Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Barbados Chattel Houses






Barbados was settled by the same gentleman planters who settled the colony of South Carolina. A lot of connections exist between these two places, from the Bajan dialect that bears a close resemblance to the South Carolina Gullah dialect, to farming practices that were developed in Barbados and transferred to South Carolina plantations. But the most visible is the similarity in architecture. The jalousie windows and sweeping verandas that grace grand old South Carolina houses also decorate many Bajan homes. Georgian and Victorian style great houses line streets in Bridgetown and Charleston. However,the most distinctive Bajan architecture is purely Caribbean.

The chattel house is basically an old school mobile home. Simple wooden houses placed on limestone blocks, chattel houses are designed to be taken apart in a day. The term comes from the days when plantation workers journeyed from different estates, working the fields and leasing the land that they lived on. Their movable possessions or chattel, were their houses and these had to be easily moved in case of landlord disputes or the end of a growing season. Although I've heard the term chattel house in Trinidad and Jamaica, I'd never seen one until I visited Barbados. These houses make up an important part of Bajan history and I saw them everywhere.

They boast gable roofs created from iron to withstand the heavy winds and rain of hurricane season. Chattel houses often have shutters to keep out the heat and interior walls with spaces at the top to catch every breeze. They are reported to be much cooler than regular houses. Although it's not a common housing choice anymore, people still live in chattel houses either handed down through the family or freshly built on undeveloped land. I was happy to discover that there's a movement to restore and preserve Barbados chattel houses. I think they serve as a colorful example of Bajan character and innovation.

13 comments:

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

I love the idea of being able to take apart a house in a day and take it with you. Then you would always be home no matter what life served you up:)

Ebony Intuition said...

Yup I saw tons of these houses while I was in Barbados. If you have time check out the Museum there.

Wendy said...

They are adorable. I'd like to live in one small in the middle of Central Park...

Jen @ caterpillars soy candles said...

what a great piece of history...Our ancestors sure were innovative!

Fly Girl said...

Maryam, you're right, these houses give home insurance while the housing market is in shambles!

Ebony, I visited 3 museums while I was in Barbados, I'll be mentioning them in future posts.

Wendy,that's funny! I don't know that these small houses would be enough protection in Central Park!

Jen, you're so right. Thanks for visiting!

Catherine said...

It is 20 years since I visited Barbados... looks like I need to update my visit... how much has it changed in your opinion in the past two decades??

Jacqueline Smith said...

Wow, those pictures could well have been taken in Jamaica. Sounds like Barbados lives up to its theme song advert "never a dull moment in Barbados". Looking forward to the rest.

Jacqueline Smith said...

Even the hibiscus and crotons well trimmed and all is familiar.

Fly Girl said...

Thanks for dropping by Catherine, there has been a lot of building and new construction in Barbados over the last 20 years.
Yes, Jackie, there is a lot of similarity between Barbados and Jamaica visually. The people however, still have a British sensibility that you don't find in jamdown!

Fly Brother said...

Amazing, the similarities in architecture (and food and culture) you see from DC to Rio; I love that! On Sao Paulo, I've always felt that stereotype of the boring, repressed Paulistano to be the same as the brutish, loud-mouthed New Yorker: you find some, but that's not most people. Folks drink too much haterade. I spent two months in Sao last summer and was claimed; I already know great people and never felt out-of-place. In Rio, hands-down one of the most naturally beautiful city settings on Earth, I became involved (unwittingly) with thieves and prostitutes, and was accosted by an 11-year-old in the street. I can do a weekend in "sexy, ditzy Rio" but I prefer to be surrounded by the chaotic, cosmopolitan mess that is Sampa. You should come visit once I move there.

word verification: milybads

Ivana said...

great barbados post..hopefully,I can be there someday...anyway,care 2 xchange link with my
North Sulawesi
blog?I've added ur link in my blog.

Fly Girl said...

Thanks for visiting Ivana! I'll be dropping by your Indonesia blog soon.

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