The part of Nevis near Charlestown has long been known both for its healing hot volcanic springs, and as a watering hole for ships from the nearby cool freshwater springs.  John Smith stopped here on his way to Virginia in 1607.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, pirates were hung in Gallows Bay at the south end of Charlestown. 

The name is pronounced according to its original meaning: Charles' Town, unlike Charleston, South Carolina, where the name has become simplified over the centuries. Both of these places, and many other Charlestowns elsewhere, were named in honor of King Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, who died in 1685.

Many visitors assume that Charlestown was the first and original capital of the island of Nevis, but there used to be an even older capital called Jamestown, named for King James the first (1566-1625). Unfortunately, that settlement was destroyed in the late 1600s, "after a rumbling of the ground and a ringing of the bells" and "a great wall of water that leapt up from the waves". After that disaster, Charlestown became the capital, having previously consisting mostly of bars and guest houses for the rowdy sailors and their ladies.  Then the politicians and prominent businessmen moved in! 

The French would occasionally come through and shoot at Charlestown. The sailors had fun with this, and sometimes fires got out of hand, but Charlestown survived.  Many of the buildings, though they have been modernized, still have the four-foot thick stone walls and foundations with which they were originally built.  Check out some of the shop walls, the old courthouse, or the Alexander Hamilton House.

Charlestown has seen its share of historic figures.  Billy the Kid was stationed here in the military before he "went bad".  Horatio Nelson came to Nevis to enforce a military embargo (those dastardly Nevisians were helping supply the American colonies) and Alexander Hamilton was born here and spent his childhood here.  Charlestown was also where some Sephardic Jews arrived from Brazil and settled. They established the first Jewish Burial Ground in the Caribbean.

 

Many interesting old buildings are still to be found around Charlestown