Although the island of Anguilla had a dependency of St. Christopher since 1871 and a part of the combined Presidency of St. Christopher and Nevis within the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands since 1882, the name wasn’t changed to reflect this until 1952. Anguilla is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin. The territory consists of the main island of Anguilla, approximately 16 miles (26 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide at its widest point, together with a number of much smaller islands and cays with no permanent population.
The name Anguilla is an anglicized or latinate form of earlier Spanish anguila, French anguille, or Italian anguilla, all meaning “eel” in reference to the island’s shape. For similar reasons, it was formerly known as Snake or Snake Island.
Anguilla was first settled by Indigenous Amerindian peoples who migrated from South America. The earliest Native American artefacts found on Anguilla have been dated to around 1300 BC; remains of settlements date from AD 600. The Arawak name for the island seems to have been Malliouhana. The date of European colonization is uncertain: some sources claim that Columbus sighted the island during his second voyage in 1493, while others state that the island’s first European explorer was the French Huguenot nobleman and merchant mariner René Goulaine de Laudonnière in 1564.
Traditional accounts state that Anguilla was first colonized by English settlers from Saint Christopher beginning in 1650. In this early colonial period, however, Anguilla sometimes served as a place of refuge and recent scholarship focused on Anguilla has placed greater significance on other Europeans and creoles migrating from St. Christopher, Barbados, Nevis and Antigua. The French temporarily took over the island in 1666 but returned it to English control under the terms of the Treaty of Breda the next year. A Major John Scott who visited in September 1667, wrote of leaving the island “in good condition” and noted that in July 1668, “200 or 300 people fled thither in time of war”.
It is likely that some of these early Europeans brought enslaved Africans with them. Historians confirm that African slaves lived in the region in the early seventeenth century. Africans from Senegal lived in St. Christopher in 1626. By 1672, a slave depot existed on the island of Nevis, serving the Leeward Islands. While the time of African arrival in Anguilla is difficult to place precisely, archival evidence indicates a substantial African presence of at least 100 slaves by 1683. These seem to have come from Central Africa as well as West Africa.
Attempts by the French to capture the island during the War of Austrian Succession in 1745 and the Napoleonic Wars in 1796 ended in failure.
During the early colonial period, Anguilla was administered by the British through Antigua; in 1825, it was placed under the administrative control of nearby Saint Kitts. In 1871, Saint Christopher and Nevis became presidencies within the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, with Anguilla being attached to Saint Christopher as a dependency in the same year. However, in 1882, the legislature of the Leeward Islands passed legislation merging the two presidencies, forming a combined Presidency of Saint Christopher and Nevis.
The name was changed to include Anguilla in 1952 and the first stamps inscribed SAINT CHRISTOPHER NEVIS ANGUILLA were twelve pictorials released on June 14, 1952 (Scott #107-118). The islands also continued to use stamps of the Leeward Islands concurrently until 1956. From 1958 to 1962, Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla formed a province of the West Indies Federation, electing two members to the House of Representatives and also having two senators, appointed by the governor-general.
On February 27, 1967, the territory of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla was granted full internal autonomy, as an Associated State of the United Kingdom. The U.K. retained responsibility for defense and external affairs, while a new judicial system was established, the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court (although the Privy Council remained the highest court of appeal). This led to two Anguillian revolutions in 1967 and 1969 headed by Atlin Harrigan and Ronald Webster. In 1967, Anguilla’s leaders expelled the federation’s police from the island, and declared its independence as the Republic of Anguilla.
The goal of the revolution was not independence per se, but rather independence from Saint Kitts and Nevis and a return to being a British colony. British authority was fully restored in July 1971, resulting in the direct rule of the island from Britain, although it was not formally separated until December 1980, when it was finally allowed to secede from Saint Kitts and Nevis and become a separate Crown colony (now a British overseas territory).
Although Anguilla’s name continued to appear on stamps until 1980, they were not accepted as valid in Anguilla after 1969. The last stamps inscribed Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla were released on May 6, 1980, marked the London 80 International Philatelic Exhibition, and included a souvenir sheet that portrayed the defeat of Lord Nelson (Scott #397-401). In June 1980 the stamp-issuing authorities changed and stamps were issued for St Kitts and Nevis separately.
Nevis had also attempted to separate from the federation on several occasions, but the island’s leaders were unsuccessful in their efforts. However, they did manage to secure greater autonomy for Nevis in the years leading up to independence, which occurred in September 1983 after a delay of several years to allow for negotiations. Sir Frederick Albert Phillips, the first governor of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla, wrote in 2013:
“It is generally acknowledged that the federation failed on several counts. It failed to live up to the promise of greatly improved administration; it failed to produce economies in the administration of the federating islands as one composite unit; and it failed in that it did not produced any significantly greater output in terms of social development.”
Scott #120 was released on July 3, 1956, part of a set of 15 definitives which used the designs of the 1952 issue. Denominations were added and changed and the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II replaced that of King George VI. The 1956 stamp is denominated ½ cent and printed gray olive, engraved and perforated 12½. The stamp portrays Road Salt Pond on Anguilla; the design was previously used on Scott #117, released on June 14, 1952, with the earlier stamp bearing a denomination of $1.20 and bicolored deep ultramarine and deep green with the portrait of King George VI.
Road Salt Pond is a circular, 106 acre (43 hectare) lagoon in the Sandy Ground district near the north-west coast of Anguilla. It is the largest enclosed body of water on the island. The dunes separating it from the sea at Road Bay on its western side have been flattened and built upon. It is bordered on the north and south by low hills supporting low dry forest and scrub as well as residential housing. The pond has a long history of being used to produce salt, and the remains of saltworks infrastructure are visible around its edge. More recently, parts of the pond have been reclaimed for road construction and parking space. The wetland is classified as an Important Bird Area and is a breeding site for least terns (with up to 123 birds recorded), as well as supporting populations of Caribbean elaenias, pearly-eyed thrashers and Lesser Antillean bullfinches.