The History of Barbados’ Most Famous Buccaneer
by Rachael Lewis
This research paper has been written on Samuel Hall Lord, who was a famous buccaneer known throughout Barbados for being a very creative pirate. He would lure ships near his beach by setting up lights to look like the Bridgetown port. When the ships ran aground on the reef he would steal their treasures and keep them for himself. This paper follows his family history, events in his life, where and how he lived and died. Samuel, also known as ‘Sam Lord,’ led a very interesting life and many people still have questions about him and what he did. He is very much a part of Barbadian history and I felt it suitable to write about this famous pirate of the Caribbean who lived in Barbados and who has left his mark on the island's history1.
Samuel Hall Lord was a famous buccaneer known on the island of Barbados. He was a very wealthy man who lived in a castle-mansion in the parish of St. Philip that was built in 1820. It all began back in 1778 when John Lord and Bathsheba Hall sergeant welcomed him into the world. Samuel had two brothers and three sisters. When his parents died in the early 1800’s, Samuel and one of his brothers inherited everything their parents owned which included their slaves (most of which were Barbadians and a few of them Africans) and the Long Bay and pool plantations. Samuel, along with one of his brothers, lived on the 72-acre plot in the plantation house that their parents had left behind. However, it was replaced shortly after their deaths, also in the early 1800’s, with a Georgian style mansion/castle which Samuel re- named ‘Sam Lord’s Castle’.
Sam Lord married an English woman named Lucy Wightwick, against her family’s wishes and they sailed from England back to Barbados in 1809. They had three daughters named Oceanus, Emma Lucy and Cecelia. Oceanus died when she was two years old and the two other daughters were born a year and seven months apart. Emma Lucy was born on 22nd of April, 1811 and Cecelia was born on the 17th of November, 1812. It is said that he often kept his wife locked in the basement while he enjoyed the fine treasures and art that he stole (Butler, 1991), however, it is said that she eventually escaped home to England by bribing the slave jailer with jewels. Samuel also had children with one of the maids at the estate; together they had two boys - Edward Samuel Lord and William Lord. Edward married a woman named Elizabeth Armour and moved to St. Lucia where they raised their four children2.
In 1831 ‘The Great Hurricane’ struck the island of Barbados. This Category 4 hurricane partially destroyed the castle and it took until 1834 to finish rebuilding it. Samuel Lord was known as one of the most unusual and creative pirates within the Caribbean, because rather than facing the seas like most pirates, he found a very unique way of making his profits by conquering pirate ships from on land.
Legend has it that Sam Lord hung lanterns in the coconut trees on the beach near his castle to attract ships. The confused captains, thinking that the lanterns were for the lights of Bridgetown, would wreck their ships on the reef when trying to dock. He would then board the ships and keep the cargo and riches for his castle. However, there is great speculation as to whether Sam Lord actually committed these crimes. He is accused of causing shipwrecks that occurred on their own. The confusion exists because some records show that at the time when some of the shipwrecks occurred Sam was not even on the island (Bladen). Before May in 1875, when the lighthouse at Ragged Point was built, wrecks on Cobblers Reef were frequent. Even when the lighthouse was built the ships continued to run aground. In calm weather the crew would usually be able to get ashore, but when the seas were rough from bad weather the ships would be forced into the rocks and reef and then into the shallow water near Long Bay. Documentation of wrecks, gathered by Captain Wish R.N, show when Sam Lord was on the island and could be accused of the wrecks, as well as when he was not there and therefore was innocent of the accusation of the wrecks which occurred. These documents record about 20 years of ship wrecks. From the 1820’s to the 1834’s there were 5 wrecks and from 1835 to 1841 there were 16 wrecks.
In 1826 the Shipley, a Military Transport was lost with many lives.
Between that date and 1832 an unnamed vessel was wrecked.
In 1833 the Barque Wanderer was wrecked.
On 10th December 1834 the Brig. Regina was lost.On 17th December 1834 the Seven Brothers was wrecked.
For these five wrecks, Sam Lord has been said to have been away for three of those years, which was from 1824 to 1827, therefore he could not have been seen as responsible for the ship wreck in 1826 . In the 1833 ship wreck, Sam had entertained the Captain of the Barque Wanderer for a few weeks and so there really could be no connection to him leading that Captain astray and making him crash into the reef and rocks. Sam was also away on a trip to England from 1834 to the beginning of 1839 and so would have not been involved in the two wrecks in December of 1834.This leaves only the unnamed vessel that wrecked between 1827 and 1832 that Sam Lord could have caused. From the years 1835 to 1841 a total of 16 ship- wrecks were recorded near Long Bay. Documents also show that Sam Lord was in England from 1835 to 1839 when he travelled back to Barbados. Among those 16 wrecks recorded only the names of two were noted.
June 28th, 1840. The Brig. Susan Crane was lost on Cobblers Reef. (At this point Sam was barely back on the island.)
July 13th, 1840. The Barque Esmeralda sank. (Sam had been entertaining the Trollopes at a wedding party for his niece, Frances. He therefore could not have been chasing after wrecked ships along the coast as he would have been too busy and not want to expose his criminal side of how he accumulated his riches, in their presence).
It is said by some that these treasures were stored in a network of tunnels and in the dungeon located under the beach and the castle, however this tunnel has never been located’ (Loop Barbados, 2013).
At the age of 67 in 1884, after constantly being at odds with the law, Sam left for England and on November 5th later that year Sam Lord died. He was buried in the catacombs of the Kensal green cemetery. After his death, the Trollope’s inherited Sam Lord’s Castle through his niece Frances, who had married into the Trollope family3. Frances however, gave up her rights to her Uncle Sam’s estates during his lifetime in order to get a £1,000 payment every year, which in the end she had never received. Her marriage terms became more of a lawsuit after Sam’s death, which then turned into Trollope’s gaining possession of his estate’s after his death because they had purchased Sam’s outstanding interests from mortgages in 1847.
Through the years after his death, the estate had many different owners. At first it was rented out for the summer, just like any other ‘Beach house’ in Barbados. In 1940, a man named George Stewart who was an English insurance magnate bought the property and spent almost £1 million to restore the castle with chandeliers, plaster work ceilings, gilt framed regency mirrors and furniture. Thirty-two years after, Marriot took over the estate in 1972, and the Castle was then transformed into a beautiful hotel where visitors from around the world would come to stay while vacationing in Barbados. The hotel even had some of Sam Lord’s original antique pieces on display for viewing. However, after ending up with large amounts of debt, the property was bought and sold several times over. In 2006, an auction was held to sell many of the antique furnishings in the castle and then these owners hoped to transform the beautiful historic landmark into a hotel again, but three years went by and in 2009, Sam Lord’s Castle was still crumbling with nothing being done to help save the buildings and its environs. A year later on October 20th 2010, the castle was destroyed by a fire and the grounds were finally closed to the public.
More than a century has passed since Sam Lord’s death, but the legends told about his exploits and life still seem to thrill the Barbadian children. The Merry men have kept this legend alive through their folk song on Sam Lord, as the castle and its notions of piracy still continues to be a source of intrigue to our visitors.
Sam Lord is my ancestor. An uncle of mine traced our family tree back a few years ago and found out that Samuel was somehow related to my family.
Edward and Elizabeth’s oldest child named Fredrick Nugent went on to marry a women named Annie Lawrence and have 14 children, to whom six of them died when they were infants.
Captain Trollope, who worked in the military, is the man who had bought the tomb in the Catacombs in England for Sam Lord.
Butler, R. (1991, Novermber 24th ). Barbados Rich in Pirate History. Retrieved from SunSentinel.
Loop Barbados. (2013, January 30th ). A beautiful Mess: Sam Lord's Castle. Retrieved from loop Barbados.
Books & Articles
‘Genealogies of Barbados Families’ - James C. Brandew
‘Adventure Guide to Barbados’ – By Lynne Sullivan
Sun sentinel Article, ‘Barbados Rich in Pirate History’ – Ron Butler (November 24th,1991)
Ancestry Roots, ‘In Defense of Sam Lord’ – Ernest Wiltshire (April 25th,2001)
Barbados Beaches, ‘Samuel Lord and his castle’ -BMHS
Blog called “Loop Barbados”, ‘A Beautiful Mess: Sam Lord’s Castle’ - Melanie & Kimberley (January 30th,2013)
I interviewed two people, a man named Mr. Alan Key and Ms. Carolyn Lewis about the tombs where Samuel was buried. I received the photos of the tombs from these person and information that was at the church in England, which I incorporated into my essay.