Barbados: A building, a style, and some observations

I’m back from my honeymoon in Barbados and I know what you want to hear about: the architecture! All pictures can be enlarged.

A building: St. Lucy’s Anglican Church

Barbados_St Lucy ext01

Barbados is rich with churches. Barbados was originally divided up into six civil parishes; later in the 1600s five more parishes were added, and those 11 parishes exist to this day. Each parish has a main parish church which originally served as a sort of capitol building for the civil parish. On our day out we passed by St. Lucy’s parish church and decided to get out at take a look.

Barbados_St Lucy ext02

I was content to take a few pictures of the exterior and be on our way, but we were beckoned inside by a caretaker. The church is still functional today; in fact, people were gathering for a funeral service as we snapped pictures of the interior. Even so, the caretaker insisted on showing us the inscribed blocks, the list of former clergy, and having us sign the guestbook.

Barbados_St Lucy int01

Barbados_St Lucy dedication01

Barbados_St Lucy rectors

The original St. Lucy’s Parish Church was built in 1629, but was destroyed by a hurricane. It was rebuilt in 1741 only to be destroyed in the devastating hurricane of 1780, which also claimed the lives of 4,000 people on the island of Barbados. I’ll let you guess what happened to the third church in 1831 (hint: it’s based in Raleigh and employs three Staal brothers). The church you can see today is actually the fourth church, and it was built in 1837. You can read about some of its other features here.

A Style: Chattel Houses

Image from Nat Ireland’s flickr photostream

On the cab ride to where we were staying the cab driver pointed out one of these houses, and said they were called “chapel houses” because they had to be able to be taken down and moved in a day. This made no sense to me because I hadn’t gotten used to the accent yet and didn’t realize he had said “chattel houses”. Even then it didn’t make any sense because I didn’t know “chattel” meant “moveable possession”. I just saved you a bunch of confusion.

When slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, plantation owners allowed former slaves to rent the land, but not to build permanent structures. Plantation workers could be evicted at any moment, so their homes had to be mobile. These houses could be torn down in a day and moved to another lot. They required very little in the way of a foundation, just a few pieces of coral or stone. They were styled to be miniature versions of the Georgian houses that overlooked the plantations they were built on, so almost all have a centrally located door flanked by two windows. The weather in Barbados is warm with frequent rains, so the roofs are hipped and the windows are louvered, and often have little canopies over them to keep the worst of the weather off. They’re also modular, which means one can be placed next to another like blocks. You can kind of see this in a picture Angela managed to get from the back of a “motorcycle”

Barbados_Chattel modular

Some Observations

I want to be the first person to tell you: there are no private beaches in Barbados. You’ll hear that about 10 more times if you go. Also, lots of Brits. Angela wouldn’t let me try to fool anyone with my British accent. It was probably for the best.

Crabs can jump.

Sea turtles can eat fish.

A fun trend in Barbados: a tiny porch carved out of the volume of the house, always painted a different color. Usually the colors are more exciting than these but this is the best pic I have.


There’s nice metalwork in some unexpected places, including the monkey protectors at the wildlife reserve.

Barbados_monkey protector

Bajans as a group are about the nicest people I’ve ever met. I get that it’s a tourist economy and they pretty much have to be nice, but still, to a man I didn’t meet a single person anywhere that wasn’t nicer than the last.

I had a lot of trouble finding information about the architecture of Barbados on the internet. Could be a good place to do a doctorate?

Barbados is small enough to send visual messages around the island using a half dozen signal stations like this …

Barbados_Grenade Hill signal

… but still somehow big enough to get lost for hours on a “motorcycle”. I blame signage.

Barbados_Grenade Hill view

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