July 21, 2017

Barbados Sightseeing - St. Nicholas Abbey

St. Nicholas Abbey is the second to last remaining authentic house of the 17th Century that exists anywhere in the "New World". When this residence was built around 1650 of brick and limestone, many of the structures in the North America were made of timber, and have long since perished.

The residence was built only 23 years after Barbados' settlement by the British in 1627, so it is of significant historical value to the island and as such its preservation and continuing access to the public and, display as a heritage tourism site is fundamental to the overall marketing and business plan.

Distinguishing features of this magnificent, well-preserved mansion are: curved Dutch gables, chimney stacks and coral stone finials, a Chinese Chippendale staircase and fine antiques and china. A rare 1930s film of sugar plantation life can also be viewed.

St. Nicholas Abbey is not without its tale of tragedy. . . The house appears to have been built by Colonel Benjamin Berringer. His neighbor, friend, and business partner was John (later Sir John) Yeamans. When Yeamans began to pay attention to Mrs. Berringer, a feud erupted between Yeamans and Colonel Berringer, culminating in a duel in which Berringer was killed. Soon afterwards, Sir John married Mrs. Berringer and claimed the Abbey. A court ruling later returned the property to Berringer's children and the property was named after Berringer's grand-daughter who married George Nicholas.

Meanwhile, Sir John and Berringer's widow left Barbados in 1669 and helped found the colony that is South Carolina, USA, with Sir John eventually becoming Governor of that settlement in 1672. When he died two years later, his widow married again... for the third time!

The tour of the ground floor explains some unusual furniture such as a 1930s reading chair, perhaps a forerunner to the modern lazy boy lounger. Of note is a fine collection of mahogany furniture, some with cane seats in the local style to keep the sitter cool. A few of the pieces have been in the house since 1810. Many fine porcelain and glass pieces, plus stunning fresh flower arrangements raise the house above the ordinary.

The house is still in the hands of a family which has owned it for generations and the current owner still greets guests. At the end of the tour, guests are shown a holiday film the owner's father shot in the 1930's. It shows the sea voyage to Barbados from England, being rowed ashore at Bridgetown and life on the plantation around St. Nicholas Abbey.

The pretty gardens are well kept. The rustic ruins of the farm buildings and old windmill adjacent to the house offer a certain charm.

Admission: $15.00 USD for Adults, $10.00 USD for Children
Hours: Sunday – Friday 10:00am - 3:30pm

St Nicholas Abbey
Northern Hills, St Andrew
Tel: (246) 422-8725
heritagetourism@stnicholasabbey.com