Located on the west coast of Barbados, Speightstown is the second biggest town on the island, which was founded in 1653 and named after William Speight a wealthy merchant who owned the land in that area.
Speightstown is of great historical importance to Barbados and was once a bustling port with exports of tobacco and cotton until Barbados started producing sugar in vast quantities, which were then shipped to England.
At this time the roads in Barbados were very underdeveloped and there used to be schooners, which ferried passengers and goods up and down to Bridgetown in only 45 minutes.
The town was once such an important place in Barbados that it had three forts built to protect it from invasion, however even with this protection English troops were able to invade the island in 1651 soon overcoming the locals.
Even though the settlers in the area were English, they had all run away to escape the civil war between king and parliament throughout the 1640’s, and this invasion led to the peace agreement known as the Charter of Barbados.
The Charter of Barbados was signed on January 11th 1652 at the Mermaid Tavern in Oistins on the south coast and it stated that Barbados was to accept the authority of the English parliament, but that local people’s taxes could not be raised without their consent. This agreement lasted until Barbados gained independence from the UK in November 30th 1966.
Merchants built grand warehouses and homes in the area reflecting what an affluent town it was, but as the roads became more frequently used, it was more economical to use the main port of Bridgetown and Speightstown went in to decline. In 1941 the majority of these beautiful buildings were destroyed.
Today Speightstown is relatively quiet and relaxing, with Queen Street being the main road that runs through the town, here you will find a few shops, some corporate offices, a supermarket, the fishing complex and some good restaurants catering to the passing tourist trade.
Here is the only place where you can see some of the original architecture and some of the town’s once very grand town houses that belonged to the wealthy merchants.
You will also find the Gang of Four art gallery here, which displays the work of local artists. Behind Queen Street is a major bus terminal with services operating to various parts of the island.
In Speightstown, on Church Street you will find St. Peter’s Parish Church, which is one of the oldest in Barbados having been built in the 1630’s, the original building was destroyed by 1831 hurricane and after being rebuilt it was again destroyed by fire in 1980, however it is now fully restored and back to its former glory.
Speightstown is a lovely place to wander around, first impressions may be that it is very run down and neglected, however it has an air of the past about it and time does seem to stand still.
For a relaxing day out you can look around the shops, have lunch at one of the restaurants or go for a traditional Bajan lunch at the Fisherman’s Pub, a local landmark and also the unofficial tourist information centre, and then have stroll around art gallery in the afternoon.
Author: Brett Callaghan