Barbados is an island in the Eastern Caribbean, less than a million years old. It was first populated by Amerindians who arrived on the island from Venezuela. The Portuguese passed by Barbados en route to Brazil and named it Los Barbados (bearded-ones), presumably after the island's fig trees, which have a beard-like appearance. The island was taken over by the Spanish in 1492, who brutally imposed slavery on the indigenous Caribs. The first English ship arrived on the island on 14 May 1625 and people with good financial backgrounds and social connections with England were allocated land. Within a few years much of the land had been deforested to make way for tobacco and cotton plantations. During the 1630s, sugar cane was introduced to the island. The production of sugar, tobacco and cotton was heavily reliant on enslaved Africans. Barbados dominated the Caribbean Sugar Industry in these early years, but many natural disasters occurred in the late 1600s, such as the locust plague of 1663, the Bridgetown fire and a major hurricane in 1667. Drought in 1668 ruined some planters and excessive rain in 1669 added to their financial problems. By 1720 Barbadians were no longer a dominant force within the sugar industry. They had been surpassed by the Leeward Islands and Jamaica.

Bayleys Plantation

Bayleys plantation is important in the history of Barbados. It was created by Joseph Bayley between 1719 and 1738 and by 1812 covered 444 acres. Together with Wiltshires, another plantation managed by the same family, they represented two of the largest plantations in the St. Philip parish, with a total slave population of 350 slaves. It was at Bayleys that Barbados' most significant slave revolt took place, on 14 April 1816. It was led by Bussa, and this was an uprising that influenced several other plantations in the region. In 1863, Bayleys was the centre of another revolt, this time by workers who were demonstrating against social issues such as poverty and police presence. Today, the plantation's 'Great House' is still standing and has become the residence and recording studio of international musician Eddy Grant. This is a close up of a Newton Plantation ledger with listings of Births and Deaths of its enslaved Africans.

Bayleys Plantation


Bussa was taken from Africa and enslaved on Bayleys plantation in the late 18th century. On 16 April 1816 he led the longest revolt in Barbados against white plantation owners. At the time Bussa was head-ranger at Bayleys. The revolt was not spontaneous. It was well planned and organised as an attempt to influence the general abolitionist politics of the time. Bussa commanded some 400 freedom fighters against troops of the First West India Regiment, but he was killed in battle. His troops continued the fight until they were defeated by fire power, but it is reported that many went into battle shouting the name of Bussa. For this reason the rebellion has been known to generations of Barbadians as Bussa's Rebellion. In 1985, a full 169 years later, the Emancipation Statue was unveiled in Barbados. It is the work of Barbados' best known sculptor Karl Broodhagen. Many Barbadians identified it with Bussa, in honour of the famous warrior who led the fight in the remarkable 1816 revolt. In the folk memory and consciousness of Barbadians, Bussa still lives.


In 1838 the system of apprenticeship was abolished. Over 70,000 Barbadians of African descent took to the streets singing the Barbadian folk song:

"Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin (Queen Victoria).
De Queen come from England to set we free
Now Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin

These words are written on the side of Bussa's Emancipation Statue.

Bussa's Emancipation Statue.

Slavery was abolished in British colonies in 1834. It was followed by a 4-year apprenticeship period, a system very much like slavery where free men continued to work a 45-hour week without pay. In exchange plantation owners provided tiny huts for them to live in.

The Cage Back to top
Originally the Cage was a place of temporary confinement for minor offences such as too much rum, fighting or gambling. A later Act of 1688, decreed that runaway slaves, when recaptured, were to be detained there. The Barbados Mercury and the Bridgetown Gazette, two local newspapers, carried many adverts for the return of runaways, offering rewards for their recapture. The Cage was equipped with a pillory and whipping post, instruments for torturing and punishing the inmates. The Cage was abolished in 1838 with the end of the Apprenticeship system. This site reminds us that enslaved Africans were not only confined and punished on the plantations, but also within physical structures such as the Cage.
Sarah Ann Gill Back to top

Sarah Ann Gill was probably born in 1770 - 1771. Methodism had been 'introduced' in Barbados in 1788 by Dr Thomas Coke. By 1793, Methodists were often viewed by the Barbadian upper classes as anti-slavery agitators and Methodist missionaries were regarded as agents of the England-based Anti-Slavery Society. Because of this, planters and merchants led an all out attack on the missionaries and some were forcibly removed from the island and their chapels destroyed. With their departure, Sarah Ann Gill virtually became the leader and pastor of the church. She faced powerful enemies, among the planter and merchant establishment, as well as in the established church. The battle that she was involved in, provided fuel in the hands of the abolitionists in Britain, and helped in the final push for immediate emancipation. Her courage, perseverance and commitment undoubtedly ensured a standard by which Barbadian society has been greatly uplifted and enriched and turned her into a national heroine. The Gill Memorial Church at Eagle Hall is named after Sarah Ann. This large, wooden structure built in 1893, was replaced by a new Gill Memorial Church built at Black Rock in St. Michael in the late 1980s.

Sarah Ann Gill