“Jazz in the ‘Yard – a Heritage Gala,” Bridgetown Restoration encourages Heritage Tourism

The restoration of a 200 year old tomb and the storage and reinterring of the nine lead coffins found there is one of the reasons behind the staging of a Heritage Gala and Jazz event on the historic grounds of St. Mary’s Church in the City.

This unique event, slated for Saturday 6th June on the lawns of the Church and is entitled “Jazz in the ‘Yard – a Heritage Gala,” will include tours of the grounds with noted historian Morris Greenidge, as this church yard has copious graves and tombs of noted personalities from local history. It is believed that the legendary Bridgetown hotel owner Rachel Pringle is buried there and the grave of another hotelier Susannah Ostrehan was recently discovered in the church yard.

We want to bring the church yard alive, with special lighting in the trees and the music of some of our top musicians here in Barbados,” exuded the Coordinator of the event Angella Phillips, in explaining her concept behind the event. “St. Mary’s Church is so rich in history that we wanted to showcase some of this while at the same time trying to raise funds to preserve that very history,” she added.

On January 4, 2015, a large mahogany tree, believed to be about 200 years old, fell and extensively damaged a tomb believed to be around the same age. However, the tomb itself is steeped in history. It was believed to have entombed two members of the Barclay family, the parents and children of which eventually went to Liberia and one of them became the 14th President of that country.  However, when the tree fell and the tomb excavated, it was revealed that instead of two lead coffins, there were in fact nine of the coffins in there. The Church has therefore had to have these coffins stored at a local funeral home until the tomb has been repaired and restored.

On January 4, 2015, a large mahogany tree, believed to be about 200 years old, fell and extensively damaged a tomb believed to be around the same age. However, the tomb itself is steeped in history. It was believed to have entombed two members of the Barclay family, the parents and children of which eventually went to Liberia and one of them became the 14th President of that country. However, when the tree fell and the tomb excavated, it was revealed that instead of two lead coffins, there were in fact nine of the coffins in there. The Church has therefore had to have these coffins stored at a local funeral home until the tomb has been repaired and restored.

One sad twist to this story is that no sooner had the church secured the tomb with hoarding in anticipation of work starting on its restoration, than someone entered the premises of the church yard and stole the sheets of plywood and the 2×4 uprights which had been rented to secure the location.

Rector of St. Mary's Rev. Von Watson in commenting on the incident stated; "All we can do is pray for the perpetrators of this crime because they are so unaware of what they have done and the outstanding significance to this area. I am so glad that we have people in this church who, despite the setbacks will still press on because they know the value of this heritage site that has been entrusted to us to preserve for future generations," he added.

Rector of St. Mary’s Rev. Von Watson in commenting on the incident stated; “All we can do is pray for the perpetrators of this crime because they are so unaware of what they have done and the outstanding significance to this area. I am so glad that we have people in this church who, despite the setbacks will still press on because they know the value of this heritage site that has been entrusted to us to preserve for future generations,” he added.

Performers on the night of the event include Terry ‘Mexican’ Arthur but the coordinator hesitated to reveal the others in the line-up stating that they were still confirming some big names that she knew Barbadians would love to hear.

The Jazz in the ‘Yard event will form part of the National Heritage Month activities when Barbadians celebrate the anniversary of the inscription of the island’s UNESCO World Heritage designation – ‘Historic Bridgetown and Its Garrison’. It is hoped that the Jazz event will be preceded the week before by a Heritage Service in the Church on Sunday May 31st at 4 p.m. Plans are now being formulated for this service.

In addition to the restoration of the tomb, proceeds from the event will also be used to effect repairs to the church building and maintain the Heritage Site.

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