A Traditional Chattel House, Barbados Pocket Guide

Chattel Houses

Chattel houses provide us with a typical example of what Barbados is about as they carry a wealth of history. No matter where you travel to on the island, you are guaranteed to find one.


Despite the institution of the Located Labourers Act of 1840 which granted freed slaves permission to live on the perimeters of lands owned by plantation owners, these freed slaves were still very much at the owner's mercy as they could easily be evicted at short notice. With that in mind, they had to construct dwellings that could be easily moved from one place to another. Hence the origins of the chattel house which were all built to the same specifications so as to enable easy disassembly and reassembly.


Despite the very simple look associated with these chattel houses that were built by the restrictive funds of freed slaves, Barbados was still very much home to some of the more sophisticated chattel houses that featured some of the best ornate fretwork, Jalousie windows and carved wooden bannisters. Some even featured open verandahs with wooden trellises carved to the owner's specific needs.


Modern chattel houses throughout Barbados have changed quite a bit as they are a lot more colourful as opposed to years gone by when brown and biege were predominantly used. Nevertheless, these houses will always be seen as an integral piece of our history.


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