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at Pilgrim, and seven years afterwards it was purchased by the Legislature, with twenty acres of land attached, for £1350.
On the 8th of February, 1756, a fire broke out in Bridgetown in a storehouse belonging to Mr. Blackman, which spreading to the adjacent premises, one hundred and sixty houses were destroyed before it could be extinguished. Two years afterwards, in the same month, the town suffered again from fire, when a hundred and twenty houses were burnt down.
One hundred years after the fire in which the public records were lost, in 1666, Bridgetown was anew visited by a conflagration of great extent. In the night of the 13th of May 1766, at half-past eleven o'clock, a fire broke out, which burnt till nine the next morning: four hundred and forty houses, including the custom-house and other public buildings, were destroyed, the annual rents of which amounted to £16,421, besides a great number of warehouses. The damage was estimated at £300,000 sterling. The greater number of the houses which were spared in this conflagration fell a prey to the flames on the 27th of December following, when a fire took place which nearly completed the ruin of the town: it broke out in the store of Messrs. Bedford and Co., between eight and nine o'clock at night, and continued until the following morning. Several houses and yards full of timber, coal, &c. were destroyed. Since the former fire, most of the trade had been carried on in this part of the town. Fires of lesser extent occurred in 1821, 1828, 1837, &c. when timely assistance prevented any serious injury: the most severe fire was that which broke out on the 3rd of February 1845, in a house of Mr. Lobo's in Swan Street, and extended over nearly ten acres of land; upwards of one hundred and eighty houses were burnt down or destroyed, and the loss of property was estimated at £200,000 currency. The indigent sufferers, who were deprived of food and shelter, were partly relieved by a sum of 500 dollars which the Governor ordered to be issued from the treasury; this act was not only confirmed by a Bill of the Legislature passed on the 18th of February, but a further grant was made of 9500 dollars for a similar purpose: the total amount subscribed in Barbados towards the relief of the sufferers was 31,605 dollars: the neighbouring colonies generously contributed upwards of 17,800 dollars1. The houses are still
1 These contributions were as follows:
Antigua, by legislative grant
Jamaica, by legislative grant £1000
lying in ruins, but there is every hope that they will speedily be rebuilt.
In conformity with an act for the improvement of the city and the rebuilding of the Burnt District, the Governor appointed a commission on the 12th of August 1845, consisting of the Solicitor-General, Mr. Bascom and Mr. Eversley, to carry the provisions of this act into execution1. The chief object of the act was to purchase from the owners the land comprising the Burnt District, and, by laying it out according to an approved plan, to dispose of it on a ground-rent or otherwise, rendering it obligatory upon the renter or purchaser to erect his buildings according to the prescribed plan. The Commission reported to his Excellency the Governor, on the 5th of October 1846, that the purchase had been accomplished at a cost of 132,445 dollars 3 cents for the land, and 15,451 dollars for the buildings, ruins, &c., making a sum total of 147,896 dollars 3 cents (equal to £30,811 13s. sterling). The district comprised 341,314 square feet, at the average cost of 383 cents (1s. 7d. sterling) per square foot. The commissioners in their report recommended that the plan which Mr. Walsh had produced for the laying out and rebuilding this part of the town should be adopted, and that the erection of a building or buildings for the various public offices should be determined upon. The execution of such a plan would not only improve the city, but likewise contribute to the value of the ground, as they supposed that it would become the fashionable abode of the principal merchants and traders, who would erect in its neighbourhood their stores and places of business.
Bridgetown, which was erected into a city on the 8th of October 1842, is at present divided into eight districts, containing 1802 houses, yielding a rental of £82,116, including ground-rents, which amount to about £7000, more or less; so that the average rents of houses since the fire will be about £75,000. It must be observed that a class of houses not taxed, and which is not included in the number above stated, comprise many hundreds, but which cannot be accurately ascertained from the parish books; they are chiefly the property of the labouring classes (except in some few cases, where they are built on speculation, and rented to the labouring people by the proprietors); they are under the yearly value of £10, and consequently, by a vestry regulation, are not subjected to taxation; they are thickly inhabited. 479 persons are taxed on trade or profession in the town, 38 in the rural part of the parish, and 40 butchers; a great number of tradesmen are not taxed; the several descriptions of trades are not stated in the returns. Licensed shops and
1 The title of the Act is, "An Act for the improvement of the City of Bridgetown in this island, and for vesting certain lands, buildings and hereditaments in the said city in her Majesty, and for paying and securing to the owners of such lands, buildings, and hereditaments the value thereof; and for other purposes."
hucksters' licences are comprised under the returns of taxes on trade, as before stated. There are 449 four-wheel carriages, and 432 two-wheel carriages for which taxes are paid. In the rural part of the parish the houses not connected with plantations realize £20,650 amount of rents; they do not pay as much in the pound as town rents. A Commission was appointed in February 1838, to give appropriate names to such streets and alleys as had none, and to number the houses. Several streets which had previously no names were called after the Governors and Presidents who formerly administered the government.
The view of the city from the bay cannot vie in picturesque scenery with several of the other towns in the West India Colonies; it is however not without interest, and presents a pleasing picture upon entering the port. It lies round the bay, and is nearly two miles long, following the curve of the shore, but scarcely half a mile in breadth. Needham's Point and the garrison of St. Anne form the south-eastern point of the bay, and Fontabelle with Rickett's-battery in front the north-western : the intermediate space is filled up with houses embosomed in trees, above which rise beautiful clusters of palm-trees with their tufted heads. The towers of the cathedral and St. Michael form conspicuous objects, and the ships lying at anchor in the harbour, with boats plying to and fro, present a picture of activity which bespeaks the commercial importance of the island. Hills of moderate height rise behind the town, which they apparently encircle, studded with elegant villas peeping from among avenues of trees. The high lands of St. Thomas, St. George and Christ Church close the picture.
The commercial part of the town is to the west of the bridge; it cannot boast any splendid specimens of architecture, but it contains some handsome houses; and if the stores and shops in Broad Street, which is built straight and regular, were ornamented with shop-windows, it would be considered handsome. Balconies, generally painted in bright colours, open upon the street, and give variety to the aspect when viewed from Trafalgar Square. This square, which was formerly called the Green, contains Nelson's statue; and as this was the first monument erected to the memory of the immortal hero, the inhabitants of Barbados are proud of this priority. The official news of Lord Nelson's victory and death reached Barbados on the 20th of December 1805. On the 23rd of December there was a brilliant illumination to celebrate the great victory, and a funeral sermon was preached on the 5th of January following, in St. Michael's church, on the death of the hero. A subscription was entered into for the erection of a statue to his memory in some conspicuous part of Bridgetown, and upwards of £2300 was subscribed in the course of a few weeks. The committee appointed for the execution of this plan had purchased "the Green" for £1050, towards which sum the Legislature contributed £500. On this place, which was to be called Trafalgar Square,
the statue was to be erected. In July 1808 the disposable means for the erection of the statue amounted to £1413 4s. 6d. sterling, which sum was transmitted to the agent of Barbados in London, with the desire from the subscribers that a bronze statue of Lord Nelson in his full uniform should be ordered for the above sum. Various delays prevented the execution of this design until 1813. The first stone of the pedestal upon which the statue was to be erected was laid by Sir George Beckwith, assisted by Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Laforey, on the 24th of February: a plate of copper was placed in the cavity of the stone, with the following inscription :
To the Memory of
HORATIO LORD VISCOUNT NELSON, K.B.,
The Preserver of the British West Indies
The Hero, whose various and transcendant merits,
Alike conspicuous in address, decision, action and achievement,
was erected by
The grateful inhabitants of Barbados,
On a spot of ground appropriated to it
In accordance with the solicitations of a select Committee,
That so sincere though humble a tribute
Of esteem, admiration and gratitude to their
Might be rendered more congenial
To his generous and exalted spirit,
His Excellency Lieutenant-General SIR GEORGE BECKWITH, K.B.,
The statue was placed on the pedestal as early as two o'clock in the morning of the 22nd of March 1813. A large body of troops, under the command of Major-General Stehelin, took up their station in the square at ten o'clock, and soon after Sir George Beck with and Admiral Laforey entered the square in procession, accompanied by the clergy, and the civil, military and naval authorities of the island. Two lieutenants of
the navy who had been in the action of Trafalgar, unveiled the statue, under the cheers of the assembled multitude, and a general salute of ordnance from St. Anne's and the men-of-war in the bay. The statue is surrounded with a neat iron railing, and represented in the position so usually adopted for Lord Nelson. Some unsightly houses obstructed the square, and partly for their purchase and removal, partly for other improvement of its appearance, the Legislature voted £2000 in July 1826.
Since the island has been erected into a bishopric, the church of St. Michael has become the cathedral of the Diocese. The edifice, which was rebuilt in 1789, is spacious, but destitute of architectural beauty; it escaped the hurricane in 1831 with slight injury. The interior of the church is plain, the chancel somewhat raised and provided with stalls : it contains some interesting monuments, which date as far back as the seventeenth century.
The church of St. Mary, in the north-western part of the city, though not so spacious, is a much more elegant building than the cathedral. The first stone of the new church was laid on the 22nd of July 1825, by Bishop Coleridge, containing on a plate the following inscription :
BEATE MARIE VIRGINI
IMPENSIS PARTIM BRITANNICIS
PARTIM VERO COLONICIS
ASSISTENTE PRÆSIDE SENATUQUE,
PRIMUM LAPIDEM POSUIT,
VIII. Kal. Aug. A.D. CIɔ. ɔ. CCCXXV.
It was consecrated on the 25th of July 1827, and the Rev. John H. Pinder, A.M., was licensed to the chapel, on the nomination of the Rector of St. Michael's. Mr. Alexander Croil presented to St. Mary's, on the 13th of March 1827, an organ which had been built by Mr. E. Crick of Barbados. St. Paul's chapel in Bay Street, smaller than the two preceding churches, is very handsome. The cornerstone was laid on the
"To God, most good, most great. William Bishop of the Caribbee islands laid the first stone of this church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, constructed partly at the expense of Great Britain and partly of this colony, the President and Legislative Body attending, and the prayers of every one favouring it, 25th day of July A.D. 1825."