Why Barbados is Called “Little England”

Why Barbados is Called “Little England”

Barbados was settled by the British in the early-1600s; it achieved independence in the mid-1960s. The island was never governed by another country and remains, in many ways, quite British.

In what ways? I’m glad you asked.

Jane Shattuck Greg Hoyos Barbados

Greg and me (right) with our British friends Annie and David in West Sussex two weeks ago.

–  Barbados’ judicial system is British

–  Barbados’ (excellent) school system is British

–  More Bajans are Anglican than Catholic

– Bajans are reserved in demeanor (I’m not reserved but then I’m an American expat. Whether I will some day, by living here, become reserved remains to be seen.)

–  Barbadians drive on the left side of the road (I do my best to follow suit)

–  Like the English, Bajans insert that silly “u” into words such as neighbour, parlour, and harbour. My husband refers to this as “the Queen’s English.” Grumble-grumble, it’s actually just a waste of a letter. Also, Bajans pronounce the word “scone” not with a long “o” but with a short one, as though there’s no “e” at the end of the word … ouch, hurts my ears!

– The grocery stores in Barbados sell Waitrose

Another similarity: Polo (as well as cricket) is a beloved sport

Another similarity: Polo (as well as cricket) is a beloved sport

– Names of both people and places in Barbados are British: Christ Church, Hastings, Worthing, Braithwaite, Fontabelle, Holborn, Clapham, Kensington, and so on

– The Barbados accent is faintly reminiscent of a British accent; either one, spoken quickly, is intelligible only to their fellow countrymen

– The Brits adore visiting Barbados and when I visit England I’m amazed how well even less-sophisticated travelers seems to know Barbados: shop-girls who’ve never left their villages have asked me if I’ve seen Prince Harry or William here or ask what Sandy Lane is like.

– Above all else, it’s the scenery that, to me, is the most startling similarity between the two countries. When I’m out driving in the countryside (usually on the left side of the road), I am struck by similarities of narrow roads and countryside.  Of course, a photo can’t capture temperature and that is markedly different. However, even with the chill, I adore the lush beauty of England’s countryside, the Brits’ wonderful sense of humor (um, humour), and the very fine friends Greg and I have there.

Green and lush, like England. This is outside of Bathsheba on Barbados' east coast.

Green and lush, like England. I took this photo outside of Bathsheba overlooking the east coast; that's the Atlantic Ocean. Minus the sea and palm trees, this could be England.

The environs of the charming 16th-century Griffin Inn in West Sussex, England.

The green and lush environs of the charming 16th-century Griffin Inn in West Sussex, England. (Brits were kicking back pints at Griffin Inn 100 years before they got in a boat and discovered the paradise of "Little England.")

The massive coral that is the island of Barbados

The massive coral that is the island of Barbados

A bit of Leeds Castle, West Sussex, England

The massive stonework that built Leeds Castle in Kent, England

The St George Valley, northern Barbados' St George and St Thomas parishes

The verdant St George Valley in northern Barbados' St George and St Thomas parishes

View from Leeds Castle, Kent, England

View of a verdant valley from Leeds Castle, Kent, England

39 Responses to “Why Barbados is Called “Little England””

  1. stephen says:

    A great comparison. However, those necessary ‘u’ letters were around long before a certain country corrupted the English language! Also, football, the world’s main sport, is played by more people in Barbados than cricket now and is watched on television by a large slice of the population, the same as in England (not many follow polo in England!) The English use the ‘e’ on scone. The majority of English enjoy their Royal Family relationship (despite what the media try to say) LOL This conversation could go on forever… especially when you consider the boot and bonnet of the car, roundabouts… we must talk it through one Brighton (not the English one) Farmer’s market day. It’s near Windsor in St George!

  2. Stephen, good morning. Thanks for this. Yes, I know the Brits have an “e” on the end of “scone” … I note that they do …. my complaint (mind you, given the state of the world, a small complaint indeed in all the complaints) … they insist on calling the food a “scon,” as though it has no “e.” Aaarrrggghhh, blimey!

    You’re so right about the English loving their royal family (I refuse to capitalize – um, capitalise – the “r” and the “f”). Bajans do, too. When describing Barbados’ relationship to England, Greg always ends by saying, with some pride, “So … the Queen of England is our queen ….”

    I know Barbados Brighton farmers market well … I’m taking a ten-week photography course on Saturday mornings right now and so have to miss the farmers market for the time being. I don’t know what you look like; if you see me there mid-April and beyond, say howdy!

  3. Greg says:

    Brilliant post! We’ll teach these colonist Yanks how to spell one day!

  4. There are very many things in Barbados that do make it little Britain 🙂 Thanks for the fun read.

    There’s even a Mayfield in Barbados – my family lived in Mayfield, Kent before moving to the Caribbean.

    One area that’s not so British is the beer – served ice cold here thank goodness:) And having said that, I hear Banks has a nice British sounding Ale out now.

  5. Meg says:

    Don’t know if other places on the island feature this quaint British tradition, but the Barbados Yacht Club serves afternoon tea.

    I love your photos!

  6. Kyle says:

    Barbados: This Earth, This Realm, This Little England


  7. edie says:

    Jane even in Canada we have the same problem with the word scone.
    Some say it like the word bone and some say it like the word gone.
    I guess both are correct. I love making scones and of course eating them. In fact this afternoon I will be having a coffee with a raspberry scone. Like gone. Cheers Edie

  8. Finola, hi. I don’t know about the new ale … I’ll check it out. Sounds interesting.

    I visited your beautiful jewelry on Etsy .. I didn’t know you showed on Etsy, one of my favorite sites on the net! That heart-within-a-heart necklace is something extra special …. oooh and ahhhh!! Lovely, just lovely, jewelry in the spirit of the Caribbean. For those you haven’t yet seen, please visit Finola’s work here.

  9. Ahhh, yes, Meg … thanks for this wonderful contribution. You’re right! The Yacht Club does serve afternoon tea. So does The Crane. Both offer amazing sea views, too, views any Brit would give a scone (no matter how it’s pronounced) to see!

  10. Thank you, Kyle, for this in-depth visit into Barbados’ history. This was a fun read from Conde Nast Traveler and a wonderful contribution to my blog. Thank you.

  11. Edie, hello, lovely to hear from you. I’m surprised to hear a sensible Canadian pronounces scone to rhyme with “gone.” I’m definitely a “bone” girl myself, married to a (frustrating) “gone” guy.

    Well, as long as we stick with “gone” or “bone” … pray we don’t hear a “done” rhymer out there!

    Enjoy yours! xx

  12. Who was it who corrected me on the founding of Barbados by the British? I am unable to locate the comment but thank you for it, whoever was the eagle eye who spotted my gaffe. You are so right .. the date was 1605, as noted on a plaque in Holetown where the first settlers, um, settled, having sailed into this beautiful land on a ship called the Olive Blossom.

    Again, thank you. I depend upon all of you to keep me honest!

  13. Lili Jones says:

    Learned so much from your blog about the comparison of Barbados and England. The photos were all great, especially the stonework which really looks like a place somewhere in England. They way they say the words, should have been how our english be, since the language originated there.- vacation rentals mazatlan

  14. Just read your comment on my comment Jane 🙂 Thank you for visiting the Etsy store and for your kind compliments…I haven’t had much luck with Etsy because of the restrictions on receiving money via Paypal – but I think it’s still worth it as a place to show my work. Hopefully soon I’ll be in more places in Barbados too:)

    I also have a fan page on Facebook and will soon start an Etsy shop with the very talented Alcina Nolley from St. Lucia (where Paypal will be accepted 🙂

    Thanks again for the ‘props’!

  15. jules says:

    I need your help! During the current term I study the British Influence in the Caribbean (predominantly Barbados) with special focus on education (educational system and curriculum). I also consider the after-effects of British colonialism. For that matter I would appreciate if you could answer some questions on that topic.

    I apologize if there are any problems in understanding my English. As I learned it as a foreign language, it might not always be correct.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Here are the questions:
    1. What parallels can be recognized between education in UK and education in Barbados? Please consider the educational system as well as graduation possibilities.

    2. What effect did British colonialism have on today’s curriculum in former British colonies in the Caribbean? You may also give examples.
    I read the book “Patterns of Foreign Influence in the Caribbean” by Emmanuel de Kadt, 1960, University of the West Indies. There is a chapter called “The ex-colonial society in Jamaica”. This is an extract: “In our schools we were brought up on English literature, English history, English geography, and mathematical quizzes about the times trains took to travel from London to Glasgow”. How far can patterns of curriculum like these be recognized even today?

    4. What would you call “typically English” in your personal life and why? This question does not only refer to education, but also to sports, culture, language, architecture, etc.?

    5. How would you assess the relationship between the UK and Barbados today?

    6. Is there anything you would find important to consider about this topic in addition?

  16. All good questions, my dear, and no need to apologize for your English, which is as perfect as your plea for help with your homework. You might consult academicians at the University of the West Indies. They will be more qualified than an interloper like me, more passionate about than educated, about the influence of the British educational system on Barbados. Good luck.

  17. I think Turkey must be the new ‘little england’. I recently went on holiday there and there were more brits than anyone else.

  18. […] the history of Barbados and the similarities and differences it shares with Britain in 2017, give the Planet Barbados Blog: Why Barbados is Called ‘Little England’ a […]

  19. Melanie says:

    Barbados is referred to as, “Little England”, because it was the most successfully colonized island of the West Indies. This is mainly because of the geography of the land. Due to the fact that Barbados is generally flat, slaves had no mountains to take refuge as in the cases with Haiti and Jamaica.

    Furthermore, it would have been difficult to survive off the land as there were few natural fresh water sources, even fewer species of wild animals.

    If a slave escaped there would have been hunted down by dogs and pistol. If found the result would have been death or torture.

    African P.O.W (slaves) and Irish indentured servants were forced into a life of slavery as punishment.

    The Africans that were human trafficked to Barbados spoke several different languages. However, they were denied the right to speak in their mother tongues so as to prohibit them from revolting. Many Africans learnt to communicate in English from their close environment with the Irish slaves. Hence, why the Barbadian accent has some strong Irish elements.

    All these factors led to Barbados being a successfully colonized territory by the British. As it was never colonised by any other European nation as was the case with Jamaica etc.

    The African and Irish slaves conformed in order to survive the horrors & genocide of slavery. Even though the Irish counterparts were treated more favourably due to the implementation of the system of colourism.

    However,there were many revolts and riots which led to attaining independence from British rule.

  20. Fascinating, if sad, history, Melanie. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with me. I really appreciate hearing from you.

    Best regards,

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