History of Port Louis, 1764-1844

A view of the harbour at Port Louis. The water is calm with a large boat sailing across; there are also a couple of smaller boats. In the distance there are rolling hills.

A view of the harbour of Port Louis, East Falklands by AR Grieve

The settlement of Port Louis is near the end of a long sea inlet, Berkeley Sound, on the island of East Falkland. It was the first settlement in the Falkland Islands. It was founded by a French nobleman, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, in March 1764. He transferred the colony three years later to Spain who claimed the islands. Under the Spanish the settlement grew to 34 buildings and a population of about eighty. The Spanish maintained the colony until 1811 when the settlers were withdrawn and the settlement abandoned for nearly a decade. Port Louis was re-occupied briefly in 1820 by Colonel David Jewitt under the auspices of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata.

In 1823 the first Argentine Governor of the Malvinas was appointed, D Pablo Areguati. This was followed by an attempt at colonisation by the French-born Hamburg merchant, Louis Vernet. He was granted thirty leagues of land with fishery and cattle rights of East Falkland. More than 90 settlers of a range of nationalities were settled at Port Louis by Vernet between 1826 and 1831. However, he offended the United States by seizing three vessels which were engaged in sealing around the islands. Retaliation came in December 1831 when the US corvette 'Lexington' sacked the settlement.

The British returned to the Falkland Islands in 1833 when Captain Onslow in the 'Clio' took possession of Port Louis. The naval survey ship 'Beagle' arrived in the harbour in March 1833 during their surveying voyages to South America. On board was the celebrated naturalist Charles Darwin. He spent several days travelling and collecting specimens, including fossils from the harbour at Port Louis.

From 1834-42 the Islands were supervised by British naval superintendents. In August 1841 Richard Moody was appointed as Lt Governor of the islands. He arrived in January 1842 at Port Louis and laid out a new town which was to be called Anson. Before it could be built, Moody was instructed to move the capital to Stanley which was favoured with a better harbour.

Work began in Stanley in July 1843 and most of the settlers transferred by late 1844. The site remained a farm from then until the present day. It contains what is probably the oldest inhabited house in the Falklands, built in 1843 as a barracks.