St. Nicholas Abbey


The MIL is visiting, so I am (desperately)  searching for things that I can see and do with her.  The beach had filled a lot of days during the week, but a car this weekend allowed us to get around the island and see some sights.

We had been advised by lots of people to see St. Nicholas Abbey, it is listed on all the tourist websites, so on Sunday, we finally made the drive.

It was built in 1658, and is one of only three Jacobean houses in the Western hemisphere, the others are Drax Hall (also in Barbados) and Bacon’s castle in Virginia.

SNA (as I am now calling it), is one of the islands oldest surviving plantations. The plantation is over 400 acres of sugar cane, and has a huge number of mahogany trees. When we were there, I was talking to an employee about the trees, he had recently cut up 200 dead ones, sawed them into planks that were stacked in one of the barns.

The plantation has nothing to do with a church but the name comes from owners who combined ‘Nicholas Plantation’ (the original name), ‘St. Nicholas Parish’ (where the brides family lived) and ‘Bath Abbey’ (where they were married). I love to read how other people came up with their house names, reminds me of how we came up with Kilbourne Grove.

This is such a beautiful house, very airy and bright. The Drawing room’s cedar panelling was added in 1898 to protect the house from dampness and is oiled once a week (I shall have to step up my wood oiling at Kilbourne Grove), yikes! 

There were a number of Sailors’ Valentines around the room, popular souvenirs from the 1860’s. Amazing how much time they would take, no internet, tv etc. to distract you from glueing all these tiny little shells together.

I need one of these! It looks so snuggly.

In the Study, the Gentleman’s chair has adjustable tables, a book holder, reading lamp, back and foot rests. All I need is a little bell to call Ian when I need a drink, lol.

Look at this beautiful staircase.

 It is chippendale and has a different pattern on each flight,  love it.

The upstairs is not open to the public, this is where the owners live, so we headed outside to see the gardens.

The tree just outside in the stable yard is over 400 years old.

It is a Sandbox Tree, (Hura crepitans) which is indigenous to the caribbean, and it is huge, I couldn’t fit it all in my photo.

On the other side of the courtyard, the old stables had been turned into a museum, gift shop, and cafe. As you entered you received a rum punch, delicious, (I was tempted to walk back and forth several times, lol). 

They also have a small distillery where they produce rum in small quantities. I was surprised to find out it is similar to making maple syrup, boiling down the juice from the cane, until it is thicker.  They used to do it with a series of kettles, but now have a bit more modern system.

10 tonnes of cane=3000 litres of cane juice=60 hours of fermentation=20 hours of distillation=260 litres of ethyl alcohol=2 barrels of rum for aging=700 bottles of rum after 10 years! Suddenly I appreciate that rum a lot more.

 There were lots of lovely gardens everywhere, and tons of orchids. I saw some unusual growing methods for them, from tying them to a stake,

 to this metal cage,

and of course growing in trees.

And lots of great containers, from concrete that had moss and tiny ferns growing on it,

 to old metal kettles.

It is fascinating to see how rum was made and what one family has accomplished in bringing this plantation into the 21st century.


36 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    gardeningasylum said,

    What a neat place! I love the stair railing and the beautiful turquoise color above the well-oiled wood work – glad you were also able to see interesting plants and containers – love that mossy concrete with the ferns.

  2. 3

    Valerie said,

    What a lovely lush place to visit. I had to laugh at the Sandbox tree. Who would have thought.

  3. 5

    Kelly said,

    Wow, so someone still lives in the home? Are they descendants of the original owners? I saw on the BBC this is the form many British country houses are taking to bring in an income and keep them from falling into disrepair…public gardens, distillery, etc. Fascinating!

    • 6

      No, the house was bought a few years ago, someone told me $17 million, don’t know if that is accurate or not. I think that you have to do this kind of thing now, upkeep and taxes are killer.

  4. 7

    Diane said,

    Seriously….you are a fantastic photography and I love to read your posts – you could be a great journalist or you should write a book!

  5. 9

    Diane said,

    Just stunning….you could make anyone want to visit anything! xo

  6. 11

    Thank you so much for the tour through the Abbey. I love architecture in and out, so I has so happy to find it here. The containers for plants were unique and so nicely designed. There are so many different things, like The Sandbox tree with the huge birdcage hanging from it. I hope you are enjoying it here, it looks like you still have so much to discover.

  7. 13

    Dear Deborah – such an enjoyable post especially as rum is my drink. Your interior images are truly beautiful and did enjoy the botanic gardens, especially the unique container. Hope you are feeling more settled and enjoying family time

  8. 15

    Laurrie said,

    So good to hear from you. I love following your sightseeing in Barbados, and I love your sense of wonder and discovery on your tours! I’m craving a rum punch right now….

  9. 17

    Sandra Jonas said,

    Glad to hear you are enjoying Barbados. What’s not to like! Did you ask what they use to oil the wood panels?

  10. 19

    Marguerite said,

    Those sailor’s valentines are beautiful. I like the boxes they are in as well. I was amazed not just as the design but the thought of having to collect all those tiny seashells, each the perfect size, shape and colour.

  11. 21

    debsgarden said,

    Wow! Beautiful place. I like those sailor valentines! The rum distillery looks like a fancified, much glorified version of the homemade stills folks in my neck of the woods once used to make illegal whiskey!

  12. 23

    lifeshighway said,

    I can not pick on which lovely thing to comment about… the sailors valentines (divine), the panels (rich), the stairwell (beautiful) or the absolutely stunning scenery. Thank you for the lovely tour on such a cold and windy day.

  13. 25

    Melissa said,

    Another vote for the sailors’ valentines!! I’d love to have one – wonder if you could frame it and hang it on the wall? I’m happy to hear you are enjoying your time in Barbados although I know you miss Kilbourne Grove.

  14. 27

    Liisa said,

    What a beautiful place, Deborah. I love the vibrant reds against the soft blue walls. And, that cedar paneling is gorgeous. I would love to see all of the orchids growing in their natural habitat. I hope you are having a wonderful time.

  15. 29

    oh how i love that snug chair..would love one of those…

  16. 31

    Wendy said,

    What a beautiful place! I really love that shell art. I may try one of those projects one day.

    That chair reminds me of my daughter’s carseat! All it’s missing is a juice cup on the side.

  17. 33

    Barbara said,

    Hi Deborah, when I saw the title of your post I first thought you must have been transplanted to England, but of course it’s a place where people transplanted *from* England lived and created home. Just lovely. The sailors’ valentines reminded me of other intricate handiwork that our ancestors produced before TV and Internet. Are you enjoying yourself in Barbados? I hope Kilbourne Grove is doing well, too.

  18. 35

    Such a beautiful post! I don’t even know what to comment on. The 400 year old tree really strikes my fancy thouhg. I know exactly what you mean by ‘desperately’ lol.

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