The History of Bridgetown, Barbados

Bridgetown is one of the four towns in Barbados and is the capital of the island. It is full of the island’s history which can be seen in some of the old architecture which still makes up a big part of this town.

In 1628, Bridgetown was founded by English settlers. It was originally called Indian River Bridge, since there was a rude bridge constructed over the Careenage (Constitution River) which was thought to be built by the island’s first inhabitants – the Arawaks. The bridge was subsequently demolished and rebuilt in 1654. The area was then called the town of Saint Michael and was later renamed Bridgetown.

The area was originally not a good choice for the capital of an island, as it was on a swamp infested by mosquitoes and proved to be unhealthy, as an estimated 20,000 people died from cholera in 1654. However, due to its advantageous geographic location, it was developed into a port and became a main world port in the 17th century. After the growth of the port and the resulting wealth from the sugar and slave trade, Bridgetown became a well-known city and was known as the centre of the British Atlantic trade.

The city unfortunately experienced several fires dating from 1659 where more than 200 hundred houses were destroyed, until the last recorded major fire in 1910. During this period, Bridgetown saw more than 14 major fires which destroyed much of the city. Despite this, many of the historic buildings still stand to this day.

This city also saw many world leaders during the 19th century including Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and George Washington. Interestingly, this was the only city George Washington visited outside of continental North America.

In 1872, the Chamberlain Bridge, a manually operated swing bridge, replaced the old bridge. This bridge was named after Joseph Chamberlain who was Secretary of State for Colonies and made significant financial contributions to Barbados. Due to these contributions the bridge could be repaired and upgraded. In 2006, the manual bridge was replaced with a modern lift bridge.

Today, Bridgetown is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During a stroll through the city, you would be able to view the old British colonial architecture, the Parliament Buildings, Chamberlain Bridge, St. Michael’s Cathedral and the Jewish Synagogue, among many other historic sites.

Interested in learning more about Bridgetown and its history? Book your stay at the history-steeped Crane Resort and we would be happy to assist you with your planning.