Christ Church Parish Church
Church Hill Christ Church
Originally located along what is now Maxwell Coast Road, it is currently perched (above Oistins) on Church Hill Road overlooking a scenic view of Oistins Bay. The first church was a wooden building constructed around 1629 however it was destroyed by a massive flood that occurred in 1669 wherein the church, as well as many of the graves in its adjoining graveyard, were washed out to sea. Notably, there are four original tombs still situated at the original site of the church. Those dated tombstones allowed the church to make its mark on Barbados’ history, as having the earliest tombstone to survive the flood - It is now being preserved by the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
The diocese ( a district under the care of a bishop) built the Church for the third time in 1786 but it too was destroyed at the invisible hands of a natural disaster; this time, the 1831 hurricane. The new church, which was consecrated two years later, would not be spared this (somewhat customary) disastrous ruin. On the 2nd of March, 1935 it was written on history’s page that the church was ravaged by fire.
The fifth and final church had a better fate than its predecessors, standing strong to this day. Interestingly, three of the walls and the west tower from the immediately preceding church, have been conserved and incorporated into the current one.
This is far from the only interesting factoid about Christ Church Parish Church; in fact, there is an entire legend that surrounds the consecrated ground and has directed much attention to the church throughout the years - the infamous story of the Chase Vault and its moving coffins.
The storyline revolves around the mystery of the Chase Vault coffins which belonged to a family of the same name. The coffins were said to have been rearranged anytime the tomb was opened during the nineteenth century. This was discovered by members of the burial parties who were responsible for the entombment of additional friends and relatives to the family. They always reported that the coffins which had previously been housed in the sealed crypt had somehow been shifted around. What’s more is that the first occupant, Mrs Thomasina Goddard had her wooden coffin seemingly destroyed.
The other coffins were said to have moved on four different occasions, which sparked fear and unrest among the Christ Church parish people, whose only explanations awarded blame to supernatural forces. It was thereby ordered by the Governor at the time that the coffins be buried elsewhere in the graveyard and that the vault should remain empty. In the present day, the Chase family coffins are now buried behind the Church hall and, just as Governor Vincent Combermere mandated, the Chase Vault remains vacant.
To this day, no conclusive explanations have been offered to account for the strange occurrences that have been reported over the years, and it remains a Bajan tale as old as time.
Brave visitors to the church, whether it be for a wedding or an ordinary Sunday service, are welcomed to venture into the mysterious crypts to explore the site of this legend for themselves. The tragic and bizarre past of this historic Barbadian church makes it all the more a favourite for historians, worshipers and visitors alike.