Barbados, Day Four.
April 17, 2016
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Today was more local and less busy than the other days. I spent much of it in Bridgetown looking (and largely not finding) certain older buildings. Washington’s Barbados diary does not offer much to show where he was, and even though the town’s street plan is more or less the same, there has been considerable replacement of older buildings. One nice exception what is locally known as the Gedney Clarke house on his Belle Plantation just outside of town. With some help I was able to locate the home and even wander around inside of it. Clarke was a member of the Governor’s Council and a prominent merchant planter on the island. He also was the brother of Deborah Clarke, William Fairfax’s second wife and mistress of Belvoir during Washington’s visits there. This connection made Clarke the Washington brothers’ main contacts on the island. On arriving they were welcomed by Major Clarke–Toner’s transcription of the GW Diary identifies him as Somers Clarke, but there is good reason to think that it was actually Gedney Clarke. As a side note here, we can all be thankful that the Washington Papers at UVa are right now in the process of re-transcribing and annotating a new edition of the Barbados Diary. It will prove invaluable and correct many of Toner’s foibles.
The Washington brothers dined at Clarke’s home several times despite the fact that someone in the family had small pox. On one of these visits GW caught the illness and by Nov 17th 1751 he recorded in his diary that he “was strongly attacked with the small pox.” He lay in bed for close to a month attended by local physicians and visited by local friends. It is not clear just which of the Clarke homes the Washingtons visited, but this Clarke home is a contender.
A quick look about showed it be what may be an 18c core with extensive later additions off the back. The stairway was clearly 19c but could easily have replaced an earlier one. Whatever the date, it’s clear that the home had undergone extensive renovation and had things like door hinges and fittings replaced. Nevertheless, it was an impressive place and though derelict, in pretty good condition in most important respects.
After poking around I wanted get a good look at the GW House cellar. So headed back and Martin escorted me below stairs. One thing I had not thought about was that these cellars had to be carved out of the island stone. The GW House has carved wall and bricks-in-course to fill the gap up to the framing members.
Carved stone in the GW House cellar with whitewashed bricks visible on the left above the stone.
I spent part of the afternoon back in Bridgetown and eventually wended my way back to the synagogue to get a few more gravestone pictures. The less maintained yard has a large number of stone fragments just scattered around. A few have a word or two—most do not. It is clear that the whole are though is filled with graves, mostly unmarked now. I gathered up a bunch of the little stone orphans and arranged the to form the word “Chai” (life) in Hebrew. Now there is something more intentional than a scatter sitting atop the graves.
After that and with only a little daylight left, I went back to where I am staying and went—for the first time—to the nearby beach. I am not a big beach fan, but it was nice.