Slave Houses in Barbados Part 1

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Origin and Construction of slave houses in Barbados by Matthew Cornibert




This research project is about the origins of slave huts and how they were constructed. Slave houses were made from materials such as stone and wood. Mainly wattle and daub houses with thatched roofs were built in Barbados. Slaves constructed and repaired their own houses. From an interview with Mr. Trevor Marshall to discuss the location of slave huts in Barbados he gave his views on the construction.


Housing for slaves in Barbados became a necessity from the commencement in slavery times. Slaves were brought into Barbados to work on the sugar plantations. They had to construct and repair their own houses known as “slave huts”. The most popular slave houses that were built in Barbados are the wattle and daub houses with a thatched roof.  Later, stone houses were constructed but also used thatched roofs. Slaves worked hard on plantations, giving their all and taking everything they masters give them. 


From early in Barbadian plantation history, slave settlements were placed very close to the plantation yard and almost universally within ready sight of the mansion house itself. Wherever you see a slave hut, there is or was a plantation nearby. Most of the slave huts that are standing today can be found in the parish of St. Lucy on the road to River Bay.

                                               Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a stone hut with a thatched roof. The walls were made with stones. The slave roof covered with outside leaves. The roof can be made with a variety of leaves.


Roof thatching in Barbados was made from plantain leaves (especially in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries), palm leaves or branches and what was the most common type, the leaves or trash of the sugar cane. Huts like this needed constant maintenance and frequent replacement. Later, stone and wooden houses may have had wooden frames and shutters similar to those in working class houses in the twentieth century. 

In the mid-seventeenth century thatching was on Barbadian planters’ houses along with the high class and poor whites.


                                        Figure 2

Shows plantain trees as the leaves were used for the thatched method. Plantain leaves were used for the roof because there are large, strong, waterproof, flexible and also decorative.
         Figure 3

This illustration shows different stages of the palm leaf. These leaves were used for the making of the roof of slave huts in Barbados. 




 Continue reading Part 2 for more information.    


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