Heritage & History
Barbados, as like many other Caribbean countries is steeped in rich heritage and history. Throughout the history of Barbados, perhaps nothing has stood out more than the rise of the sugar cane industry and thus the importation of black slaves from West Africa.Sugar quickly made Barbados very wealthy and by the late seventeenth century, Barbados was acclaimed as the "richest spot of ground in the world". Unlike most islands in the Caribbean, where plantations were genreally owned by absentee landlords, the vast majority of the plantation owners in Barbados were permanent residents. One obvious benefit of this was that they needed to build a good national infrastructure and provide adequate amenities and living and social conditions for everybody, including slaves and in later times after abolition freed slaves. It was for this reason that education became such an important element of Barbados so early in its existence and has remained so to this day. Many "landowners" due to the success of the sugar industry became very wealthy and it was the norm to build a splendid 'great house' that served as both a home and a focal point of the plantation.
Very few of the plantation houses remain involved with the sugar industry. However in recent times, triggered by the growth of tourism and international business in Barbados, more and more of these architectural gems from the 'old days of sugar' have been revived and transformed into useful entities that are more relevant in the modern day world and can better serve the needs of all Barbadians and the country as a whole.
So while driving around Barbados, keep a look out for these former plantation houses recognisable by their grandeur and usually the presence of a windmill. While you are on the island, a visit to a plantation great house will certainly add a lot to your Barbados experience.
Below is list of some of the great houses that have been transformed for modern day uses:
Fisherpond Great House
This great house is located in St. Thomas and sat idle for many years before Mr John Chandler discovered the gem and its potential as a country house venue for weddings and other special events, as well as lavish Sunday luncheons reminiscent of yesteryear. Fisherpond Great House has been restored to its former glory and Barbadians and visitors alike have a great opportunity to experience the exceptional delights of delicious, traditional Barbadian plantation house food, served in surroundings that could not be more appropriate.
St. Nicholas Abbey
The majestic St. Nicholas Abbey is believed to be the oldest building in Barbados and one of the only three existing Jacobean houses in the Western hemisphere, with one of the others, Drax Hall, also located in Barbados. St. Nicholas Abbey has an extraordinarily rich heritage and there is no doubt that this outstanding house is an integral part of the history of Barbados. The current owners, Barbadian architect Larry Warren and his wife Anna, have set out not only to restore and preserve St. Nicholas Abbey as a heritage tourism site and museum, but to also give it new life as a sugar plantation by establishing a cottage industry in sugar-related gourmet products, including St. Nicholas Abbey branded aged rum, sugar and blackstrap molasses, all packaged, blended and bottled onsite in what used to be the stables. St. Nicholas Abbey does not just have a glowing past, it also has a bright future. It is a prime example of a Barbadian great house that has been successfully transformed from the old plantation days to modern ways.
Sunbury Plantation House
The history of Sunbury Plantation House has always been full of intrigue and adventure, as the house has passed through generations of different owners. The most significant event was undoubtedly the 1816 slave rebellion, when the venue sustained more than 4,000 GBP worth of damage. The Melvilles, the current owners, have amassed one of the island's superior collections of antiques. Sunbury is the only great house with all rooms available for public viewing. In addition to being a heritage site and museum, Sunbury Plantation House is also a renowned location for the hosting of weddings and other special events. Sunbury Plantation House is a wonderful, living monument to plantation life of a bygone era and it has been carefully restored and lovingly cherished by its owners for posterity, for the enjoyment of many generations to come.
Other beautiful "great houses" and plantation houses you may wish to visit include:
Fustic House, for more information visit them at http://www.fustichouse.com
Malvern Great House, St. John - now the home of Barbados' centre for complimentary medicine
Francia Plantation House, St. George - now a private primary school.
Pollards Mill, St Philip - a venue for hosting small or large events.