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GOLDEN GROVE AND ITS LOCATION THROUGH THE AGES Geology Measurement of time on earth is on a geologic and climatic scale. We still live in an “Ice Age”- ice exists on the North and South Poles- known as the “Quaternary” period which began c. 2.5 million years ago. Within this Ice Age there is now a warmer or “interglacial” period called the Holocene epoch (which started over 11,000 years ago and enabled the rise of human civilisation). The previous, largely colder epoch of the Quaternary is known as the “Pleistocene”, itself divided into “stages”. The Pleistocene Middle or “Ionian” stage began with the last magnetic pole reversal c. 781,000 years ago and ended with a previous interglacial period around 126,000 years ago. Barbados is formed from coral reefs and the rocky area around Golden Grove was created in the Middle Pleistocene . A team of American scientists analysed coral deposits from the “Golden Grove Terrace” in 1990, dating them as 230,000-216,000 years old (shown on the map below).



Geology (continued)

The coral analysed at Golden Grove was Acropora Palmata (or “Elkhorn” –first below, once prolific but now on the Endangered Species list) and Montastrea Cavernosa (or “Great Star”- next below, the predominant coral at 40 to 100 feet below sea level).

Whilst standing near the stage (where outcrops of coral stone are visible) it may be relevant to think how “young” the rock beneath your feet really is (in geological terms) and how short our own history- the creation of the moon from the earth is thought to be 4.5 billion years old, so that coral rock at Golden Grove aged 230,000 years is on a different scale, whilst the history of Barbados that follows below is on a much shorter span again!



Water and Food Human settlement has two basic requirements: potable water and a source of food. The area around Golden Grove has both: its current northern boundary is Three Houses stream, fed from a spring nearby. A little further north-east is a bay where fishermen still set out to sea. Archaeological discovery of Amerindian settlements in Barbados found few remains inland so that the site close by the spring of Three Houses is important. It means we know for sure that there was pre-colonial human activity in this locality, using the supplies of water and with access to fish stocks nearby. Amerindians were adept at growing crops and the flat land could also have been used for cultivation. Why the Amerindians left all of their settlements in Barbados remains a mystery- but the knowledge of Barbados from the Lokono in Guyana remained. There can be no doubt that they knew how to navigate the difficult waters of the eastern shores of Barbados and indeed the ancient name for Barbados, Ichirouganaim, may have meant “island with white teeth” or reefs. The famous Amerindian “Conch-man” is shown below. The first exhibition by the Barbados Museum at Golden Grove describes the many aspects of Amerindian life and culture. Did the first colonial explorers (the Spanish and Portuguese) also visit this side of the island? The Portuguese map of Vaz Dourado in 1575 names “Barbado” as the most easterly island of the Caribbean- Barbados’ most easterly point is now marked by a lighthouse visible from Golden Grove. Under the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 the colonial world was divided between Portugal and Spain, with a line east of Barbados cutting down through Brazil being the demarcation. Only further east of that line was Portuguese, so whilst their ships may have landed for water, they did not colonise Barbados- it could not legally become Portuguese-and Spain it appears didn’t think Barbados was worth the bother, although Christopher Columbus must have sailed close by in his 4th (and last) voyage to the Caribbean in 1502.





English Settlement

The arrival of the British in 1625 and first colonial settlement of Barbados in 1627 is well recorded. The island was deserted and this may have been an attraction. Initial settlement took place along the west coast, guided by the sea captains who first landed at Holetown under the business interests of a London merchant, William Courteen and near Bridgetown, fostered by the Earl of Carlisle. In 1627 King Charles 1st granted the Earl of Carlisle an assignment of many Caribbean islands, including Barbados, ousting the economic interest of Courteen. Captain Henry Hawley was sent back to Barbados by the Earl of Carlisle to protect his new fiefdom and in 1630 Hawley was made Governor of Barbados. Hawley did his best to monetise this opportunity by selling land to the new English colonists, arriving to make their fortune. And it is not long before the story turns to the land near Golden Grove and its access to water. Records (The Hughes/ Queree Plantation Files) in the Barbados Archives show how a Captain Francis Skeete purchased 4500 acres of land in eastern Barbados from Governor Hawley in 1638- a very large estate; how the legitimacy of this transaction (amongst others) by Governor Hawley was questioned in a commission of 1640; and how the parcel of land that is assumed to now include Three Houses, Thicketts, Wiltshire and Golden Grove plantations ( still substantial at 1,160 acres)was found to be legitimate. Whilst Skeete continued in occupation, he mortgaged 500 acres to his brother-in-law William Hilliard (son of a Merchant in Southampton) in 1643 shortly before his death. It appears that William Hilliard had already owned land in Barbados prior to the arrival of his sister and brother-in-law and likely bankrolled them. Indeed after Skeete’s death Hilliard funded his sister’s new husband and her two sons to take over Three Houses. Captain Skeete, though, had the honour of the local bay being named after him (Skeetes Bay is well worth a visit). What these records show is that Golden Grove was part of land “colonised” a mere decade after the first settlement of Barbados. These very early plantations grew a variety of crops, highlighted in a lease of Three Houses which has an inventory attached in 1658 (shown below). The plantation is described as including sugar canes, indigo and cotton. The inventory includes 5 men & 5 women negroes, 5 cowes (sic) and 1 bull. The condescension to humanity is that each negro is named (but not the cattle!). At the end of the lease the Negroes and Cattle had to be delivered back to the Lessor- or an equivalent number given any fatalities.



English Settlement (continued)

“Inventory” at Three Houses




The Hughes/ Queree plantation files also show when Golden Grove became an independent plantation. “Ince” is shown as owner from 1674- another Captain- and his relations owned a house and a plantation here of 136 acres till 1721. By 1674 sugar had become the overwhelming cash crop throughout Barbados with plantations of a similar size to Golden Grove (or even larger). The triangular trade- guns and trinkets to Africa, slaves to Barbados, sugar to England- had taken over with hugely profitable results for many landowners who consolidated their interests in larger plantations. The “ten-acre” or smaller settlers largely disappeared. Daily existence for the planters must have included a comfortable “family life”. Mary Ince was recorded as marrying Robert Hackett in 1702 and they must have occupied Golden Grove as the plantation became known as “Hacketts”. The “widow Hackett” sold the plantation to Henry Evans who in his will of 1743 passed “Hacketts” to his nephew Henry Walker. Despite Walker’s marriage to Ann Clarke (and a mention in the marriage settlement of 1777) the house was sold to Elliot Grasset in 1785, a man who seems unrelated. The first 100 years of Golden Grove as a separate entity was probably trying at times for the owners, with recorded hurricanes, other climate challenges and sugar price fluctuations resulting in financial pressures, but overall it must have been a success- for the owner and his family. For the slaves it was a different- and largely unrecorded story. A slave song from the 1770s, annotated by William Sharp, the abolitionist, from conversations with a secretary to the Governor of Barbados, includes an “optimistic” line “Massa buy me, he no kill me”. Slaves had no rights and were totally subject to the whims of their masters. Another line is also chilling: “For I live with a bad man, for I would go to the riverside regular”. The “riverside” (where slaves were sold like cattle) demonstrates the huge uncertainty of slave life. An annotation By William Sharp is shown below.



Sugar (continued)




Elliot Grasset, whose wealth from Golden Grove allowed sending his son to Eton, was apparently borne illegitimate but from a family that had owned Grazettes plantation in St Michael . “Grazette represented a new elite group, earning a place by dint of knowledge and hard work, rather than by inheritance over several generations (Bobby Morris: The 1816 Uprising- A Hell-broth”). Hacketts got a new name : “Golden Grove”- a popular name it seems in the Caribbean where most islands have a plantation with this title. No doubt it was golden, for a time, for the Grazette familyboth Elliot Grazette and his son William were members of the Barbados House of Parliament for St Philip, at a time when such honours were reserved for the wealthy. But they also endured the largest uprising Barbados has ever had- and very directly. The slave revolt of 1816 is popularly known as the “Bussa revolt” after one of its leaders, who was a “senior” slave at Baileys Plantation, which borders Golden Grove. The insurgents were slaves and some coloured free men, with limited weapons and a desire to overthrow a tyrannical regime. Bobby Morris’ article shows how life at Baileys (and Wiltshires, both next to Golden Grove) had become particularly gruesome for its slaves under a notorious manager. At Golden Grove, the Grazettes may have been more “moderate” but when the insurgents fled there, pursued by English and local troops (the “Bourbon Blacks”) many were killed- as a Private Letter from a soldier stationed at St Ann’s Fort testifies (fragments of the Letter are shown below). The remainder of the insurgents were rounded up, to be tried later, and hanged or imprisoned. What really drove the insurgents? The Private Letter mentions an “extraordinary emblematic flag” which they carried. An article by Karl Watson provides some clues as indeed does the attached copy of the flag taken from the British Library including the words “Royal Endeavour”. Did the insurgents believe they had a legitimate claim authorised by the British (and that the local planters were simply denying a freedom granted by the British government)? If so the words in the Private letter quoting the events at Golden Grove are poignant: “The insurgents did not think that our (Bourbon Blacks) men would fight against black men, but thank God they were deceived”. It must have been a double disappointment for the rebels- British soldiers attacked the insurgents and included within the ranks of the British were local black soldiers. Some accounts describe the insurgents as being initially confused as they thought the black soldiers were on their side! We will not truly know the motivations of the losers- the only records are from the winners, including a letter from the head of the army, Colonel Codd. He describes a driving force for the rebellion being the way the Registry Bill was misquoted by mischievous parties to indicate emancipation was desired by the British parliament; how the slaves had not been mistreated, but rather believed the island belonged to them rather than white men (whom they would destroy, reserving the females!). In fact hardly any whites were killed, although there was much damage to property. And so whilst the first reason rings true, the second half does not accord with ample opportunity for murder by the rebelling slaves.



Rebellion (continued)

The Extraordinary Emblematic Flag



Rebellion (continued)

Private Letter Decribing Events on the 16th


HISTORY OF GOLDEN GROVE Rebellion (continued) “with an extraordinary emblematic flag. They were pursued to the house of Mr Grasset” (Golden Grove)



Rebellion (continued)

“the conduct of the Bourbon Blacks.. has been the admiration of everybody”



Change and Chancery

In the end, it was indeed the British government which outlawed slavery (but only after intense domestic religious and moral pressure in England). In Barbados in the 1830s an intermediate stage of “apprenticeship” briefly kept former slaves locked to the plantation- and after a devastating hurricane of 1831 the rebuilding no doubt benefitted from such free labour. It is thought the hurricane affected Golden Grove, large parts of which today must date from that time. The Grazette family owned Golden Grove until 1854, selling for £10,000. Perhaps their luck had run out, as 13 years later the property was sold again for £16,500 (with the same 287 acres). The second half of the 19th century saw two registrations in the debtor-ridden Chancery Court for Golden Grove, indicating problems for the estate as ownership again changed hands. Plantations were often heavily mortgaged and the fall in sugar prices in this period took a heavy toll. Three Houses also had two Chancery Court references in these days of cholera and hardship.

(below: a Photo of Golden Grove of uncertain date)



Resilience and Reunion

An interesting chapter for Golden Grove began in 1905 with its purchase by Howard Smith and Mr S. Browne, the latter appearing the principal financier. Howard Smith was a white planter who, against his class and colour, married a coloured woman, Eveline. It is said that many ostracised him but this did not seem to hinder his progress in a period when sugar prices took a turn for the better. Howard and Eveline had a daughter, Florence, who was born at Golden Grove in 1908. She was the most influential woman politician of her day in Barbados. In 1958 she was elected to the West Indies Federal Parliament, as the only woman from Barbados, defeating Errol Barrow. Previously she had been elected to the Vestry of St Philip and the Legislative Council, in both cases as only the second woman in a long parliamentary history. Florence spent a life of voluntary service dedicated to the women and children of Barbados, with numerous achievements that were rewarded with an OBE in 1957. She married a New Zealand naval captain, Commander Daysh in 1947 after war duties with the Red Cross. Her life was part of the “upper class” of plantation owners but she was incredibly popular. In her maiden speech to Parliament she declared: “I am a woman of colour, and proud of it.” Florence grew up later at Thicketts, purchased by her father in 1918. At times he managed Golden Grove, Thicketts, Three Houses and Fortescue, in a syndicate with Brown that also owned Three Houses factory which then had a loading facility to the functional Bridgetown: Bathsheba railway. The size of these various estates was similar to the original “valid” interests purchased by Captain Skeete and is described in the sale to a syndicate in a paper of 1920 as “the biggest plantation sale yet”. Hence the success of both father and daughter could not be questioned. Neither could their families’ spirit of resilience. Florence was described an “indomitable”. Her mother Eveline is commemorated in the Eveline Smith wing of the St Philip District Hospital, again another charitable venture. Care for the community was perhaps their greatest legacy.



Resilience and Reunion (continued)

Florence Daysh at Election Time



The End of Plantation Life (at Golden Grove)

Messrs Brown and the syndicate funding Three Houses et al must have considered Golden Grove surplus to their requirements as it was sold in 1921 for £16,000. The last chapter in Golden Grove’s history as a plantation began. Herbert and then his son Geoffrey Manning were the last of the planters here, still remembered by older residents with some affection. They ran a plantation when St Philip was still full of sugar cane for about 50 years, including the hardship period of the 1930s. Geoffrey Manning was known as a keen sportsman- he was one of the founders of the Barbados Rally Club in 1957. By 1970 the economic viability of sugar at Golden Grove was finally in doubt. This was also the year that the sugar factory at Three Houses closed. The land at Golden Grove was apportioned to create smaller farming interests and the house became a home for another keen sportsman and polo player; later it passed to a newer resident to the island, a successful entrepreneur in the up-coming dominant industry of tourism and hospitality. And it is in this world that Golden Grove fits today. Of course its history remains- and itself can be a new lease of life to attract visitors and so successfully maintain the house and gardens. As part of this, the Barbados Museum will be showing a series of exhibitions at Golden Grove with reference to the particular history here. The first showing commences, naturally, with an emphasis on the original settlers who inhabited close by, the “Amerindians”. The Museum itself is located some way west along the South coast with a range of exhibits and an extensive library, a great start for any day dedicated to understanding Barbados and open daily. Should you venture here to the south-east, please view our website to choose a day when Golden Grove has an Open House. We would recommend combining a visit here with the local bays and viewpoints, as a charming addition to a day of sightseeing- with swimming left for another time and less treacherous waters!


Golden Grove History