Historic Bridgetown and Barbados’ Garrison area are now on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
The UNESCO World Heritage List features the greatest wonders of the world such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and China’s Great Wall.
It is a huge honor that Barbados’ capital city, Bridgetown and its Garrison area are now internationally recognized for their beauty, history, and significance.
UNESCO describes Bridgetown and its Garrison as follows:
‘Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison (Barbados), an outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Great Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire. The property also includes a nearby military garrison which consists of numerous historic buildings. With its serpentine urban layout, the property testifies to a different approach to colonial town-planning compared to the Spanish and Dutch colonial cities of the region which were built along a grid plan.’
A grand ceremony took place at The Garrison Savannah on the 13th June 2012 to mark this outstanding achievement. Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart unveiled the plaques of which there are three, one in Bridgetown, one on Bay Street and one in the historic Garrison area.
The occasion was marked by special speeches and live musical performances including songs performed by top Calypso artist ‘The Mighty Gabby’, ‘I Am a Bajan’ performed by ‘Rupee’, and a Barbadian folk medley performed by the St. Leonard’s Boys’ 100 Voice School Choir.
At the ceremony Ms. Irina Bokova, The Director-General of UNESCO presented the Inscription Certificate to Freundal Stuart and also referenced these words from the Barbadian national anthem:
“We write our names on history’s page
With expectations great
Strict guardians of our heritage
Firm craftsmen of our fate”
Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados, was established by English settlers in 1628.
They also developed the world-class Bridgetown Port with a screw lifting dock, which was an innovation in dry dock technology at the time. This dock became a world center for trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today this port receives hundreds of giant cruise liners carrying holidaymakers from all over the world.
St. Ann’s Garrison or ‘The Garrison‘ is the small district of Barbados which is located two miles from Heroes Square in Bridgetown. It is full of listed historical buildings such as the barracks for military personnel. There is a highway which splits the district in two (highway 7).
On the west is Saint Ann’s Fort, which is where the Barbados Defence Force resides. The Clock Tower still works today and was specially designed to keep working even when it is being wound up. It was originally placed on the East wing, but due to a change in the soil density, it had to be moved to the west wing in 1884.
There are 115 listed buildings in the historical Garrison and Bridgetown area (the list of these buildings is below). It has been stressed that the work of the unsung heroes who toiled on these buildings will be remembered as well as the British who had colonized Barbados at the time of their inception.
The Garrison historic area was the place that the Barbados flag was raised and the union flag of the United Kingdom was lowered, when Barbados gained full independence from the United Kingdom.
Plans have been made to put a special logo sign on the buildings that are listed in the Bridgetown and Garrison area so that they can be identified and spotted by the public of Barbados as well as its visitors.
Work is also underway to measure each of these buildings and uncover their rich history. Once this is done, the information will be displayed in Barbados’ museums and history books for the benefit of generations to come.
The private business owners who reside in the buildings today will be asked to measure and research their own buildings. If they agree, it is estimated that all the information will be available within a three year period. The listed buildings to be identified are both commercial and residential. To qualify to be listed, a building has to have some significant structural features or historical significance.
The modern buildings in this area have all been built in keeping with the townscape and blend into their surroundings, in terms of their height, structure, and location. Historic listed buildings have been carefully adapted for modern use without harming their original features, such as the shopping mall next to the immigration building on The Wharf. This building would have originally been a sugar warehouse during the time of the sugar cane industry. In the Garrison area, the original military barracks are now used as offices for town planning.
The crown of the Garrison Historic Area is ‘The Garrison Savannah‘, one of the greatest horse racing tracks in the world. The track was first used for horse racing in the eighteenth century when officers matched their horses in races. The track has been a working race track since 1845 and has played host to some of the most significant horse tracks on the international race calendar.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the race track area was the headquarters of the British West Indies Regiment. Today, here you will find The Barbados National Cannon Collection, which is one of the rarest collections of British cannons in the West Indies. The race track is surrounded by magnificent historic buildings such as the barracks for military personnel and ‘George Washington House‘, a house that George Washington stayed in during a visit to Barbados. There is also a beautiful fountain that was built in 1865 to commemorate the piped water that was brought to the City of Bridgetown on the 29th March 1861.
Now that Bridgetown and its Garrison have gained the status of being listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Barbadians can feel even more proud of their heritage and culture.
Becoming a world heritage site will not forbid Barbadians to build in this area. It is possible to build providing the new buildings are compatible with the existing architecture. There are, for instance, plans to construct a new police station, and the architectural plans are in keeping with the style of the surrounding historical buildings in the area.
Every five years Barbados will be asked to prepare a state of conservation report to UNESCO and Barbados will be closely monitored to ensure Bridgetown and the historical Garrison area are preserved.
View the listed buildings in Bridgetown and The Historic Garrison area.
Author: Brett Callaghan