Monday, September 14, 2009

traditional homes around old Speightstown

 a traditional chattel house

Barbados was discovered in 1605 by the Portugese,  the north of Barbados was later settled by the Dutch Jews and English in 1625. They  grew tobacco and indigo. They later switched to sugar cane which proved to be more profitable . They needed a large labour force to plant and harvest the sugar cane so they looked to the African Continent. African Slaves were brought in to work the fields. Barbados' ethnic breakdown of population is approximately 94%  of African descent and the remaining 6% is made up of European  and Indian descent.  Many of the traditional houses that were built by the Barbadians of African descent were made of wood, pitch pine that was imported. Many rented the land from the plantation and erected wooden structures that were called Chattel houses. These were built on a temporary foundation of rough stone. Whenever the household had to move,  the house was broken down and transported to the new location. In fact I believe we were the fore runners of   the pre-fabricated homes and didn't know it at the time.  Many house owners started out by buying a Chattel house from someone who has moved up in life and has built a concrete home. Many are being torn down to make way for more modern housing. Today, the Chattel house has been reinvented by many of the local architects and builders. Many of the luxury homes owned by wealthy expats will have a few Chattel houses or cottages on property which they rent out  to guests. Many people who cannot afford a concrete home will build a beautiful  chattel house out of hardwoods. I do plan one day to have a cottage or two on my property.


  1. How interesting to red a bit of the history of Barbados. Loved the photos of traditional chattel homes. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful!

  2. My father took my and some of my siblings to Barbados in the early 1980s, what i remember of the houses is the lack of overhang of the roofs, he always joked that if rain caught you outside in Barbados there is no place to shelter!

    I love the photos of the older homes!

  3. Kanak and Racquel.....I am afraid in a few years time most of these houses will be knocked down to make way for more modern housing. More people have to acknowledge that we must become the keepers and protectors of our heritage.

  4. Interestingly, even Barbados is so far away from Malaysia, but there are some similarities in the structure of the houses. Malaysians who see the photos you posted may mistakenly thought they are taken somewhere in Malaysia. Especially so when we also have many coconut trees around.


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