Chattel houses under the microscope: Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, reviewing the Barbados Chattel Houses publication with (from left) Author, Professor Henry Fraser; Managing Director of Toute Bagai Publishing, Neysha Soodeen; photographer Bob Kiss and the US Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Christopher Sandrolini.
(A. Gaskin)

This island’s Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, has lamented that too many chattel houses have been abandoned, demolished or so redesigned that "this unique architectural form is being endangered".

Speaking at the launch of the book – Barbados Chattel Houses – last Tuesday night at the Main Guard, The Garrison, Mr. Lashley said chattel houses were being replaced or "eaten" by modern edifices.

"Parallel analogies can be drawn from other aspects of our culture, where external art forms are revered and practised by artistes at the expense of our own particular brand, as evidenced, for example, in our architecture, music, pronunciation and food tastes," he opined.

Therefore, he advised that strategies must be developed to arrest and reverse such undesirable trends which negate the value of things Barbadian. "It is incumbent on us to avoid sacrificing our cultural heritage, whether tangible or intangible, to modern day development," he emphatically stated.

Mr. Lashley disclosed that his Ministry was committed to a management plan focused on the preservation of all structures of historical, cultural or heritage significance, including chattel houses and cinemas. According to him, government was ready to partner with all interested parties of repute who wanted to restore or preserve historic buildings.

"Indeed, it is a deliberate strategy and policy of this Government to ensure that our historic buildings are preserved. The move to have Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison inscribed on the prestigious World Heritage List is a critical part of this policy. Inscription is perhaps the highest level of protection for historic buildings that fall within the site because preservation is now imperative, not only for the designated site, but will be so for the two other tentative sites to be nominated. This is the clearest policy ever by a Government serious about preservation of heritage properties across the island," he observed.

The Minister noted that some Barbadians raised in the late 20th and early 21st centuries were unaware of the historical role of these houses and might consider them as antiquated, providing basic shelter for persons in the lower economic brackets.

However, he pointed out that chattel houses reflected "our long and continuing journey as a society", adding that hey symbolise our identity, resilience, vision, and social and economic mobility.

Mr. Lashley suggested that young people must, therefore, be educated about the dynamics of the designs and structure of the chattel houses, so they could find new and innovative ways to enhance them.

Barbados Chattel Houses was written by Professor Henry Fraser, while the photographs were by Bob Kiss.


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