Race a significant aspect of property ownership in Barbados

Their fields, their hills?

by Manjack

Dear Editors,

Thank you for reminding me of the article you carried October/2010 with regard to the theft of Graeme Hall and the Scotland District National Parks. I may very well have missed it or forgotten . Kismardin was kind enough to remind one of the BTI Coastal Master Plan that appears to have gone the way of so many other ill thought out propositions from the political clowns who masquerade as MP’s and government in the House of Varieties in Bridgetown.

You disagreed with my raising of race in the context of environmental/heritage/ancestral destruction that has visited Barbados in the past years. (Ed: article here) I raise race not in any not in any abstract or salacious manner for effect but because it is an integral and significant aspect when we speak of land and property ownership in Barbados.

The four century legacy of slavery/colonialism and post colonialism is imprinted and embedded deep into the soil of my island home. In the wake of such we have to the present a small white elite (increasingly in collaboration with foreign interests) that owns and controls the majority of of land, business, finance and industry and subsequently wields enormous power out of all relation to its size.

To deny this and not recognise that white and brown skins are still major currency in Barbados is to delude oneself and to do a disservice to those who seek to understand the rottenness and putridity of race, power, shadism and class in this post colonial statelet.

I would be the last to disavow or would wish to do so the role that white Bajans (some adopted) who have made and are making tremendous and valued contribution to the betterment of Barbados and its society.

May I cite a few. Of course the extraordinary T.T. Lewis a white Bajan man who cleaved not to his ethnicity but fought for and represented black working class Bajans. Mrs. Florence Daysh Federal MP, Richard Goddard farmer, environmentalist and warrior on behalf of our heritage the ‘whiteish’ Karl Watson (his description not mine) and of course our resident tourism expert.

There are of others. But please lets not be blinkered to a reality that slaps us across the face. Land and big property is owned and sold overwhelmingly by white interests, individually and corporately in Barbados. I do not deny that blacks too are engaged in selling of their little bits of choice lands for their thirty pieces of silver. Greed is not colour-blind as any fool knows.

Only recently the historian Trevour Marshall raised the issue of the scam of work permits, a situation that has been operational for years seemingly with looking askance and a connivance of the Immigration Department. Almond Beach Hotels not withstanding the overwhelming majority of these businesses are white owned. They are concentrated in the lucrative hotel and property management sector. So what one is trying to say in this discourse is that money, ownership of land, property and power is intimately connected to race in a place like Barbados. It is a cauldron that we would wish to deny at our peril.

We need not be the Bajan green monkey with hands over our ears because the message we are hearing is not one that we care to. It does not and will not go away

PS. It appears that there may be some celebration to be had as a victory at Warrens Roundabout maybe in the offing. The silk cotton and baobab trees may be saved. A huge thanks to be said to the young Brent Parris, Ms. Onway St. John, Karl Watson (as ever) and the Future Centre Trust.

Pity one’s enjoyment of this moment was spoilt by the idiotic and sexist claptrap uttered by one Dr. Nigel Jones comparing the silk cotton tree to an ‘old woman who has all her senses’, and the lickspittle duo of Mia Mottley and Cynthia Forde self publicising themselves.


Editor’s Note

Thanks for that Manjack. While I certainly understand the issue of hereditary fiefdoms and historical land and business ownership which is what we’re really talking about when it comes to race and land ownership in Barbados, I want to focus for the moment on one thing you just said:

“I do not deny that blacks too are engaged in selling of their little bits of choice lands for their thirty pieces of silver. Greed is not colour-blind as any fool knows.”

Manjack, as I see it, it’s not just “little bits of choice lands” that is being sold by Bajan blacks – and whites, Indians and Chinese. The ultimate control of private land in Barbados is not in the hands of the persons or companies that own the land. The control resides with the government and Prime Minister of the day who have the power and authority to approve changes to land usage.

Without permissions, Barbados land is worthless. With permissions, scrub land turns into gold. This ability to create wealth out of scrub land rests only with the government.

For four generations Bajan governments and individual politicians have used this power of land use permissions to create wealth out of land to subsidize and boost the economy – and often to pad the government officials’ offshore bank accounts too. It is a lazy way of wealth creation and because the land is finite it gets more difficult every year. For that reason the government of Barbados reneged on its pledge to set aside land for national parks at Scotland and Graeme Hall.

Instead of green space and parks, the land will be turned into money – some of which will be used to pay down government loans for Cricket World Cup and other follies, while much of the money will simply evaporate as it does ’bout hey. In the end we will have no National Parks, no public lands and no money.

But that is being done by our elected governments and politicians who are part of a larger elite group.

I still believe that the reasons why public land is being sold has nothing to do with race. I believe that the elite cartel that controls this is comprised of many races and skin colours. Black government, White business, Indian business, Black business and elites of every race and skin colour have a piece of the action.

But again, that’s my opinion and all of us appreciate and respect your position.

When I, Cliverton, think about the historical impacts of race, slavery and racism upon black Bajans, I think more about cultural and social damage and the historical inability of blacks to penetrate and join the controlling group of business and government elites.

Can we really say that black Bajans still have an inability to join the group of business and government elites that know how to create wealth and possess the connections and the authority to do it?

In my opinion, what used to primarily be an issue of race is morphing into an issue of class and elites. The black elites love to keep the issue of race front and center, because if they lose that the people will start to look more closely at the cartels that really control this little piece of rock.


Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Human Rights, Real Estate, Slavery

7 responses to “Race a significant aspect of property ownership in Barbados

  1. John

    Did you know that leading up to and after the end of slavery that large plantations were left by their owners to their offspring with slaves?

    Here are just a few examples of large tracts of prime agricultural land finding their way into the hands of descendants of slaves.

    Henry Peter Simmons whose grave can be seen in the new development at Vaucluse, (understand it was relocated to the roundabout and thereby hangs a tale) left that plantation to his two sons by a slave on that plantation who died when their sons were young, perhaps during the birth of their second.

    Funny thing is that the same Henry Peter Simmons wrote strong letters against the emancipation of slaves at the time of emancipation and did not manumit his own sons until they were in their teens.

    I won’t quote their summary available in Handler as they are likely to stir emotions but they are worth looking at.

    He still however left his property in 1841 to his sons, Harry and John Alleyne Simmons. Harry died and his share to his brother between 1841 and 1847.

    Likewise Dunscombe nearby was owned by the Ellis family, coloured.

    The Ridge and Rycrofts Plantation came to John Fitzjohn Best, born in 1805, a son of John Rycroft Best who is credited with quelling the 1816 slave revolt.

    John Fitzjohn was of mixed race.

    Perhaps race is not the determinant in large land ownership but family.

    Perhaps to overturn ownership is to overturn family and the race talk is the vehicle being used.

    Think about it!!

    Perhaps it explains alot of the ills in our society.

  2. John

    John Rycroft Best was also the head of the legislative Council, one of the head honchos in Barbados at the time, second probably only to the Governer.

    His father, Gunning Best also left his offspring with “a woman of colour” well provided for.

  3. John

    I maybe confusing Dunscombe with Lion Castle. If I am, apologies. I am relying on memory!! Either way, same thing.

  4. John

    You may find that a factor other than race or family is at play here.

  5. Kismardin

    @ Manjack

    On a point of carity, I do not believe the BTI Tourism Investment Coastal Master Plan if implemented as advertised/intended would be a waste of time. Quite the contrary, I think that a harmonious plan for development along the Southern coast of Barbados prevent so of the ill-conceived and approved developement which as taken place on the West coast, which are Barbadian and tourist alike have complained about.

    My point was simply, why advertise should a policy objective and nothing comes of it. Why put private sector to work and expense in the expectation of a legitimate and worthwhile undertaking, if the GOB does not have the seriousness to follow through and have the benefits acrue to all of Barbados.

  6. Paul Grimwood

    Henry Peter Simmons also owned land in Ancaster, Upper Canada, in what is now Ontario. This land was also left to his two sons, but, as you say, only John Alleyne Simmons lived. He married – in England – to Caroline Gresham, of Chicksands Lodge, Bedfordshire.

    I apologise for the length of the following excerpt, whiah I wrote for an Ancaster History abotu ten years ago, but it might be of itnerest.

    Paul Grimwood


    Another large section of this lot and 2/45 – a total of 70½ acres – was sold by George Rousseau and Joseph B. Rousseau to Matthew Crooks in 1820. There is no indication of how they came to own it. Horatio Gates and James Leslie, trustees for William Crooks, sold the land in 1833 to Henry Peter Simmons, one of Ancaster’s most important early citizens. Simmons is the subject of part of a chapter by Alma Dick Lauder in Wentworth Landmarks: …Early in the thirties an English gentleman of the name of Symonds, who had made a considerable fortune in the West Indies, happened, strangely enough, to settle for a time at Ancaster, where he became the possessor of a very beautiful estate, about 500 acres in all … Though [the house is] empty now … a glance at the silent rooms with their high ceilings, goodly proportions and well-sized windows reveals undeniably the fact that the old place was designed and built by a gentleman, for gentlefolk to live in – and here, sui juris, the West Indian gentleman and his wife and sons, and his friend Dr. Rolph, who had a house close by, spent several years in lavish style, with all the heart could desire, including blood horses in the stable, and a black Pompey in the house, brought from the West Indian home, until the time came that their act on the Ancastrian stage being finished, they passed into the wings, and the house changed hands, although its decadence did not begin for many years after… It is a credit to her that, fifty years after the Simmons left Ancaster, her facts about their lives here were correct. Her single error was in stating that Simmons had a wife for his family in Ancaster, for this was not the case.

    Henry Peter Simmons (1776-1843) was born in Barbados, son of Henry Peter Simmons (d. 1779) and his cousin Anne Kirton. The Simmons family had lived in Barbados for at least three generations, and the Kirtons since the late 17th century. It is easy to document Simmons’ arrival in Ancaster, thanks to his friend, Doctor Thomas Rolph, who, although he mentioned no names, described his first meeting with Simmons in England in 1832, at the Annual Meeting of the Maldon Whig Club, in Essex. Simmons is described as an intelligent and liberal West Indian Planter. Rolph was invited to visit Barbados, and they left Gravesend in the brig Retrench on November 17, 1832, arriving at Carlisle Bay, Barbados, on January 14, 1833. Simmons’ plantation, Vaucluse, which he had purchased in 1816, was six miles from Bridgetown. He owned 600 acres, 300 negroes, and Rolph spent a good deal of time listing their various occupations. The crop was sugar cane, worked by 75 field hands. Their were 80 negro houses, each with ½ acre of land. When the plantation was bought, the 192 slaves were valued between £100 and £130 each, with a total value of £14,798. The total value of the plantation was £36,000.

    It would be interesting to know why Rolph and Simmons came to Ancaster, but the reason is not mentioned. Perhaps it had a connection with Britain outlawing slavery about this time. In any case, they arrived, and Simmons bought a vast quantity of land around the village. Dr. Rolph announced his arrival: Dr. Rolph, Member of the College of Surgeons and Honourary Member of the Medical Society of London has commenced practicing the three branches of his profession at Ancaster, where he will be met with, whenever his services may be required. August 13, 1833. Simmons’ house, the subject of Alma Dick Lauder’s article, was situated on the hill behind the present 412 Wilson Street. The 1842 Census lists the Simmons holdings as 854 acres, with 254 improved.

    Simmons is credited with the establishment of the site for a school in the village, and also for the beginnings of a library:
    A Meeting of the inhabitants of Ancaster and its vicinity is requested on Monday Evening, October 5th, at 7 o’clock, at the tavern of Mr. Rousseau, to take into consideration the best method to be adopted in consequence of a gift of H.P. Simmons, Esq. of two village lots for the erection of a school-house and a Reading Room for the reception of 250 volumes of the most approved works in literature and in history, the gift of the same gentleman to the village of Ancaster forever. P.S. Mr. Simmons having laid out a New Street through the village of Ancaster has several village Lots to dispose of on application to him at Ancaster. [September 29, 1835]

    The street laid out was Academy Street, and a number of small lots were sold. The first purchasers were William Wiard, Henry Peter Simmons Crooks, Doctor Thomas Rolph, Bucklin Alderman, John Ware, William Kemp, William Spold, Jacob Gabel, James Henry, Eli Erwin, Richard Tucker, Gabriel Gurnett, and Preserved Cooley.

    Rolph mentions small details of life in the village: … in my garden a large poplar tree, that must be nearly fifty years growth, planted by the first settlers … a brick school-house and library is in process of erection. A number of respectable families from Great Britain have settled in this vicinity during these last years, forming an excellent society. H.P. Simmons brought from England last year some of the Dishley breed of sheep … also…the thin rhined Norfolk hog. He also mentions a cricket club at Ancaster.

    Simmons still maintained his estates in Barbados, and died there in February 1843. His will provides fascinating details that are not mentioned in Canadian sources, particularly in the matter of his family. He had a natural and reputed coloured daughter Mary Ann Baber the wife of James Baber Esquire of Leelands in England to whom he left fifty pounds per annum. He had a friend Isabella Young the wife of Edward Young of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent in England who was now resident at my Plantation called Vaucluse in the Island of Barbados. He left Mrs Young the use of his wines, linen, furniture, china, glass, plate, garden and orchard, carriage and horses as long as she wished. He also left her £400 per annum. The rest of his estate was left to his two natural and reputed coloured sons Harry Simmons and John Alleyne Simmons, who are both registered as being baptized in the Parish of Saint Thomas on the 5th of March one thousand eight hundred and twenty and are the sons of a Woman on my plantation Vaucluse named MOLLY HARRY (now deceased).

    John Alleyne Simmons sold the Ancaster lands to James Russell in 1848, but the Simmons may have left Ancaster by this time. They did live in Barbados, however, and John Alleyne Simmons and his wife Caroline Gresham had a daughter, Caroline Marie Simmons, christened there in 1857. There is another surviving child, Henry Ellis Gresham Simmons, mentioned in Simmons’ will, as well as Frances Alleyne Simmons, a deceased child. J.A. Simmons’ will provides another family connection, as it mentions Frances Rolph, the wife of Thomas Rolph, a daughter of Robert Gresham of Chicksands Lodge, Bedfordshire. Gresham served as an executor of the will, and Caroline Simmons, née Gresham, is mentioned as living there. Perhaps there was a connection between the Rolph, Simmons and Gresham families of long-standing. In any case John Alleyne Simmons died in Saint Leonards on the Sea, Sussex, May 31, 1860.


    Cliverton said:

    “In my opinion, what used to primarily be an issue of race is morphing into an issue of class and elites. The black elites love to keep the issue of race front and center, because if they lose that the people will start to look more closely at the cartels that really control this little piece of rock.”

    Never truer words spoken IMHO.