- Category: Destinations
- Author: LaCure Villas
How British is Barbados?
Barbados is very British. It’s sometimes referred to as “Little England,” though “Little Britain” might be better because the island also has strong Scottish roots. This heritage is evidenced in the area on the east coast called the Scottish District, because of its similar mountainous landscape.
The Scottish connection can also be seen in the18th-century figure of Rachel Pringle, the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish sea captain, who founded the first brothel in Barbados.
The first English ships came to the island shores in 1625, claiming Barbados in the name of King James I. Settlers landed two years later and the British flag was flown until Barbados became independent in 1966.
Today, the British influence can be seen everywhere, in language, government, architecture, places of worship, behaviour and place names (Buckingham Hill, Sussex and Prince William Henry Street, for example). You can have a pint of best bitter or G&T at a local pub, or enjoy high tea at a 300-year-old plantation house, carefully restored to reflect a bygone era of fine china and silver. Or if you are lucky, you can have tea served to you by the pool of a fully staffed luxury villa on the island’s Platinum Coast.
So how else is Barbados British?
Cricket is the national sport in Barbados, and the country is one of the international hotbeds of the game, producing such legends as Sir Garfield Sobers and the three Ws (Worrell, Walcott and Weekes). Kensington Oval, on the outskirts of Bridgetown was the first West Indian ground to host an English touring team, in 1895. Today you can catch a good game of cricket almost anytime. You might enjoy an international test match, a local First Division match, or a friendly game on the beach or in a village field.
British cavalry officers brought the sport with them to Barbados and played the first recorded match in 1884. The sport was organized by the Polo Club, run by the cavalry and local landlords. Today polo attracts huge crowds of locals and tourists to see international teams challenge the Barbados team at fields at Holders, Lion Castle, Waterhall-Apres Hill and Clifton. Prince Charles has been among the visiting competitors.
The Parliament of Barbados is the third oldest in the Commonwealth (only Britain and Bermuda are older) and the island continues to embrace the Westminster style of government. Officially Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of Barbados. To celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, a U.K.-style parade was held in the streets of St. Lawrence Gap, complete with British food and music.
Remnants of British past are found all over the island in historical buildings that include the 17th-century Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, the St. Nicholas Abbey built by early planters soon after settlement in 1627, the restored St. James Parish Church, and various historical plantation houses, forts and signal stations.
Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, providing a compelling view into British colonial history, with the town’s network of streets built up over the centuries and outstanding examples of British colonial architecture. The Garrison was the British military headquarters in the Caribbean, with many of its buildings still intact. Strategically located on the southwest of the island, next to the beach at Carlisle Bay and bounded on the east by a garrison wall, the 150-acre complex contains more than 80 individual heritage sites.
While Barbados does have strong British roots, its culture is made unique by how it combines this heritage with island charm and sizzle.