Inherited from the British
As Britain’s first colony in the Caribbean, and one that remained resolutely in British hands up until its independence in 1966.
As Britain’s first colony in the Caribbean, and one that remained resolutely in British hands up until its independence in 1966, it’s small wonder that Barbados still reflects Britain’s legacy in many of its institutions and traditions.
You may know that Barbados inherited its love of cricket from England, but how many of the following influences did you know can be attributed to the British?
- Take driving on the left. This is perhaps the most challenging experience for our North American and continental European guests when visiting Barbados, followed closely by using our roundabouts, but this seemingly strange practice that would mystify 65% of the world’s population is one of those things we inherited from the British.
- Even our Government is indebted to Britain for its structure and many of its laws. The Parliament of Barbados, which was first convened in 1639, is the third oldest legislature in the Americas and is patterned after the Parliament of England. Like the Parliament of England, it is made up of a lower house and an upper house. The lower house is composed of elected members of parliament, while the upper house is composed of appointed senators since unlike Britain, Barbados has no aristocrats to form a House of Lords.
- We too have a queen. Her name is Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados. If that sounds a bit similar to the Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, that’s because she is one and the same. Queen Elizabeth II is in fact the Queen of 14 other countries other than Barbados and Great Britain, and since she can’t be in more than one place at a time, she’s represented in Barbados by an appointed official called the Governor General.
- The postal service in Barbados dates back to 1663, when England’s imperial Post Office set up a Packet Agency on the island, and this is the foundation that the Barbados Postal Service was built on. Keep an eye out for the red post boxes around the island inscribed with ER, or more rarely GR. These initials mean the boxes were created and installed during the reign of King Edward or Queen Elizabeth in the case of ER, and King George in the case of GR.
- The educational system in Barbados is predominantly styled after Britain's own educational system, including the wearing of school uniforms. Each school has its own uniform style and colour, and there are approximately 15 rules governing how a uniform can and cannot be worn.
- Saturday in Barbados is pudding and souse day, and if you haven’t tried it yet, then ask your Virgo Villa concierge for the best place to tuck into this traditional island delicacy. A delicious combination of sweet potato, pig’s blood, chillies and herbs stuffed into a pig’s intestine like a sausage before being cooked, some believe “pudding” has its origins in the Scottish dish haggis, while others point to black pudding from northern England and Ireland. Either of these dishes could have been introduced to the island by indentured servants from Scotland, Ireland and England who were deported to Barbados in the 1600s.
- Though the worship in the Church of England is in severe decline in Britain, in Barbados the church is going strong. Now called the Anglican Church, it claims the largest number of adherents among Christian sects in Barbados.
- Most of our historic buildings are a testament to Jacobean, Georgian and Victorian architectural styles. Some of the finest examples are to be found at the Jacobean mansion St. Nicholas Abbey in St. Peter and the Georgian style buildings in The Garrison Historic Area of Bridgetown. It is no surprise that colonists from various eras would build their homes based on the architectural styles in fashion in Britain at the time. What is more astonishing is to see Norman-era-inspired towers integrated into the architecture of many Anglican parish churches across the island.
- Not all things inherited from Britain are historical, however. Some things are testimonies to the ongoing connection between Britain and Barbados today. For example, when British Airways retired its fleet of Concordes, it bequeathed one to Barbados. This particular Concorde, no.12 of only 20 Concordes that were ever manufactured, flew more than 7,000 flights to Barbados between 1987 and 2003 and is now the star attraction at the hanger-museum called the Barbados Concorde Experience located at Grantley Adams Airport.
Furthermore, according to the BBC’s latest statistics, Barbados has “inherited” 27,000 British people who live in Barbados full-time. This number swells to 34,000 when part-time residents are included. Not only is this the highest number of Britons living in any one island in the Caribbean, but with a population of around 285,000, this makes Britons almost 10% of the island’s population.
If you want to see some of these British legacies surviving in a very non-British landscape and climate, contact Virgo Villas to arrange your own trip to Barbados. And check out our other post Barbados: An Island for all Seasons to find the best time of year to visit.