History of the
Anglican Diocese of Barbados
Henry’s Lane, Collymore Rock, St.Michael, Barbados
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The Anglican Church of Barbados

The Anglican Church originally referred to as the Church of England has been in Barbados for over three hundred years.  It is one of the oldest institutions in Barbados. The Anglican Church was brought to the West Indies with the original English settlers in the early part of the 17th century. It was the Church of the Englishmen who resided in the colony, the clergy for the most part being persons who came largely on their own to minister to the settlers.

The Bishops of London were regarded as having responsibility for the churches in the colonies in the early seventeenth century; but it was not until 1675 that a Bishop of London formally undertook that task, making recommendations through the Board for Trade and Plantations. His involvement resulted in clergy being part of the vestries for the first time in 1681.  Prior to 1824, the functions of the Bishop of London were limited to ordaining those candidates who presented themselves, and licensing Clergy; appointment to cures and dismissal remained the sole responsibility of the Governor of the colony.
In 1824, the first Bishop, Rev Dr William Hart Coleridge, was appointed to Barbados.  At the same time the Rev. Dr. Christopher Lipscombe was appointed Bishop of Jamaica.  They were both consecrated Bishop on the same day, St.James' day, 25th July 1824, and arrived in their diocese by naval transport about the same time. Bishop Coleridge arrived in Barbados on January 29, 1825.  The diocese of Barbados then included the Leeward and Windward Islands, Trinidad, Tobago and Guyana.  The diocese of Jamaica included the Bahamas and British Honduras (now Belize). The appointment and consecration of these two clergymen marked the formal beginning of an episcopate in the West Indies.

The appointment of bishops provided coordination for the work of the Church in each diocese. Efforts which depended on the will of each minister, now came to be part of a strategy for the whole diocese. The incidence of slavery severely tested the Church and the formal abolition of slavery in 1834 provided further challenges for the Church and its leadership.

Since then the Anglican Church of Barbados has had a chequered history. It became an institution which sought to carry out its mandate in a society that was far from ideal and whose leaders exercised tremendous control over its affairs. The Anglican Church was regarded as the state church and had its place alongside the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive. Members of the clergy were paid from the treasury and were pensionable;  later on they were elected chairmen of the Vestries, themselves elected bodies, which looked after the affairs of the parishes and functioned as the local government arm of the island.

The Anglican Church made a significant  contribution to education in Barbados, its  involvement in education and the administration of schools going back a long way.  Its contribution started with the early parish schools, administered by the vestries, but with the church playing a minimal role in the execution of the education offered. Education offered in these schools was restricted to the three R's (reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic) but writing was not extended to the slaves, except those on the Codrington estates in St. John. Schools for slaves were few at first, though this improved during the early episcopate of Bishop Coleridge.

The first Bishop, William Hart Coleridge, contributed immensely to the development of education in Barbados. The promotion of education was his special concern, the number of schools increasing from eight to eighty three during his episcopate. The number of children receiving education in them increased from five hundred (500) to seven thousand (7000). Coleridge also reorganized the Codrington Grammar School so that it became in 1830 a training establishment for clergy and others as had been intended by its founder, Christopher Codrington. The Grammar School was transferred to the Chaplain's Lodge, from which the School later took its name. Bishop Coleridge's action assisted in the increase in numbers of clergy from fifteen (15) to thirty one (31) during his tenure.

Bishop Coleridge was succeeded in 1842 by Bishop Thomas Parry, who sought to continue his work in general and in education in particular. The Coleridge and Parry Secondary School is a memorial to their efforts.   

The third Bishop of Barbados, John Mitchinson, was enthroned in 1873. By that time the Diocese had forty two (42) clergy, though smaller in size because of the creation of the Sees of Antigua and British Guyana in 1842. Bishop Mitchinson headed a Commission on Education in 1875 which resulted in the 1878 Education Act that laid the foundations of a more coordinated approach to education in Barbados, particularly secondary education.  Bishop Mitchinson was appointed the first President of the Education Board in 1878.  He assisted in bringing about the affiliation of Codrington College with Durham University, thus promoting higher Education for the clergy and the wider community.

The work of the Church in education was more extensive than this. It involved the introduction of the first programme of teacher education in the Caribbean, under Richard Rawle a Principal of Codrington College, who in 1847 undertook to organize lectures during the College vacations for persons engaged in teaching. This continued until he demitted office in 1864.  The Rawle Institute, established in 1912 by the Rev A.H Antsey, a principal of Codrington College and named after Richard Rawle, remained the training institution for teachers in the Eastern Caribbean until it was replaced by the opening of Erdiston College in 1948.  

The Anglican Church made other contributions to life in Barbados. For instance, the church played a role in the establishment of the General Hospital, with the Bishop and the Archdeacon serving on the Board at various times. The Bishop and Archdeacon  were also instrumental in the establishment of the Barbados Mutual Assurance  Society, not without attracting some criticism.

A major contribution of the Church was in the area of music. The development of music can be traced to the mid-nineteenth century when choirs were formed at certain churches in St. Michael.  Over the years traditions of music built up around certain figures, who often gave very long service as organists.  Several persons who served as choristers went on to give their talent overseas as well as in the entertainment industry locally.

The original Diocese of Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands established in 1824 was subsequently divided into five: Guyana (1842) and Antigua (1842), Trinidad (1872), Windward Islands (1879). Windward Islands continued to be administered by the Bishop of Barbados until 1930. These five together with the Dioceses of Jamaica (1824), Nassau and the Bahamas(1861) and Belize (formerly British Honduras) (1891) make up the Province of the West Indies. In 1951 the Diocese of Barbados elected its first native Bishop, Gay  Lisle  G. Mandeville.  

On 1st April 1969, the Anglican Church was disestablished and dis-endowed.  By an Act of parliament, known as the Anglican Church Act 1969 (Cap.375), the Anglican Church ceased to be established by law. This Act gave it the Church responsibility to manage its own affairs, pay its clergy and maintain its buildings.  The government of Barbados reduced its contributions to the Diocese on a sliding scale, and these contributions ended many years ago. The Church is completely self-supporting at this time.

The 1969 Anglican Church Act established three bodies corporate: the Diocesan Synod the Trustees, and the Dean and Chapter. The latter has not functioned in that capacity since the Act came into force. The Act of 1969 provided the Church with an opportunity to develop its mission in an independent country; but the going has been tough because of a variety of setbacks - including the loss of some churches through fire.

The Diocese has seen many changes since disestablishment.  Since disestablishment the Diocese has become a financially self-supporting organisation.

 Last Modified: 13 August,2007