1 ) St. Nicholas Abbey
Located in the beautiful parish of St. Peter, St. Nicholas Abbey is a plantation house, museum and rum distillery. This great house was built in 1658 by Benjamin Berringer and is one of the finest historic sites in Barbados. St. Nicholas Abbey encompasses over 400 acres of sugar cane fields, tropical gullies, mahogany forests and formal gardens.
If you are a lover of Caribbean architecture, the house is characterised by elaborate multi-curved gables, Tudor arches, decorative chimneys and casement windows. The Jacobean architecture was used in many English homes, schools, and colleges built in the 17th century. However, the great house is now one of just three Jacobean mansions remaining today in the West Hemisphere; the other two are located in Drax Hall and Bacon’s Castle in Virginia USA. St.Nicholas Abbey’s 350 - year history is filled with colourful tales of murder, love and intrigue and its numerous owners through the centuries have played pivotal roles in both Barbadian and American history. Visit the Abbey to hear all about it.
On the site of the Abbey, St. Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway can also be found. It was completed in late 2018 and is the newest addition to the family attraction at the plantation house distillery.
2) George Washington House
George Washington's House, also known as Bush Hill House, is located in Barbados’ Historic UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Michael. This house was where the young George Washington, the future United States of American president visited in the year 1751. Washington visited the island and stayed in this great house with his ailing half brother, Lawrence Washington, for two months. George was just nineteen years old at the time, and Barbados is the only country he ever lived in outside of the continental United States.
The estate is now owned and maintained by the Barbados National Trust. The house was nicely restored and features furniture from its era. The upper floor houses a museum with more details on the structure and possessions of the period of George Washington’s time. Additionally, there is also a cafe on the estate where you can enjoy lunch after the tour.
Discovered purely by chance, in June 2011, tunnels were found and were revealed to have been built during the 1820s. The tunnels are accessible only from George Washington house and museum and join at least nine tunnels in the Savannah area with others. The tunnels were assumed to have been built to provide drainage to the area. However, history has indicated that they might have been created as an escape route for the Garrison troops, should the area have ever been invaded.
3) St. John’s Parish Church
St John Parish Church is a historic site, filled with charm and character and its location, in the aptly named area of Church view, offers panoramic views of the East Coast of Barbados. Many historians have speculated that the church was first constructed in 1645, making it the first church to be built in St. John and further making it one of the oldest churches in Barbados.
The first wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1658, rebuilt and then destroyed twice more by hurricanes in 1675 and 1780. The church that we see today was completed in 1836 with some additions forty years after including beautiful stained windows.
The denomination of the church is Anglican, and this beautiful gothic-inspired building is a popular attraction to locals and tourists to the island. The Caribbean island history of this church includes a connection to Istanbul since it is the final resting place of Ferdinando Paleologus. St. John Parish church has intriguing discoveries, so next time you venture to the beautiful parish of St. John be sure to stop and visit this church with its rich history and breathtaking views of the island’s East Coast.
4) Gun Hill Signal Station
Gun Hill Signal Station is perched atop a beautiful hillside in the parish of St.George. The building has a rich history as it is one of six signal stations erected across Barbados after the 1816 slave rebellion. Stations were positioned to offer the best views of the entire island of Barbados, and Gun Hill contains a collection of military memorabilia.
It was known as Briggs Hill and was named as one of the spots where guns were to be placed and to raise alarms in the event of an invasion. This signal station was more complex and advanced than its counterparts as there were a large number of soldiers stationed here which necessitated the construction of soldiers barracks, complete with a kitchen, quarters for the officers and other structures.
On this beautiful historic landmark, you will also find a white lion statue with a red ball under his paw, sculpted by Captain Henry Wilkinson with the assistance of four military labourers in 1868.
After its decommission, it lay in ruin for many years until 1981 when the Barbados National Trust leased the signal station from the Government of Barbados and restored it with the help of a grant from the government.
5) Codrington College
Codrington College is a theological college in St. John, and it is the oldest Anglican theological college in all of the Americas. Codrington is named after the benefactor, Christopher Codrington III, who was the son of the prominent Barbadian Christopher Codrington II, who at the time was Governor-General of the Leeward Islands.
The main building is constructed of coral stone, and it was initially designed to replicate the layout of the University of Oxford college with four long buildings enclosing a quadrangle. However, due to financial constraints, only the southern portion of the plan was executed.
Today, the campus is entered via a grand roadway flanked on either side with magnificent palm trees. Other tree species include a giant silk cotton tree, whitewood, mahogany, and others. A lovely ornamental lake on-site is fed by a natural spring which acts as a natural habitat for the tame ducks who are always eager to be fed by locals and tourists when they visit. It is currently affiliated with the University of Durham and the University of the West Indies, Cavehill Campus.
6) Tyrol Cot Heritage Village
Tyrol Cot Heritage Village is located in Green Hill, St. Michael. Constructed towards the end of the 19th century in 1854, it was the home of the first Premier of Barbados, Sir Grantley Adams who was a local politician and activist and eventually became one of the National heroes of the island. His son, Tom Adams, was the second Prime Minister of Barbados and was born and raised at Tyrol Cot.
Today the four-acre property has been transformed into a lovely chattel village setting, depicting the former days in Barbados. The main living area has been well maintained by the Barbados National Trust and showcases the era of both Sir Grantley Adams and Tom Adams despite the gap in their histories. It stands out as a unique piece of political history with its Palladian architecture and authentic mahogany furniture.
The village setting is complete with an authentic replica of an old slave hut, blacksmith shop with its tools inside, and a Bajan rum shop which provides a casual environment to enjoy local finger foods such as fish cakes, sandwiches and of course rum punch.
7) Screw Dock
The Victorian-style engineered screw dock in Bridgetown, St. Michael is the only dry dock of its kind to exist in the world, constructed over four years from 1889 to 1893.
In the early days of settlement, Barbados had an excellent reputation for the quality of workmanship on marine vessels. Ships were allowed to come into Bridgetown and be careened on a side at the Screw Dock to have their bottoms cleaned of barnacles, alternately, they could be lifted out of the water for repairs. The dock measured 240 feet long by 46 feet wide and was capable of lifting 1200 tons of dead weight.
The dock originally worked on steam but then was switched to electricity.
These seven historical Sites are great locations to visit to begin to understand the heritage of our island, revealing once vibrant bygone days. The culture, the people, traditions and past events have made Barbados a fantastic place to visit with the entire family.