Jacobean indicates the period of English history that coincides with the reign of James I of England (1603-1625). Similarly the Jacobean architectural style is name given to certain types of structures built within this Renaissance period. Three genuine Jacobean styled mansions remain in the Western Hemisphere. Barbados is home to two of these mansions. These are Drax Hall and St.Nicholas Abbey.
This stately edifice is testament to Barbados' colonial past. Of the three surviving Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere, Drax Hall mansion is the oldest of them all.
Drax Hall mansion is located in the middle of the parish of St. George. It is said that Drax Hall was originally owned by Colonel James Drax, but built by him and his brother, William Drax in the 1650s. Drax Hall became one of the first, if not the first, plantation to cultivate sugar cane and to introduce the windmill to crush the canes. It is said to be the earliest, biggest and wealthiest sugar plantation in Barbados.
Drax Hall is a classic, Jacobean coral-stone mansion, evidenced in its architecture of steep red gable roof, casement gable windows and the mastic wood staircase. Drax Hall is still owned, though not lived in, by the Drax family and is still a working plantation. If you are interested in Barbados' rich sugar history and its colonial past, Drax Hall is certainly a great sight-seeing stop. Though the house is not open to the public, the exterior is still worth a stop.
St. Nicholas Abbey
This mansion has been carefully preserved. Its curved Dutch gables, chimney stacks, coral stone finials and beautiful Chinese Chippendale staircase are all in pristine condition. A visit to this once-plantation is a must. One can tour the great house, explore the steam mill and rum distillery and even watch a rare 1930s film of life on a sugar plantation. Marvellously, the steam room and distillery are in full operation and used to produce St. Nicholas Abbey Rum and a variety of sugar products so you will also be able to purchase from the gift shop and enjoy.
The history of St. Nicholas Abbey is an interesting tale. Colonel Benjamin Berringer was the owner of the property and John Yeamans (later Sir John), Barringer’s friend and business partner, was his neighbour. Yeamans began to admire to Mrs. Berringer and a feud erupted. This culminated in a duel in which Berringer was killed. Soon afterwards, Sir John married Mrs. Berringer and claimed the Abbey. This was not to be, however, and the property was returned to Berringer's children in a court ruling. It was subsequently named after his grand-daughter who married George Nicholas. Meanwhile, Sir John and Berringer's widow left Barbados in 1669 and helped found the colony that is now called South Carolina, USA.