Sunday, 13 January 2013

A trip into the city

I found myself in the city of Bridgetown having to run some necessary errands a few days ago.
My destination took me to the upper half of the city, which in my opinion is the most picturesque part of the city.
Bridgetown is our capital city, and lies on the western (leeward) side of the island in a protected bay called Carlisle Bay, a natural harbour.
Bridgetown is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean region and therefore has a rich history.
The upper half of the city is built up around the inner basin of the Constitution River known as the Careenage, which is spanned by two bridges, the Chamberlain Bridge and the Duncan O"Neale Bridge.
The Careenage was so called because in the olden days, while docked, the shipmen would tilt their ships in a "careened" position to clean and scrape them.
Just a quick history lesson on our capital Bridgetown.
When the island was first settled by the British, all they found on arrival in the area was a small wooden bridge across the water, which was known as Indian Bridge. They constructed a new bridge over the Careenage and sometime afterwards, the town became known as Bridgetown.

This bridge was finally replaced in 1872 as a swing bridge (operated by two persons), made possible by monetary contributions (grants and loans) from Joseph Chamberlain who was Secretary of State for Colonies at the time, it was named in his honour.  The swing bridge as it was popularly called when I was growing up, allowed entry into the inner basin of the Careenage.
The Independence Arch currently adorns the site that the Indian Bridge once sat on.

Barbados gained its Independence on November 30, 1966 and this arch was constructed in 1987 to celebrate 21 years of independence.

The Independence Arch on the Chamberlain Bridge
The Central Bank Building on the right and the Parliament Buildings in the centre

The Pledge of Allegiance adorns the footings of the Independence Arch

In 2006 the Chamberlain Bridge was replaced with a modern state of the art counterweighted  lift bridge that pivots upward allowing ships to pass through to the inner basin. 
Control station for the operation of the Chamberlain Bridge

 This bridge is closed to traffic as it is a  pedestrian walkway over Constitution River. There are vendor stalls along the bridge  selling jewellery and handicrafts.

Moored in the Careenage are several chartered fishing boats, catamarans and yachts for pleasure sailing.

In order to moor here, one must apply to the Barbados Port Authority to rent one of the limited berths.

The second bridge is called The Duncan O'Neale Bridge which spans the Constitution River as well. It is named after Charles Duncan O'Neale, one of the founding fathers of democracy in Barbados.
Located between these two bridges is Independence Square, a recreational square and garden featuring seating areas, an amphitheatre, two fountains and a 9ft statue of the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, the first Prime Minister and Father of Independence.

Statue of The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, the first Prime Minister and Father of Independence

The inscription on the statue

Independence Square

The Fairchild Street Bus Terminal with a big blue and yellow government operated bus

The Constitution River flowing behind the Fairchild Street Bus Terminal
The Constitution river is not a fast flowing river, it mainly acts as a channel for heavy rain run-off from the higher regions of the island.

Looking upstream of the Constitution River from the Duncan O'Neale Bridge

Duncan O'Neale Bridge

Inner basin of the Careenage
Taken from the Chamberlain Bridge looking over to the Duncan O'Neale Bridge

National Heroes Square (formerly Trafalgar Square) was renamed in 1999 (April 28th) to honour our national heroes. It is home to a lovely fountain and a cenotaph. 

 The Dolphin Fountain  is depicted with three entwined dolphins spewing water into the base.
It was erected in 1865 to commemorate the introduction of piped water into the city of Bridgetown in 1861.  At that time the Water Works company agreed to supply water free of charge for the fountain's operation.

The Dolphin Fountain

The inscription reads in part "This fountain was erected by public subscription to commemorate the bringing of piped water to the city of Bridgetown on 29 March 1861."

The cenotaph is a war memorial erected in 1925 to honour all the Barbadians who fought and died in World War I and World war II.
It is a granite obelisk  with a coral stone base with the world war years 1914-1918 and 1935-1945.
On Remembrance Day (Poppy Day), a service is held here and wreaths are laid in memory of the war heroes.

An interesting fact that should be noted here is that during the colonial years many of the milestones across the island of Barbados that are marked with distances from Bridgetown are calculated from this square. 

There is also a bronze statue of Lord Horatio Nelson, a British Admiral, who visited Barbados on June 4th, 1805.
It is situated at the top of our main street, Broad Street, which runs parallel to the Careenage.
The statue sculpted by Sir Richard Westmacott, was erected on March 22nd, 1813 to commemorate the anniversary of the British Royal navy's victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

 The statue of Lord Nelson

 It is said to be an excellent likeness of the British Admiral, whose popularity left an impression on Barbadians at the time, leading them to purchase the statue and land when he died, and naming the area Trafalgar Square to pay tribute to his memory.

London, England also has a Trafalgar Square with a Lord Nelson statue as well, but ours is actually older by about 30 years.  Locals proudly believed they were the first to put up such a monument, however they were in fact the third, after Montreal and Birmingham.

The statue has been at the centre of controversy for many years, since many want to have it removed from the area.  The only change that has taken place, is that the statue was turned to change direction, so that now it looks away from our main street, Broad Street.

The plaque on the statue partly reads: “This statue in honour of the hero the inhabitants of this island erected A.D. MDCCCXII”

Our Parliament Buildings are home to the 3rd oldest continuous parliament in the British Commonwealth.

Parliament Buildings

These buildings are home to both the  House of Assembly and Senate of the island. Over 350 years old, these buildings were constructed from local limestone and completed in 1874 by a Gothic Architect.

Walking back to where I had parked, I passed St. Michael's Cathedral, the Anglican church where I was baptised and confirmed according to my faith.
It became a cathedral in 1825 after being rebuilt following the devastation of a hurricane. It is built from coral rock.
Its arched roof was at one time the widest in the world. Within its cemetery  are some magnificent headstones. Buried here is Sir Grantley Herbert Adams (only Prime Minster of the West Indies Federation), as well as his son J. M. G. M. "Tom" Adams (2nd Prime Minister of Barbados).

St. Michael's Cathedral Clock Tower

I was surprised at how run down it appeared, but noted some scaffolding on the outside, so its seems that repairs are in progress.

St. Michael's Cathedral churchyard

In the city's early history, it was the most important city of all the British territories in the New World due to its easterly location in the West Indies.  The first landfall after the trans-Atlantic crossing.

Bridgetown also had US influences as well, since it is the only city outside continental North America that George Washington ever visited.

It's hard to imagine that this vibrant city centre was originally a swamp that was dredged and filled in to accommodate the growth of the city.
Bridgetown and the historic Garrison area is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site (2011).  According to their website, it is "an outstanding example of British colonial architecture."

Yes, I still managed to complete my errands after traipsing all over the city to take these wonderful photos.


  1. Thanks for the terrific tour combined with a history lesson, Virginia.

  2. There is so much more to the history of the city, but I couldn't possibly write it all. Glad you enjoyed it. I love all your wonderful posts on your travel exploits, so I'm happy that you enjoyed the city tour.

  3. That was a great post. Thanks for taking us along on the tour with you. It's always fascinating learning about new places.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the city tour Bernie.....there is more to come.

  5. Gosh Virginia - all that in one post! I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. I was surprised that your parliament was the third oldest continuous in the Commonwealth. I started to research others out of curiosity (constitutions have always interested me)(Canada 1867, Australia 1901) and then I suddenly thought about New Zealand and we've had our parliament since 1864. New Zealand has a rather different status to other commonwealth countries. Then I tried to work out what continuous meant in terms of constitution and then I realised it was too involved to pursue.

  6. GB, I've just learned even more from your kind comment....curiosity is a good thing sometimes, especially when pursuing knowledge....thanks.
    Glad you enjoyed the city tour......there is so much more to cover, the city is steeped in history, so look out for further posts.

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