History of Barbados
1628 to 1630 – Barbados Changes Hands
Sir William Courteen had successfully financed the initial settlement of Barbados. Using his experience of exploits throughout the East Indies and the West Indies, Courteen had developed a fair system of rewarding initial workers through payment; while keeping the land and any profits for himself.
However, unfortunately for Courteen, word spread in England that Barbados was proving to be a success. The Earl of Carlisle, whose name is still attached to the large bay south of Bridgetown (Carlisle Bay), was an excellent friend to King James I and had been given Earl’s title as a reward for his friendship. Behind Courteen’s back, the Earl of Carlisle convinced the King to grant him control of all the Caribee islands, including Barbados.
Sir William Courteen tried, through the support of his friend the Earl of Pembroke, to change the King’s mind, but Carlisle’s influence was too strong. However, Carlisle left England for a short while on a diplomatic mission, and while he was out of England, the Earl of Pembroke convinced the King to sign a grant of Barbados back to Courteen.
However, on Carlisle’s return to England and his discovery of the loss of Barbados, he returned to the King. He had him sign another grant, the Carlisle Grant, handing Barbados back to Carlisle.
June 1628 – Wolverson lands in Barbados
This time, upon gaining ownership of Barbados, the Earl of Carlisle wasted no time securing his new asset. He leased out 10,000 acres of land to a syndicate of wealthy London merchants, who selected a native Bermudian, Charles Wolverson, to go to Barbados and replace the then Governor William Deane.
Wolverson took with him 64 men, each authorized to take up 100 acres of land. They landed in the area that would later become known as Bridgetown.
When Wolverson announced that he would be taking over as Governor, there was massive resistance from Courteen’s men, except for Deane. Deane decided to join Wolverson, so the existing islanders replaced him with John Powell.
The two sides could not agree on who should have control, and an out-and-out battle seemed inevitable. Both sides met at Palmetto Fort at the Hole, but a local clergyman, Rev. Mr. Kentlane, averted the struggle.
The original settlers, Courteen’s old men, agreed to the Earl of Carlisle’s authority, and John Powell was taken, prisoner. So finally, on September 14th, 1628, Wolverson took control of Barbados.
When Courteen found out what had happened, he sent Henry Powell to Barbados with 100 new settlers and a supply of arms. Powell landed in February 1629 and formulated his plan.
Realizing that he may lose an out-and-out invasion, he invited Wolverson and his right-hand man, the ex-Governor Deane, on board his ship for a meeting, which they accepted. As soon as they were on board, Powell overpowered them, put them in chains, and sailed them back to England as prisoners. Within days, Powell could seize control back for Courteen and place his brother, John Powell, as Governor.
Alas, this was not the end of Carlisle’s bid for Barbados. Carlisle retaliated and sent another man, Henry Hawley, to Barbados, accompanied by Robert Wheatley, one of the London merchants investing in Carlisle’s success in Barbados.
Hawley, captaining the aptly named ship ‘Carlisle,’ arrived later in 1629. On arrival, Robert Wheatley sent a message to John Powell to come on board his ship and meet. Not knowing that Wheatley was connected to Carlisle, Powell accepted and, falling for the same trap that his brother had set, was captured and arrested.
1629 – Henry Hawley as Governor
The Carlisle Grant gave the right to the Earl of Carlisle to decide on laws, but it also called all Barbadians citizens of England who should enjoy the same liberties.
Unfortunately for the settlers, Carlisle and the syndicate of London merchants, in contrast to Courteen, now focused on profit over people’s liberties. Any disobedience from the slave-type conditions that were now imposed was met with brutal punishment and even death. With no means of escaping from the island, these poor settlers were now forced to do Carlisle’s bidding and live under challenging conditions.
Hawley’s reign as Governor was brief, and on his departure from Barbados back to the UK, he left Wheatley as acting Governor. Meanwhile, Courteen, through his friend the Earl of Pembroke, and the Earl of Carlisle continued their dispute over the ownership of Barbados.
Eventually, the King, now King Charles I, sided with the Earl of Carlisle and issued a further Grant that cleared up all doubts and once and for all decided the matter.
Once the Earl of Carlisle received his final grant from the King of England to take control of Barbados, he appointed Sir William Tufton as Governor and commander-in-chief of Barbados. He dispatched him with 200 further colonists and all the supplies they needed.
On Tufton’s arrival, the incumbent Courteen loyalists realized that the Earl of Carlisle had finally won and joined the new arrivals. And so, on December 21st, 1629, Courteen’s influence in Barbados was finally over.