Sunday, 8 June 2014

St. Mary's Anglican Church

One day last week, I was in the city taking care of some business.
The first thing I do on entering the city environs is drive around to see if I can locate a free park in a legal spot on the street.  If none are available I park in the multi-story parking garage and pay a fee of Bds$1.50 (US$0.75cents) per hour.
That day I was in luck and found a lovely shaded spot outside St.Mary's Church wall where I could park without worrying about being ticketed by the police.
Taking a shortcut through the churchyard to the lower end of the city, I made a mental note to take a few photos when I was finished my business on my way back.

St. Mary's Anglican Church
St. Mary's Anglican Church is located at the lower end of Broad Street in the city.
It is a beautiful church steeped in a remarkable history, and is situated on the site of the first city church in the parish of St. Michael.
The original church (St. Michael's Cathedral) was originally a small wooden structure when it was built in 1641 during the reign of King Charles I, however by 1665 it was deemed inadequate to accommodate the congreants of the city.
However, before the planned relocation, the hurricane of 1780 struck the island and destroyed the church.
The consecrated lot sat vacant and derelict for over forty years and the locals began to call the spot the "Old Churchyard."

 During this time, the land was used by persons of colour and slaves as a burial ground, as well as a place of assembly on public occassions.
In the Barbados Gazette of October 31, 1733, we read that "There was celebrated George II birthday. There was an ox roasted in the Old Churchyard in Bridgetown which vast crowds of people went from all parts to see and where the King and Royal family with many other loyal toasts were drunk."

Today St. Michael's Cathedral (the new parish church) is now the Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels is situated at the upper end of the city.
On the 23rd September 1825, the Government of Barbados made a decision to rebuild a church on the site left vacant by the church of St. Michael, therefore the legislature passed an act which provided a grant of five thousand pounds to facilitate the construction of the new church.
Two years later on July 27th 1827 St. Mary's Church was consecrated by the then resident Bishop of Barbados, Bishop William Hart Coleridge.
This gave it the distinction of being sited on the second oldest piece of consecrated ground in Barbados, after the oldest church St. James Parish Church where the first settlers landed back in 1627.
St. Mary's Church is now a "Chapel of Ease."
Today St. Mary's Church is one of the best maintained churches on the island. 

The welcome sign that greets visitors to the church.
 Erected thanks to donations from the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. (BTI).

Fine Georgian, neo-classically inspired exterior design.
The Tower Clock
Located at the top of the west porch, the clock was donated by Cave Shepherd & Co Ltd (at a cost of Bds$50,000) on the company's 100th anniversary (2007) and also commemorated the 180th anniversary of the dedication of the church.

The 4 ft 6 inch clock is a Roman Skeleton Dial piece, designed and built by Smith of Derby Limited.  The same manufacturers of the clocks on the Parliament Buildings and the Main Guard Clock Tower.

The jalousied south porch

The West Porch
The official entrance to the church is the largest of the three porches.
The winding stairway on the right leads to the bell tower and the clock tower.

Let's take a peek inside, shall we?

The Baptismal Font
Donated by the family of John Montefiore, a wealthy city merchant ten years after his death in 1854.

The Baptismal Font is made of Caen Stone interspersed with shafts of Pyraneum marble with a conventional wave encompassing the lower part of the bowl.
Adorned with bulrushes and six compartments with busts depicting Faith, St.John, Hope, Isaiah, Charity and St. Stephen.
The inscription reads: Stand Fast in the Faith.....Hope to the end......Have fervent Charity.

Also take note of the beautiful center aisle floor tiles leading from the Baptismal Font to the altar.  They were made by the English firm of MAW & Co and are part of their geometric and mosaic encaustic tile collection of 1890.

Spectacular barrel-vaulted ceiling

The Chancel with the Altar
Erected in 1894 at a cost of 930 pounds its style depicts the familiar Old English design.

The Organ Chamber in the Chancel

The elaborately carved wooden pulpit.
A gift to the church from Mr. & Mrs. G.H. Alleyne in memory of their daughter Kate who died in 1883. 
Beautifully carved from Barbados mahogany wood, it was installed in 1886.

The inscriptions reads:  "How amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of Hosts."
" For the word of the Lord is right and all his works are done in truth."
"From G.H. and E.S. Alleyne for the Glory of God and in loving memory of our daughter Kate Arthur."

The Lectern
Donated to the church in 1883 by the family of Mr.& Mrs. G.H. Alleyne.

In the Naves on the northern, southern, and western walls are 14 Stations of the Cross beautifully carved in stone.

There are also some Memorial tablets of the Regency period (early 1800s).
The huge pipe organ on the upper floor.
This Rogers organ was installed in 1993.
St. Mary's has always been known for its high standard of church music which started in the 1890's when the first organ recital was held in 1894 under the ministry of Father Clarke-Hunt.
This took me by surprise - a prayer candle station tucked away in a corner - a practice mostly associated with the Catholic church.
The church's Roll of Honour of all who gave their lives in World War I (1914-1918)
There are more names listed here than on the Cenotaph.

Holy Water Fonts are mostly used by the birds and I can see why.
Let's take a tour of the churchyard is just over two acres.
Grave of Ernest Deighton Mottley
"The City Father"
Mayor of Bridgetown

In a sheltered shady corner lies the grave of one of our National Heroes.
 Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod's grave.
 The first coloured member of The House of Assembly and founder of the "Liberal Newspaper."

Well maintained grounds

Several old trees adorn the churchyard.

One tree missing is the impressively beautiful silk cotton tree known as "The Justice Tree" which was destroyed by stormy weather a couple of years ago.
Traditionally back in the days of yore, the tree was used for public hangings conducted in the city.
Allegedly, Sir William Tufton, one of the first Governors of the island was shot in 1650 under the tree after being arrested and sentenced to death on fabricated charges by his successor Captain Henry Hawley.

All that remains of the tree is a small descent in the earth and a tiny remnant of the root system.

An interesting report on the silk cotton tree here.

The Barclay family vault
In my research, I found that other notables like Rachel Pringle Polygreen and Susannah Ostrehan, two free coloured women who were Bridgetown entrepreneurs are also buried in the churchyard but I could not find their graves.
I also read that after the church was rebuilt the prominently featured stained glass window was removed and no one seems to know where it disappeared to.

The friendly Sexton on his way back inside the church after entertaining my many questions.

The Church Office is situated in a separate building in the churchyard.

On a subsequent visit to the church, I met two lovely lady members who are part of a church committee. They are available to answer any queries during the visiting hours of 10am-2pm when many tourists frequent the church.
While wandering around gathering more information for this post, I heard the most beautiful choral music in the background, and I assumed it was the choir rehearsing. When questioned, the ladies  informed me that it was indeed the choir, but it was a cd that the choir had produced that was being played.

Sing Praise to God cd by St. Mary's Church Choir.

This historic church full of intrigue is definitely worth a visit.

Here is the website.


  1. Well iof I were to be in Barbados I'd surely be paying it a visit. That was a most enjoyable excursion through the church and the various web sites that you led me to. Thank you.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
      I will be posting lots of interesting places that I will be revisiting just for my blog family, so look out.


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