatly like the charming deference with which the contribution is offered.

The whole book is well worth examining for the light it sheds on Naval matters at the very start of the c19. The comprehensive personnel and other lists hold plenty of interest. This was an era of almost continuous major military and naval campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic. The Battle of Trafalgar was still 2 years away when this book was published. If you want to see the downloadable online version CLICK HERE  [I had to zoom the page and clip it in two to make it easily readable  – hence the gap. And apologies for the purple highlight – it was my place-mark…]


Here is the amazing aquatint  by J. Wells of Half-Pay’s sketch, published in the 1803 Naval Chronicle by founder J.Gold of Shoe Lane, London. It’s quite small, measuring 5½” x 9″. You may even be looking at a screen clip of a scan of the book plate of the earliest surviving depiction of Hole-in-the Wall. If anyone knows of an older one, please get in touch. And can anyone identify what kind of sailing vessels these are (I wouldn’t know a brigantine from a clipper…)?

To answer queries arising from my earlier post, I added a map and photos showing exactly where the actual Hole at HITW is, and how to get there (if you are wearing the right shoes). It’s worth revisiting the topic. People are always fascinated by the extremities of land – ‘Land’s End’, ‘Finisterre’, ‘Finistère’ and so on – especially where they are remote and relatively inaccessible. I think HITW qualifies. As far as I am aware, apart from the lighthouse its abandoned outbuildings at the southeast corner of the first map below, there is no other building in the area covered by this map. The nearest road is 15 miles up the inhospitable track to the north of the lighthouse.

Here is the map showing the location of the actual Hole in the Wall, and below that, a distance shot taken at sea

 * According to The Philadelphia Print Shop “Between 1799 and 1818, The Naval Chronicle, was the pre-eminent maritime journal reporting news about the British navy. Issued twice a year, it was published during a period in which the British navy fought the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, and came to “rule the waves.” This wonderful journal included action reports, intelligence on various matters related to the British and other navies, and biographies of naval officers. Many of the reports were accounts by officers directly involved, such as Lord Horatio Nelson. Included with the articles were portraits, images of naval action, and views of the many ports in which the navy called. These are important, first-hand images of this turbulent period”

10 thoughts on “HOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO: HISTORIC 1803 DESCRIPTION & AQUATINT

  1. Pingback: Abaco Scientist – Hole in the Wall History

  2. As to the 2 vessels in the Aquatint…….The vessel on the left,(West) is a “Topsail,(Tops’l) Schooner”. Because of the angle on the other vessel, my guess is it’s a Brig. Brigs have 2 masts, usually w/ a large “Spanker”,(Aft sail).

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    • Thanks Rick, that’s really interesting. I am doing some related research on the images at the moment – I’ll add that information, and also in the blog, if I may. I’m sure people would love to know what type of ships they are. Another welcome contribution. All the best, RH

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      • Sorry, this is the one!

        On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM, ROLLING HARBOUR ABACO wrote:

        > ** > Rolling Harbour commented: “Thanks Rick, that’s really interesting. I > am doing some related research on the images at the moment – I’ll add that > information, and also in the blog, if I may. I’m sure people would love to > know what type of ships they are. Another welcome contribution.” >

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  3. Maybe there’s a book in this, Brigitte. Maps and paintings; earliest settlers; pirates and wreckers; the lighthouse, its history & documentation; the flora, fauna & geology… goodness me, it’s almost written itself! Oh, best to use someone else’s teenager – I suspect ‘in-house’ ones just shrug. RH

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    • Well, you are the writer, Keith….I’m afraid my artistic possibilities stop at painting.
      We need to borrow a teenager then – or I can just convince him to check in here occasionally!!
      Wishing you a wonderful trip today – you are probably half way here already. You’ll find a gorgeous day in Abaco today.

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  4. Donnie’s ancestor (great-great-great uncle) was the lighthouse keeper at Hole in the Wall light in 1837. So this is fascinating information for him. Is there a waysend us the sketch and the Naval Chronicle information in larger format? I have also tried to share this with him on FB – is that possible, Keith?

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    • How intriguing, Brigitte – that’s a wonderful piece of family history. !837 – the date Queen Victoria’s long reign began. Are there stories? Documents? Bits of Fresnel lens? It’s quite a sad place now, we feel, in its dilapidated state. Interesting outbuildings. I always wondered if some were octagonal as giving optimum wind resistance to very strong winds coming from all angles. On format, I think not. I’ve already zoomed text and image as much as is consistent with clarity. I’ll see what can be done. FB? That just happens doesn’t it? On your wall. Ask a teenager how to share on FB! RH

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      • There are all kinds of documents he is digging up, and whatever stories are there, come from his grandfather. No one else has looked at the family history, and it is really difficult to find anything.
        I think most of the buildings around all the lighthouses Britain erected in the Bahamas had those octagonal shapes, and less wind resistance probably was the reason for that shape. I have all sorts of photos of Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse are in my pictures on FB too…I put it in a file called May 30 Hole In The Wall Lighthouse and South Abaco. Just in case you find anything you want to use – go for it! And have a wonderful vacation…hope you catch and release the biggest baddest bone fish ever!
        We don’t have a teenager around…all of our grandchildren are in the US!!!

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