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  • Governor’s House Barbados Room History

    The Barbados Room, which in its naming is meant to honor the historic connection between the Caribbean nation of Barbados and Charleston.

    The island of Barbados is the most easterly of the West Indian islands.  It lies in the Atlantic, 13 degrees 04’ North and 59 degrees 37’ West, 100 miles east of the chain of island known as the Lesser Antilles, which is technically outside the Caribbean Sea.  The shape of the island is said to resemble a leg of land and its size is fairly small.  It is approximately 166 square miles in size.

    The origin of the name, Los Barbudos or Los Barbados, means “The Bearded Ones” in Portugese.  Folk lore has found that the island owes its names to the presence of Indians with beards who were living there when the island was first discovered.  Another theory attributes the name to the large number of fig trees that send down clusters of aerial roots suggestive of beards.  A Bearded Fig Tree is featured on the island’s Royal flag and Coat of Arms.

    Barbados Coat of Arms

    The first Englishman landed on Barbados in 1620 with a settlement taking place in 1625.  It was at that time the island was claimed for the English Crown.  By 1629 a Governor arrived from England with the island divided into six parishes.  Each parish had a church, minister and an elected vestry or parish council based upon the English pattern.

    The first crops grown on Barbados were tobacco and cotton.  Tobacco soon proved unprofitable, because it was inferior to that grown in the American colonies.  It was sugarcane that was immediately determined to be three times more profitable than any other crop.  By 1650 sugar was established as the island’s dominant crop making Barbados one of England’s richest colonies.  Today, the sugar cane produced on the island of Barbados is used to make some of the finest rums in the world.

    During the early history of Barbados, the success of sugar production caused large migration onto the island and then a similar emigration.  Small farmers who had been the first to arrive upon the island were unable to compete with farmers who had started to amass large plantations .  In 1643 there were 8,300 landholders.  By 1666 the same properties had consolidated into 760 farms.  Many of those leaving Barbados made their way to Carolina and the settlement of Charles Town.  For many emigrating from England, Barbados was an important first step to their final place in America.

    On March 24, 1663 a charter was granted by King Charles II to eight aristocrats who had supported him throughout his long exile during the Cromwellian regime in Britain.  By helping him back to his throne they were granted feudal power in the government of the territory known as Carolina.  At the time the territory existed between 31 and 36 degrees north latitude’ and extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.  The expansion of land west of the Carolinas was never exploited by the grant.

    Original Plat of Carolina Territory (1671)

    The eight noblemen to whom the charter was granted were Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon; George Monck, Duke of Albermarle; William, Lord Craven; John, Lord Berkely ; Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper; Sir George Carteret; Sir William Berkeley and Sir John Colleton.  The group became known as the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.  The influence of the Lords Proprietors can be seen throughout the LowCountry today.  All one has to do is look to familiar names such as Clarendon County, the city of Monck’s Corner , Craven County, Berkely County, Ashley River, Cooper River, Albermarle Point, Carteret Street in Beaufort and Colleton County.  Aside from their great wealth held in Britain and America, a number of the Lords Proprietors were also plantation owners in Barbados.

    News of the Carolina Grant of 1663 was greatly welcomed by many British living on the congested and expensive island of Barbados.  In the hopes of moving to a colony with ample land for farming a number of the British Barbadians formed a syndicate called The Corporation of Barbados Adventurers.  The syndicate soon petitioned the Lords Proprietors to purchase a 1,000 mile tract of property in Carolina.  Once granted in 1664 an exploratory expedition in a ship named the Adventure, commanded by Captain William Hilton (later honored with the naming of Hilton Head Island) sailed to the Carolina coast.  A second ship, Carolina, soon followed that same year with the settlers establishing the colony of Charles Towne along the banks of the Ashley River.  A third ship captained by Sir John Yeamans set sail soon thereafter.  Yeamans and his 85 fellow adventurers each received 500 acres of land for every 1,000 pounds of sugar contributed to the Lords Proprietors.  Yeamans himself received a grant of 6,000 acres after being appointed Governor of the County of Clarendon.

    On November 4, 1670, as a result of “intelligence” brought back from Carolina a proclamation was issued in Barbados extolling the wonderful conditions that were being enjoyed by the settlers in the new America.  The Barbadians who had set sail aboard the three (3) original ships were settled and sent back word that they were living in a land where they enjoyed “a very rich and fertile soyle,” which yielded crops of such variety and abundance that there was not want of provisions.  They also sent word that the neighboring Indians were so friendly that “not only did they supply the settlers with much fish and game at trifling cost, but they also assisted them in clearing and cultivating their land.”  The ship Carolina soon made a second voyage and returned to the Charles Town settlement in early 1671, less than a year after its first landing.

    In 1672 plans for a new Charles Towne were developed with Bahamian Surveyor-General John Culpepper.  Instead of further developing Charles Town where the Carolina first landed, a new town was planned on a peninsula known as Oyster Point.  The current City of Charleston is now located at what was called Oyster Point.  The original colony of Charles Towne was located at Albermarle Point located inland along the Ashley River.  This site is now a state historic site known as Charles Towne Landing where a park, museum and full-scale replica of the 17th century wooden ship “Adventure” lies at berth.  In 1682 following the exodus from the old Charles Towne to Oyster Point, a new walled city was developed based upon plans created in London.

    Original Plan for Charles Town

    The new Charles Town on Oyster Point developed rapidly and in an account published in 1682 one visitor reported:  “….The town is regulary laid out into large and capacious streets, which to Buildings is a great Ornament and Beauty.  In it they have reserved convenient places for Building of a Church, Town House, and other publick Structures, an Artillery Ground for the Exercise of thir Militia, and Wharfs for the Convenience of their Trade and Shipping.”  The colony was known as Charles Towne until its incorporation in August 1783 when the city’s name was changed to Charleston.

    Given the shared history of Barbados and Charleston, it only makes sense that certain resemblances and likenesses may be identified by those who know where to look.   Guests visiting from Barbados walking the streets of Charleston have remarked how incredible the dialect, accent and content is between the Bajan (Barbadian) and Gullah dialect of Charlestonian African Americans.  intangibles architectural and cultural similarities still survive between Barbados and Charleston.  While many of the wooden frame Single Houses of Barbados failed to survive the fires and tragedies of history, historical texts and pictures have documented the similarities of the two

    It was only within the past 30 years that significant research occurred

    Walking the streets of Charleston and listening

    Charleston Single Houses came from Barbados

    Similarities in accent and content between Bajan (Barbadian) dialect and Gullah dialect of old Charlestonian

    Drayton Hall, Middleton Place, Yeaman’s Hall

  • 117 Broad Street Charleston, South Carolina 29401

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