Barbados Part of Elite Group as UNESCO World Heritage Site
Celebrating historic Bridgetown and its Garrison
image courtesy of visitbarbados.org
World Heritage sites are places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity. In other words, these properties must have significance not only for the countries in which they are located, but for the world as a whole. As such, they have been inscribed on the World Heritage list to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
Barbados joined an elite group of nations with World Heritage properties when Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list on June 25, 2011. This inscription is a tremendous feat for a small Caribbean island state. It presented the opportunity to address the obvious geographical imbalance in sites from Latin American and the Caribbean. UNESCO’s commitment to the identification, protection, and preservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage is enshrined in the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972).
Since European settlement almost 400 years ago, Bridgetown became a major port for the shipment of goods, including sugar, and enslaved people in the British Atlantic World. Bridgetown’s irregular settlement patterns and early 17th century street layout reflects the medieval influence of early English settlers on town planning. Its spontaneous development and serpentine street layout supported the development and transformation of creolized forms of tropical architecture built by African labor in a European style. Barbados was the first port of call for ships making the trans-Atlantic crossing. The island’s geographic location created a strategic military advantage, protecting British trade interests against French, Spanish and Dutch aggression, while also projecting Britain’s imperial power in the region. The town’s fortified port spaces were linked along the Bay Street corridor from the town to the Garrison, circling Carlisle Bay. A complex system of military government evolved in Historic Bridgetown’s Garrison after 1650 and the site developed into one of the most structurally complete and functional British colonial garrisons in the Atlantic World.
Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison participated in the international trade of not only goods and people, but also in the transmission of ideas and cultures in the colonial Atlantic World. By the 17th century, trade relationships were established with England, North America, Africa and the colonial Caribbean, making the port a cosmopolitan center of commerce, settlement and exploitation.
Bridgetown today still functions as one of the island’s business and commercial hubs. Visitors will also appreciate the abundance of malls and duty free shopping available in Bridgetown, as well as the local charm the city brings. Street vendors with their colourful trays of fresh produce and goods can still be found plying their trade in certain locations across Bridgetown. The inner marina and famous Chamberlain Bridge create a safe space for fishing boats, catamarans and pleasure crafts. The east end of the boardwalk leads to Independence Square, a quiet respite in the center of the city. The square has many benches that offer beautiful waterfront views of some of Bridgetown’s most historic buildings, including the Parliament Building.