Henry S. Fraser writes about Heritage tourism in Barbados, congratulating the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth on the launch of Heritage Month–June 2014—and to the Garrison Consortium. He underlines the success of the new addition to the Sentry and Garrison Tours, a tour of the “secret” Garrison Tunnels. He also highlights the origins of heritage tourism, whose can be accessed through his 2013 book Island in the Sun–the Story of Tourism in Barbados (with Kerry Hall).
But in fact, from the early days of tourism … the steamship era of the late 1800s, with the establishment of that gracious Victorian lady the Marine Hotel (scandalously neglected and demolished by government in 1998) until World War II, Heritage and Health were the two big attractions of Barbados. The Marine opened in 1878 but was massively expanded in 1887. The tramline was established in 1885, and smaller hotels quickly grew up along its route, from Bridgetown and the Garrison (the original Seaview) through Hastings (Ocean View, Balmoral and others, all the way to St. Lawrence, while the “health resorts” of the Crane and Atlantis soon became famous. (The full story of tourism in Barbados can be found in the big book “Island in the Sun – the Story of Tourism in Barbados” by Henry Fraser and Kerry Hall, recently published by Miller Publishing.)
The big attractions for cruise ship visitors and land based tourists were all historic sites. The big five were: St. John’s Church, Codrington College, St. Nicholas Abbey, Farley Hill and Sam Lord’s Castle. And the Chase Vault at Christ Church Parish Church (now embarrassingly derelict – the vault, not the church) and St. Michael’s Cathedral completed what could have been called the Magnificent Seven. Note that two of the big five are in St. John – where my navel string is buried. And that perhaps explains my love for history and heritage, and my personal passion to share it with everyone.
[. . .] And to interpret our history and the story of democracy, led by Sir Grantley Adams and Sir Frank Walcott, and Sir Grantley’s passion for building housing for the people (starting with Pine and Colleton in St. John) we created the Tyrol Cot Heritage Village. This comprised seven chattel houses, replicas copied by architect Bruce Jardine from the finest houses he found; a classic rum shop, blacksmith’s shop, a 1920s house from Tudor Bridge, furnished as a house museum, and a replica of the slave hut at Moore’s Hill in St. Peter. It was the first time the word Heritage was used in this way in Barbados. Heritage was chosen in recognition that it was becoming a big deal in tourism, and the words history and historic had negative or boring connotations for many people.
The Barbados National Trust was the vision of the late, great benefactor of Barbados – Ronald Tree, MP. Other early activists were Jack Skinner, Ishi Kesseram, Sir Donald Wiles and Paul Foster, known to most as the Father of Tourism in Barbados. Its mission is to preserve buildings of historic and architectural importance and places of natural beauty – much along the lines of the British National Trust. Unfortunately, like other “younger” and pioneer societies, after 50 years we as a nation still have little appreciation for our great natural beauty, and have a philistine desire for “new, new, new” and a preference to “knock down and build back”. [. . .]