Key Buildings of Bridgetown - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Key Buildings of Bridgetown - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Take a look at a map of the Caribbean. You will recognise that Barbados sits outside the chain of islands. This exaggerated eastern position gave the island gem a geographic advantage that made it a vital link in global trade and commerce from the 16th century to the present day. Despite its small size, 166 square miles, Barbados became the British Empire's golden goose, and hence great efforts were made to develop and protect the crown jewel. The tremendous importance of the island led to the infrastructural development of the capital Bridgetown and its Military fortification. Take a journey around Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, the islands UNESCO World Heritage Site, immerse yourself in the culture and experience and discover the cultural and historical beauty the island has to offer. 

Parliament Buildings and Museum

Bridgetown's historic buildings intertwine with only a few modern structures to create the perfect picture of the town's storied past in the middle of the islands UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Standing in the centre of the city rests a symbol of legislative progress and governance, The Parliament Buildings.  Formerly known as the Public Buildings, it is the meeting place for the House of Assembly and the Senate.  Construction started in 1870 and was completed four years later, giving it the title of the 3rd oldest parliament in the Commonwealth.  One of the main features of the Parliament Buildings is the clock tower, which rises above most of the buildings in the city with its narrow coral stone design.  

In 2010, the clock’s hands were frozen at 2:12 after being damaged by a tropical storm.  Since repairs were done, the clock can be heard throughout Bridgetown chiming away on the hour.  A well laid out museum with audio and visual aids awaits visitors inside the west wing of the Parliament Buildings.  The National Heroes Gallery and Museum of Parliament offer a detailed tour that paints a picture of the history of governance in Barbados, as well as significant events and personalities who helped to shape the island into what it is today.  As long as Parliament or the Senate is not in session, keen tour guides are waiting to take you around.

The Museum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays -10:00 am -4:00 pm Saturdays-10:00am. to 3:00 pm.  Tickets:  $10.00 for adults, children ages three and under are free

  • Please call ahead to confirm that no changes have been made to opening hrs or fees. 

Blackwoods Screw Dock

Sitting on the edge of Bridgetown and its Garrison is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is an example of maritime engineering brilliance. Located in the heart of Bridgetown behind the historic warehouses and old sugar bonds is the Blackwoods Screw Dock, the oldest surviving ship lift in the world.  The strategic location of Barbados meant that it was a hub for commercial shipping activity in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  As a result, the construction of the facility in 1893 was a godsend to owners of many merchant ships.  Used for cleaning and repairing the hull of the vessels, the Blackwoods Screw Dock still stands as an example of early engineering accomplishments.  Adjoining the property is the Historical Maritime Centre, which has photography and displays of Barbados' past. Additionally, there is a restaurant and bar which gives you a perfect view of the fishing and pleasure vessels as they enter and leave the careenage. 

Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (However subject to change based on season and holidays)

  • Please call ahead to confirm that no changes have been made to opening hrs or fees. 

The Warehouses

You might not expect warehouses to make up the islands UNESCO World Heritage Site, but a walk along the boardwalk will reveal numerous historic warehouses and bonds. One of these warehouses stands out with its red brick features and 18th-century architectural features.  Currently carrying the name “The Spirit Bond”, the 18th-century building constructed from red ballast bricks ( bricks used in the hulls of ships) was once used as a storage warehouse for Rum and other sugar by-products.  The bond has been fully restored and is now used for commercial activity.

Mutual Building

The city of Bridgetown can boast of some of the oldest, and most majestic buildings in the Caribbean.  One such building which can be found on Lower Broad Street is the Mutual Building. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1895 it served as the home to what once was the oldest surviving indigenous insurance company in the Caribbean.  The beautiful Victorian building was used for many commercial activities which include being home to a bank.  Its twin silver domes and intricate cast-iron finishes make it stand out as one of the most beautiful buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados.

The Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall sits apart from the significant commercial activity of Bridgetown.  The building originally constructed in 1730, was home to some important institutes throughout its life span.  These include the Barbados Assembly, the Vestry, town jail and the office of the first town Mayor of Bridgetown.  The building fell into disrepair but was restored to its former architectural glory and now serves as commercial offices.  

National Library and Old Law Courts
The name Andrew Carnegie might ring a bell in the minds of most.  The Scott was one of the founding fathers of American Industrialization.  He was one of the richest men in history and amassed tremendous wealth from the steel industry.  What does this have to do with Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison you may ask? Well, in the later years of Carnegie's life, he was dedicated to sharing his wealth through philanthropic means.  One effort was the construction of libraries around the world. In total 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929. One of these libraries can be found in Bridgetown, Barbados.  Located on Coleridge Street, the library built between 1903 and 1906 served the people of Barbados for more than 100 years.  The coral-stone structure, which is reminiscent of the English Renaissance is no longer in use, as it needs repairs.  However, the external walls stand firm, and the location is a beautiful site to capture.  The law courts located directly next to the library served as the judicial centre for 278 years. The courts share similar architectural stylings to the library.

Exchange Museum

The Exchange Museum, located in the historic city of Bridgetown, is a wonderful interactive experience.  The museum chronicles the trade and banking activity of the city and the country of Barbados.  This experience should not be missed and is housed in a skillfully restored building from the 18th century.  The building was once used as a school and then served as a home for the Freemasons. Hence, as part of the delightfully laid out exhibits, you will also find the story of Freemasonry and education as it relates to Barbados. Dubbed ‘A Place of Mystery and Discovery" it should be on your to-do list. The Exchange Museum is just beyond the Church walls of the St. Michael's Cathedral and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site - Bridgetown and its Garrison. 

Open Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm. Contact information: Tel:227-8148

Email:[email protected]

Visit these sites and many others as you take your journey back in time through a visit to Bridgetown and its Garrison. 

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