May 14th 1625 – The First English Landing
The first English ship arrived in Barbados after what appears to have been a fortuitous accident. Captain John Powell and his crew were sailing from Brazil to England and went off course, due to a navigational error. Powell found the island to be uninhabited and claimed the island in the name of King James 1 of England.
February 17th 1627 – The First Settlers
John Powell returned to Barbados and informed his employer, Sir William Courteen, that he had discovered an uninhabited island and had claimed it in the name of King James.
Immediately Courteen sent Powell back to Barbados to occupy Barbados and establish a settlement. However, Powell never made it, as en route to Barbados he captured a Spanish ship and needed to return it to England.
Before long Courteen financed a second voyage, complete with a band of 80 settlers. This time Henry Powell, John’s brother, captained this ship the “William and John”. Despite another skirmish on the way, where Powell captured ten slaves, the expedition sailed forth and they landed in Barbados on February 17th, 1627.
Once on land, Powell unfurled the royal standard to show that Barbados was in English possession and called the area of settlement ‘Jamestown‘.
These first English settlers cleared the land around them and built simple houses. They found the coral reef and lush vegetation favourable; however, they found it difficult to obtain a good supply of water.
To help understand how to work the land, Powell visited the Dutch Governor in Guyana for advice on what crops grow in tropical climates. Powell was given permission to take 40 Amerindians back with him to Barbados. They helped the English to grow crops such as yams, cassava, Indian corn, plantains, cotton and tobacco.
Soon after, although the exact date is not known, John Powell returned to the island with a further 90 settlers and supplies. At this time, Henry Powell returned to England and left William Deane as Governor of Barbados. The settlers did not own any of the land and any profits made went back to Courteen.
However, Courteen paid a salary to the colonists to stay in Barbados and made sure that they were well looked after. Courteen was also able to protect the colonists from possible attack by Indians or Spanish, and was able to send supplies and maintain good communication between the colonists and England.
Due to his method of rewarding his workers, keeping them well supplied and protecting them from attack, Courteen quickly enabled Barbados to become a successful settlement that was returning a good profit back to England.
Author: Brett Callaghan