History of Cottonwick
My parents first came to Mustique in 1969 at the invitation of Lord Glenconner, Colin Tennant, friend, founder and original owner of the island. They stayed in the partially completed Cottonhouse, the only suitable accommodation on the island. On the back of that first romantic trip to an unheard of Caribbean Island, complete with swamps, mosquitoes en masse, and wonderful memories, they returned to Scotland, promptly got married and set about building their Caribbean home which was completed in 1972.
The early days on Mustique were very different from what they are now. Rainwater was the only on island source of fresh-water. Lights flickered most evenings and cut out all together on about two nights out of seven. Candles and oil lanterns were house essentials vs the decorative items they are today. Very basic provisions were available at Basil’s general store but an en-route stopover night in St Vincent and a trip to the local market was required for the mainstay of household provisions. Even then, most savvy island visitors came with a side of cooked ham or similar tucked into their suitcase!
Life was a succession or organised beach, tennis, house or drinks parties. It was not just that the whole island was invited; the whole island was expected to attend! Royal etiquette applied, you did not leave before royalty. As Princess Margret, the islands most notable early visitor liked to enjoy herself…so everyone else followed!!
In those early days houses were located and built around accessibility. Mountain top mansions just were not on the cards, the roads nor the island infrastructure did not allow for either. Every year roads washed away with the rains and the jungle consumed anything and everything that was not rigorously maintained. The airstrip was made of mud, as were most of the roads. A collection of small single-engine planes that did not survive take-off became, in my eyes, the worlds most exciting playground! The delightful Caribbean Sea was the islands swimming pool, rainwater was collected for drinking and washing. The island also looked very different. Mustique in those early days had a sun-scorched appearance, quite different from the luscious fauna and flora that the island now boasts. The North end of the island from Endeavour Hills looking towards St Vincent was almost bare by comparison. The swamp that ran alongside the runway really was a swamp and it was no coincidence that Mustique took its name from the French word for Mosquito “Moustique”!!
Cottonwick was built with a mindful eye on the paucity of logistical provisions that the island offered, at that time. Its central location was key. A four-minute walk up the hill from the airport was a godsend when the car/jeep/golf-cart/moke either caught fire or did not arrive. Both happened, although the former less frequently than the latter!
Before the undergrowth on the slopes below Cottonwick took over it had amazing panoramic views over the entire Northern part of the island. The Antilles was a fabulous French cruise ship which broke its back crossing a sandbank on a sight-seeing diversion in 1971, a navigational error mirrored by the Costa Concordia in 2012. Every time we visited Mustique we would look out from the balcony of Cottonwick to see this majestic ship slip a little further beneath the waves. Over 40 years later it is now only just possible on a calm day to see the tip of its mast.
Mustique has changed enormously since those early pioneering days. Whilst some might mourn the passing of the adventure that the early days entailed, few complain about the availability of clean water from the island de-salination plant, reliable mains power for air-conditioning and all the other electrical gadgets we rely on. Fibre-optic internet delivers hi-speed Wi-Fi and mobile reception covers the island. Fish is readily available from the island fish market and the availability of fresh food is as good as anywhere you could wish for. The once mosquito haven is now a carefully controlled environment!!
Cottonwick II, completed in Dec 2015, has replaced the original house that stood almost unchanged for over forty years. Hopefully it is now ideally positioned to embrace the more sophisticated and much more mature island that Mustique has become. Never-the-less it is hoped that future guests at Cottonwick, over the next forty years, will continue to enjoy the island as much as the house itself.