One of Barbados’ historic buildings, the former home of one of the island’s national heroes, is no more.
Barbados TODAY understands that the abandoned Belfield Mansion, located on the premises of the Nightingale Children’s Home, was bulldozed around midday on Friday. It was the former home of National Hero Samuel Jackman Prescod.
Historian Sir Henry Fraser told Barbados TODAY he was saddened by the news, describing it as “a tragic and dramatic event”.
“Not only was the Belfield Mansion home of the Nightingale Children’s Home, an architectural and historic treasure 200 years old, but it was the home of one of our most important national heroes, the Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod – publisher of the Newspaper, first MP (Member of Parliament) of colour for the new constituency the City of Bridgetown, 170 years ago, and a leading fighter in the 19th century for democracy and the rights of the working class and the non – white population of Barbados,” said Sir Henry.
He said it was also a “generous gift” from Dr Willian Henry Nightingale, a black Barbadian dentist who lived and worked in Trinidad, and who purchased it in 1947.
“It was a gift to Barbados to serve as an orphanage – just two months before his death,” he said.
Describing the house as a magnificent, robust, fortress-like structure, a slightly more modest version of Sam Lord’s Castle, Sir Henry said most of it was essentially in sound, structural condition.
However, he said, it was deliberately not maintained or repaired over many years, abandoned and allowed to develop a leaking roof. He suggested this was evidence of a “callous disregard for its history, our National Hero the Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod, the generosity of a brilliant black Barbadian benefactor and its overall history of service to the children and people of Barbados.
“It could have been restored to serve many useful functions. It is an act of Philistinism,” said Sir Henry.
Jackman, who was born in 1806 and died in 1871, helped found the Liberal Party, and he was elected as one of two members for the City of Bridgetown in 1843, making him the first person of African descent to enter Parliament here and to sit in the House of Assembly.
One of his mandates was to improve the conditions of “free coloured people” and to fight for the liberation of slaves in Barbados.