Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


Article Index

THINGS THAT MATTER: World Heritage recognition

Henry S Fraser

(Today’s is the fifth column in the series Paradise lost? and the first column in the series Paradise regained)

Heritage: something inherited from the past (Wikipedia)

Heritage: property inherited; valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions passed down from previous generations (Oxford dictionary)

Bajans have become much more sensitive to the value of our history, heroes, historic buildings and historic events in recent times. The second definition of Heritage above, from the Oxford dictionary, with my emphasis on the word value, expresses this sense of recognition of the value of heritage, because until recently much of our history was unknown, untold and therefore unrecognised and unappreciated. Much of the new awareness is due to the teaching of West Indian and Barbadian history, much to the excellent efforts of CBC-TV, especially the splendid programmes presented by Sherwood McCaskie, and much to the recognition of our ten national heroes, from Bussa to Sir Garfield Sobers, and the events associated with them. Recognition of our two greatest martyrs after Bussa – Clennell Wickham and T.T.Lewis - would bring into even sharper focus the history of pre-Independence and the fantastic strides we’ve made from a-shilling-a-day-wage to the affluence of today.

And on June the 25th, just 8 days ago, the important role of Barbados in the history of the Caribbean and the Americas, British colonisation, the European theatre of war in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the sugar industry, was recognised by the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a World Heritage site.

The World Heritage Committee has inscribed Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison along with 25 other new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The sites vary widely – from the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany to the ancient Japanese town of Hiraizumi: the temples, gardens and archaeological sites representing the Buddhist Pure Land; from Leon Cathedral in Nicaragua to the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Columbia.

The announcement last Sunday summarised the importance of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison in the following words:

“Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison is an outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Great Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire.

The property also includes a nearby military garrison which consists of numerous historic buildings. With its serpentine urban lay-out the property testifies to a different approach to colonial town-planning compared to the Spanish and Dutch colonial cities of the region which were built along a grid plan.”

Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy made the point, in a speech launching the Barbados Slave Route Project, that heritage tourism is one of the areas the country is looking to get more involved in. As he said: “The days of someone coming to Barbados and simply leaving with a tan earned from being on the sand and having had a dip in the sea to feel good – those days are over.”

The economic value of World Heritage sites is impressive, with many of the nearly 1,000 sites recording visitor increases of up to ten-fold. As Ralf Buckley, Director of the International Centre for Ecotourism Research at Griffith University in Australia writes:

“World Heritage and other international listing tells tourists that a site exists and is worth visiting. In the nature and cultural tourism market it is the top brand, a guarantee of superior quality ... Tour companies and tourist accommodation with access to World

Heritage areas commonly advertise that fact in their marketing material; and tourism developers and entrepreneurs preferentially pursue opportunities in and around World Heritage areas. World Heritage designation may therefore increase the number of tourists who know about a site, the number who want to visit it and the amount each will pay to do so.”

But even more important from our national perspective is the pride we will have in being the caretakers, on behalf of the whole world. With this in mind, Barbados has also advanced the tentative nomination of our unique Scotland District and our Industrial Heritage (sugar industry) as World Heritage sites. The God-given beauty of the Scotland District and the historical legacy, work and skills of our ancestors – slaves, indentured and free – is important to the world and to us. Hence my emphasis on the value – economic through heritage tourism and personal through our recognition of its value – both the blood, sweat and tears and the beautiful built relics of ages past. Because as Minister Sealy and others keep saying, we are far more than sun, sea and sand ... and with the iconic branding of a World Heritage site, we can tell the world that.

As Chairman of the Task Force for the World Heritage nomination I would like to give credit and thanks to the members – Alissandra Cummins, George Brown, Paul Collymore, Steve Devonish, Kevin Farmer, Billy Gollop, Selma Thompson and Dr. Karl Watson; the researchers Peter Stevens, Dr. Tara Inniss and Dr. Pedro Welch, who wrote most of the nomination document (which is such a splendid book I hope to see it now published); the Ministry of Culture officers, PS Shirley Farnum, Deputy PS Celia Toppin, Donna Greene and Kimberley Alleyne; and Ministers Steve Blackett and Stephen Lashley for their strong support.

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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