Come And Experience Barbados’ Heritage
Just because Barbados is a small island, doesn’t mean there isn’t a rich history for you to discover. In fact, some parts of the island have even earned prestigious UNESCO World Heritage listings. There are so many reasons to make your next vacation a historical one on the beautiful island of Barbados!
Bridgetown And Its Surrounds
Established in 1628, the nation’s capital of Bridgetown is home to many of the historic wonders of Barbados. So much so that in 2011, it was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site with 115 listed buildings within Bridgetown and its historic Garrison area.
In Bridgetown, you’ll find various examples of British colonial architecture as well as other places of historical interest that will give you an insight into the deep-rooted heritage of Barbados.
The 19th century Parliament Buildings are located in the heart of town and are also home to the Barbados Museum of Parliament and National Heroes Gallery.
Within this area, you’ll also find National Heroes Square which honors the historic achievements of the ten official National Heroes of Barbados.
Other notable sites in Bridgetown include St. Michael’s Cathedral, The Jewish Synagogue, Broad Street, Cheapside Market, Pelican Village and Craft Centre, Queen’s Park, Independence Arch, and the Charles Duncan O’Neal Bridge.
As you move towards the outskirts of town, you’ll find Tyrol Cot House and Heritage Village, a beautifully restored heritage mansion once home to the first Premier of Barbados, Sir Grantley Adams, and his family.
Just to the west of Bridgetown is Barbados’ oldest cricket ground, Kensington Oval. Dating back to 1882, the Oval hosts guided tours where you can learn all about its early history and development.
Also on the outskirts of town is the historic Garrison area, said to be the most authentic and complete 18th and 19th century British garrison in the world. The site is full of grand military buildings, the Garrison Savannah racetrack, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, George Washington House, and the Garrison tunnels, just to name a few.
Historic Towns and Places of Interest
There are so many historically significant towns and places of interest in Barbados that we can only name a few here.
Holetown (formerly ‘Jamestown’) holds deep historical significance to the island. It is the site of the first English settlement in 1627, as well as of the first Anglican Church (St. James Parish Church). Every February, the town plays host to Holetown Festival, commemorating the anniversary of this original landing.
Another historic town is the fishing village of Oistins on the south coast of the island. Oistins saw the battle between the Royalists and the Roundheads resulting in the Charter of Barbados (Treaty of Oistins). To celebrate this historic signing of the Charter, Oistins comes alive every Easter with the annual Oistins Fish Festival, which also celebrates the local fishing industry and its heritage.
Travelling past Oistins, you will arrive at Grantley Adams International Airport, home to the Barbados Concorde Experience. Barbados is one of the few places in the world to house one of the now retired Concorde aircraft. Here, you can see the aircraft as well as step aboard and enjoy a simulated flight.
Further east is the Crane Residential Resort in St. Phillip. Built in 1887, it was the first hotel in Barbados and now features the Crane Village featuring historical architecture and cobblestone streets that take you right back in time.
Even further east, you’ll find the historical Codrington College in the parish of St. John. The college opened in 1748 and is marked as the oldest Anglican theological college in the Western Hemisphere.
Towards the north of the island in St. Andrew is Farley Hill National Park, once home to a grand mansion called Farley Hill House. The house was destroyed by fire however the historical ruins remain and the grounds were opened as a national park in 1966 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Towards the centre of the island is Francia Plantation House in St. George with its unique collection of antique maps dating back to the 1600s.
Another house of interest is Sunbury Plantation House in St. Philip where you will get an insight into the slave and sugar trade, pivotal to Barbadian heritage. You’ll also see the largest collection of horse-drawn buggies in the Caribbean region.
On the west coast is Holders House in St. James. This traditional 17th century plantation house is set on 5 acres of land overlooking the coastline and steeped in tradition; the perfect location for Holder’s Season, the internationally-acclaimed arts and entertainment festival held every March/April.
On the south east coast is the historic Sam Lord’s Castle, once home to the notorious pirate Sam Lord, who built the mansion in 1821. The Castle had been previously incorporated into a large hotel however this has closed and the Castle is currently being redeveloped into a new five-star resort, expected to open in 2018.
At the very top of the island is St. Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean property built during the 1650s. It is one of the oldest houses in the world, with only two other houses in existence of the same age; one also in Barbados – Drax Hall in St. George, and the other in Virginia, USA.
At one time, there were six signal stations across Barbados to alert the military at the Garrison of any trouble breaking out at plantations across the island.
Grenade Hall Signal Station in St. Peter is one such signal station which is restored and open to the public.
Gun Hill is another restored signal station with spectacular views across the sugar plantations of the St. George valley and plenty of military memorabilia to enjoy.
Sugar and Rum
Barbados not only has been credited as the birthplace of rum, but it is also home to the world’s oldest existing brand of rum – Mount Gay Rum.
You can take a tour of a local rum distillery like the Mount Gay Rum Tour and see how our historic rum has been produced for hundreds of years.
The sugar cane industry was also once the backbone of the Barbadian economy. In St. Andrew, you’ll find Morgan Lewis Mill, the last sugar windmill to operate in Barbados and the only ‘in-tact’ windmill left on the island. Restored by the Barbados National Trust to include a sugar industry exhibition, it is one of only two working sugar windmills in the world today!
There’s also the Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Machinery Museum, located in St. James in the yard of the Portvale Sugar Factory, showing the history of sugar cultivation and production in Barbados during the 18th and 19th centuries; another great historical location to visit.
That’s Not All!
There are so many ways you can make your Barbados vacation historical that we couldn’t possibly list them all here. For more details about historical sightseeing opportunities, why not also check out our Tourist Attractions and Barbados Parishes pages for even more ideas.
Happy history hunting from the team at Totally Barbados!
By: Brett Callaghan