Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.

 



Yeah, I have a goodly heritage.”  (Psalm 16, Verse 7)

…For the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Holy Bible, Exodus Chapter 3, verse 5)

There are many places in Barbados which, to me, are “holy ground”. First and foremost is St. John’s Church, with its churchyard, overlooking the great sweep of the Scotland District, from Ragged Point to Pico Tenerieffe. Within its hallowed walls, under the watchful “eyes” of the stained glass Christ and apostles, the ancient priests and churchwardens of the marble plaques on the walls, and the beautiful, saintly Elizabeth Pinder statue, is an awesome sense of peace and communion. And outside, between the ancient tombs and gnarled frangipanis, reminded of the romances, victories and tragedies of those at rest – Dick Haynes and the Sealy sisters, Trevor Davis, Miller Austin and B.L.Barrow, Dr. Hart and Dr. Carter,- is the perfect place for prayer and meditation, love and inspiration.

Close to St. John’s Church, for me, is St. Nicholas Abbey – the most comprehensive historical site in the Caribbean – an incredible mixture of beautiful architecture, historical authenticity, romance and the story of sugar, syrup, rum and the people of our patrimony. And I could go on!

But every once in a while I make a discovery of another site that simply “blows me away”! I’ve now had that experience three times recently. The first was at the discovery of the mikvah, the ritual bath at the Synagogue, where Dr. Watson and has team made the extraordinary find, under the car park, of a beautiful mikvah, 12 feet underground, down marble steps, with clear, pure spring water flowing in! The second was the amazingly pure and authentic, perfectly preserved, Regency period Stables and Courtyard at Colleton House (c.1830s), and its unique sculpture collection. And two weeks ago I visited, for the first time, the remarkable Quaker Burial Ground at Church Village / Cliff, in St. Philip.

The Quakers are an important part of our history from 1855 until the late 18th century. The Society of Friends, or Quakers, rebelled against the ceremonials of the established Anglican Church, believing that  the Church had lost touch with the true message of Christ. They met in homes and later meeting houses, with no priests, and spoke “as they spirit moved them”, and often shook or “quaked”, hence the name! The founder, George Fox, sent two missionaries, Ann Austin and Mary Fisher, to Barbados to promote the faith, in 1655. They were so successful that prominent, wealthy families such as the Rous family of Halton, St. Philip, became Quakers and many people followed. Our present Government House was a Quaker plantation, Pilgrim, leased and then purchased by government 300 years ago. There were eventually at least five meeting houses and five burial grounds in Barbados, and their strength was so great that the brilliant Dr. William Hillary came here in 1747 until 1757, producing his famous book “Observations on the Epidemical Diseases of Barbadoes …”, in 1759. (A fourth edition, edited, introduced and annotated by Dr. Edward Hutson and yours truly, has just been published by UWI Press; check the Cave Hill Bookshop.)

The burial ground at Pilgrim, by the Nita Barrow Roundabout, is marked by a giant boulder and a plaque placed by the Barbados National Trust. That at Speightstown is now the Anglican cemetery, while that at Hackleton’s Cliff has been vandalised. The burial ground in Church Village / the Cliff in St. Philip is an extraordinary and remarkable survivor. It was completed in 1680, funded by one Richard Settle, who left 3,000 pounds of sugar for the purpose and to build a meeting house. Monica Newlands of Kingston, Church Village, whose beautiful “gardens in an old quarry” abut and abound on the burial ground,  discovered it only in 2003, almost by accident. She had a momentous, “miraculous” experience, and determined to rescue it from a century of neglect as a garbage dump!

When she found it, overgrown with bush, and filled with garbage, she set to work, with her own funds and modest contributions, and the help of wonderful volunteers, including Billy Gollop and Dr. Watson of the National Trust, and Michael Stoner and his other archaeology colleagues, working like navies to clean up the site and restore the vaults, walls and gates. It was “re-opened and re-dedicated” on November 10th, 2007. The story is beautifully told in Monica’s new book “Restoration of the Quaker Burial Ground”, available from the Barbados National Trust, to whom cheques can be written to help in the maintenance of this remarkable site.

Ironically, the home of the Rous family at Halton was demolished in the 1831 hurricane, and rebuilt in 1833. The “new house”, just a mile from the Quaker Burial Ground, provided me with another of those “aha” moments, because it’s a splendid, classic Caribbean Georgian house, one of the first in Barbados with a purpose built open verandah on three sides as part of the original structure, and a prototype for almost every “plantation style” house in Barbados for the next 100 years, and again being built across the heights and terraces. It is one of the most important buildings in Barbados, for this and other architectural features, and has just been awarded a plaque by the Barbados National Trust, in its renewed programme of awarding plaques for buildings of historical and architectural interest.

Professor Fraser is Past President of the Barbados National Trust, and past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI.


Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.


Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.


Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.


Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and Amazon.com


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