Sunbury Plantation House


The History of Sunbury Plantation House

Sunbury Plantation HouseThe history of Sunbury Plantation House goes back over three hundred years. It was built around 1660 by Matthew Chapman, an Irish/English planter, one of the first settlers on the island. He was related to the Earl of Carlisle and through this association, was granted lands in Barbados. The name Chapman appears in the first map of the island in 1638. Thomas was married to Mary Clegett. They had three children, John,Matthew and Richard - all owning lands in St. Philip. Matthew and his wife Isobella had eight children - two of whom married into Quaker families. The Quakers owned much land in the parish of St. Philip.

The 1674 map shows Chapman Plantation operating with a Cattle Mill. Matthew purchased neighbouring lands and thus enlarged his Plantation.After his death in 1693 the Plantation was sold to Nathaniel Branker who married Ann Carter. The Carters had small land holdings near to the Plantation, and to this day some fields at Sunbury are still named Carters.

Chapman's Plantation was re-named Brankers after its second owner until 1763 when it was sold to James Butler Harris and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Matthew Chapman.It was during Harris's ownership that the bell in the Bell House was erected. To this day it stands with the name " James Butler Harris 1766 ".

After the death of Mr. Harris 14 years later the estate was purchased by great family friends, John and George Barrow. The Barrow family lived at Sunbury from 1775 until 1835. For the first few years the Plantation was nicknamed Brothers but it was soon renamed Sunbury after their home in Kent, England. John Henry Barrow married Francis Mayers of nearby Halton Plantation in 1764. In 1777, the diaries of William Senhouse describe Sunbury as having a garden resembling that of St. Michael's Cathedral in layout. To this day some of the black willow trees date back to this era. Senhouse also describes Sunbury as "one of the best built plantation houses on the island". John Henry Barrow planted the first Teak tree at Sunbury in 1799. He also planted a grove of 300 mahogany trees, the first to be introduced to the island. Over one third of these trees remain today.

EntranceThe son of John Henry Barrow married Mary Ward Senhouse. He inherited the Plantation and was Colonel in charge of the slave rebellion in 1816. Sunbury sustained almost 4,000 Pounds in damage from the rebellion. The leader of the slave rebellion at Sunbury was King William, a friend of Bussa the rebellion leader who was later tried and put to death for his crime.

In 1835 the Hon. John Barrow emigrated to New Foundland. The brothers Thomas and John Daniel bought the estate out of the Court of Chancery for the sum of 33,000 Pounds. The estate then comprised of 413 acres and there were 224 slave apprentices after the abolition of slavery.

 The Daniels were absentee proprietors who owned many plantations on the island as well as a fleet of ships for transporting their sugar.Thomas Daniel was a great friend of the notorious Sam Lord of Sam Lord's Castle. Sam Lord spent many an evening at dining at Sunbury and when Lucy, Sam Lord's wife, fled the island and returned to England it was probably in one of Thomas Daniel's ships. Thomas would also transport alimony for Lucy and her child from Sam.

In 1896, a Scotsman, Alistair Cameron, came to the island to work in shipping with Mr. Daniel. Alistair purchased the estate and married Daniel's niece, Laura Sussanah Roope. Alistair and Laura had five children - four daughters and one son. Their son died at an early age in the 1930's. There were no offspring of the Cameron girls two of them remaining spinsters until their deaths in 1980 and 1981. The main Sunbury House was divided from the estate and sold to Mr. and Mrs. Keith Melville.The rest was sold to Mr. Geoffrey Armstrong. The Melvilles both keen horse lovers,started their horse drawn collection many years ago. What began as a hobby grew into a most comprehensive collection of antiques and artifacts of a bygone era. The main building features quoined corners, a water catchment situated on the west side of the house is dated 1788 suggesting that this was the date that the roof was replaced following damage in the 1780 hurricanes. The house suffered a disastrous fire on July 24th 1995. The furniture that was destroyed by the fire was replaced by part of the Harold Bowen collection as well as with many items made available for purchase by numerous Barbadian families.

To all of them the owners of Sunbury will always be eternally grateful for their great interest in this Heritage House. Also our deep appreciation to everyone who inspired and encouraged us and made it possible to rebuild Sunbury to its former glory. A survivor of innumerable hurricanes, Sunbury boasts walls of approximately 2 feet 6 inches thick. Its sash windows are protected by jalousies on the outside and storm shutters on the inside. In the event of a hurricane, the whole house can be quickly closed up.

Bedroom at SunburyInspired by a firm commitment to preserve the heritage of a gracious past, Mr. and Mrs. Melville have exercised impeccable taste in their choice of fixtures and furnishings with result that Sunbury House now possesses one of the country's superior collections of antiques. The cellars, originally used for storing yams and other root vegetables grown on the plantation, now house a unique collection of antique carriages, the largest collection in the Caribbean, as well as many items used in the domestic life of the plantation. It also houses the very old collection of optical machinery and sight testing equipment some of the first to come to the West Indies, the first lens grinding plant bought by the late Dr. Harcourt Carter, Mr. Melville's grandfather.

In the extensively landscaped grounds are more fine authentic examples of old carts and machinery used in the last century to cultivate the land. Sunbury Plantation House, located in the tranquil St. Philip countryside is a living monument to plantation life of bygone era, carefully restored and lovingly cherished by its owners for posterity, for the enjoyment of generations to come.

Once again, Sunbury has survived to tell another fascinating tale of its long history!

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