June 26, 2014

1118 BARBADOS - A traditional chattel house

In 1625 Barbados was claimed by England, and the first settlement in the island was founded in 1627 by Henry Powell, who arrived with 80 settlers and 10 slaves (kidnapped or runaway English or Irish youth). In 1640 was introduced the sugarcane from Dutch Brazil, and this completely transformed the society and the economy, Barbados becoming one of the world's biggest sugar industries (in 1660 it generated more trade than all the other English colonies combined). As the cost of white labour rose in England, more slaves were imported from West Africa, so if in the mid 1600's there was over 5600 black African slaves on island, by early 1800's figure reached 385,000, in the 1700's Barbados being one of the leaders in the slave trade from the European colonies.

In this period, the home owners would buy houses designed to move from one property to another, and so appeared the small moveable wooden houses named chattel houses ("chattel" means movable property). These houses are set on blocks or a groundsill rather than being anchored into the ground. In addition, they are built entirely out of wood and assembled without nails, so that they can be disassembled (along with the blocks) and moved from place to place. This system was necessary because home "owners" typically didn't own the land that their house was set on. Instead, their employer often owned the land. In case of a landlord tenant (or employer/employee) dispute, the house could be quickly moved to a new property.

Timbers were in pre-cut in standard lengths of 12 to 20 feet. The front façades tend to be symmetrical, with the door in centre flanked by a window equally spaced on each side. As the financial situation changed additions would be made. The roofs were often made of corrugated metal made of iron. A single unit was the first-step and consisted of two rooms within. By nickname, these were often called a "one-roof house". Next, a shed may be added onto the back. The second roof added, was often called the "shed roof". Creating what was commonly called a "one-roof house and shed". Further-yet another roof was often later added on to the home, transforming it into a "two-roof house and shed". In some cases a "three-roof house" might even be developed with a final shed at the back for use as a kitchen.

About the stamp

The stamp, depicting a guava, is part of the series Barbados Local Fruits, consisting of 16 stamps and issued on February 07, 2011.

Barbados - Wikipedia
The History of Slavery in Barbados - Fun Barbados
Chattel house - Wikipedia

Sender: Monika
sent from Bridgetown (Barbados), on 23.05.2014
photo: Mike Toy


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Sorry, I didn't want to delete your message, Monikucha, I wanted to answer you, but I click on the wrong key. :( The postcard is from you?