Drax Hall Estate: Jacobean Great House of St. George Parish, Barbados

by DerdriuMarriner

The Jacobean Drax Hall Estate great house enchants Barbados National Trust Open House Programme funders up close and St. George Parish hikers from afar.

Drax Hall epitomizes the Western Hemisphere great house

Drax Hall Estate assumes importance as the designation for two properties built in the seventeenth century by one immigrant family from Finham village, Stoneleigh parish, Warwickshire, England to Barbados and then to Jamaica. It brings glory to the first-mentioned, 14-mile (22.53-kilometer) wide, 21-mile (33.79-kilometer) long, western North Atlantic sovereign island country. It counts as one of the Western Hemisphere’s three surviving expressions of Jacobean architecture, along with:
• Bacon’s Castle, Surry County, Virginia;
• St. Nicholas Abbey, St. Peter parish, Barbados.

The architectural style describes the casement windows, curved gables, grand staircases, hall archways, and steep roofs that define building design during the reign of King James I (June 19, 1566 – March 27, 1625) over England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Gun Hill Signal Station: built in 1818 as one of six signal stations for external and internal security of Barbados ~

Sited west of nearby Drax Hall, Gun Hill gives sweeping views of capital, Bridgetown, and Carlisle Bay, 6+ miles (9.6 km) to southwest, from perch atop precipitous central highlands cliffs.
Saint George Parish, central Barbados
Saint George Parish, central Barbados

Drax Hall flaunts 350+-year-old sugar cane production experiences


Barbados National Trust programs encourage locals, residents, and visitors to eyeball the 350+-year-old private residence and working plantation through annual hikes and January through March open-house fundraisers. They furnish unique opportunities for agriculture, architecture, culture, horticulture, and history buffs and island visitors to experience physical contact or proximity since Drax Hall Estate otherwise is closed to the public. They therefore give glimpses of one of the island’s biggest, earliest cash crop-producing properties, whose expanses still claim much of the eastern portion of the central insular parish of St. George.

Anecdotes and documents indeed hint at William Drax's (died 1632) sons James (died 1662) and William (died 1669) as among the first English migrants in the late 1620s. 


classic Jacobean architecture of Drax Hall: corner finials, steep gable roofs, casement gable windows

Architecture of Barbados: Historic Jacobean Mansions
Architecture of Barbados: Historic Jacobean Mansions

Drax Hall gives one family’s descendants fame, fortune


Tradition implicates a cave and £300 as the first dwelling and initial investment prefatory to:

  • annual revenues of £10,000+;
  • large landownership and tobacco production by the 1630s;
  • pioneer introductions of sugar cane and west African slaves in the 1640s.

Timing joins with savvy alliances and associations to elucidate politico-economic successes of Sir James in Barbados and William in Jamaica. Posterity knows of interactions with:

  • Dutch and Jewish settlers experienced in northeast Brazil’s pre-1630 sugar cane cultivation;
  • Influential families through James’ sister Frances marrying Christopher Codrington (died 1656) and son Henry wedding Lady Frances, daughter of John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet (died 1664), and Dorothy Lovelace, daughter of John Lovelace, 2nd Baron Lovelace of Hurley (died 1670). 


Charborough House is home and family seat for Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (born January 29, 1958):

Serving since 2010 as Conservative Member of Parliament (M.P.) for South Dorset, the retired British Army Coldstream Guards officer and former reporter journeys yearly to family's working plantation on Barbados.
Dorset, South West England
Dorset, South West England

Drax Hall has non-original owners, purposes on Jamaica


Historians link the introduction of windmills for sugar cane-crushing with the brothers Drax. But security for officeholders and successions in ownership nowadays make tedious checking paper trails and urban legends against physical evidence at Drax Hall built in:

  • 1650 on Barbados for father and son managers James and Henry (died 1682);
  • 1669 on Jamaica for father and son managers William and Charles (died 1721).

Funders and hikers nevertheless need stress less over coral-stoned, red-roofed Drax Hall’s sustainability on Barbados than preservationists and scientists over Jamaica’s owner-changed, use-modified Drax Hall.


Yearly sojourns by Sir Richard Drax (born January 29, 1958) from Dorset’s Charborough House indeed operate to keep the Barbados landmark culturally enriching, educationally entertaining, and geo-historically enthralling. 


"The Island of Barbados": ca. 1694 oil on canvas by Isaac Sailmaker (Zeilmaker) (1633 - June 28, 1721):

At time of painting, Drax Hall plantation had been in operation for over half a century (50 years+).
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, southwestern Connecticut's Gold Coast
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, southwestern Connecticut's Gold Coast



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


1686 map by Philip Lea (flourished ca. 1683-1700) with symbols for cattle mills, water mills, and windmills ("all of which are imployed in the grinding of sugar canes"):

North oriented to right ~ Drax Hall and the plantation's windmills (Drax Hope) are depicted (center).
Philip Lea: A new map of the Island of Barbadoes (1686)
Philip Lea: A new map of the Island of Barbadoes (1686)

Sources Consulted


Connors, Michael. 2009. Caribbean Houses: History, Style, and Architecture. New York NY: Rizzoli.

“Drax Hall.” Barbados.org > Things To Do > Attractions & Sightseeing > Historic Places. Retrieved August 2015.

  • Available @ http://barbados.org/drax.htm#.Vc3zWiiWE5Q 

“Drax Hall.” Totally Barbados.com > Travel > Sightseeing > Tourist Attractions. Retrieved August 2015.

  • Available @ http://www.totallybarbados.com/barbados/Travel/Sightseeing/Tourist_Attractions/Drax_Hall/ 

“Drax Hall – Barbados Colonial Past.” The Holiday Place > Destinations > Caribbean and Costa Rica > Barbados > What to Do > Excursions and Attractions. Retrieved August 2015.

  • Available @ http://holidayplace.co.uk/holiday/caribbean-and-costa-rica/barbados/what-to-do/264/drax-hall-barbados-colonial-past 

“Drax Hall Plantation.” Barbados Beaches Plus.com > Plantation or Great Houses > St. George. Retrieved August 2015.

  • Available @ http://www.barbados-beaches-plus.com/drax-hall-plantation.html 

“Drax Hall Plantation.” Barbados Pocket Guide > Attractions > Attractions by Parish/Location > St. George. Retrieved August 2015.

  • Available @ http://www.barbadospocketguide.com/barbados-attractions/attractions-by-parish-location/st-george/drax-hall-plantation.html 

“Drax Hall Plantation Yard, Barbados, 1971-72.” Image Reference NW0083, as shown on www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas. Retrieved August 2015.

  • Available @ http://hitchcock.itc.virginia.edu/slavery/details.php?categorynum=8,%20Slave%20Settlements%20and%20Houses&theRecord=51 

Lea, Philip. 1686. A New Map of the Island of Barbadoes wherein every Parish, Plantation, Watermill, Windmill & Cattlemill, is described with the name of the Present Possessor, and all things els Remarkable according to a Late Exact Survey thereof. London England: John Sellers.

  • Available via Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library @ http://maps.bpl.org/id/15748

Moll, Richard. 1736. The Island of Barbadoes. Divided into its Parishes, with the Roads, Paths, &c. According to an Actual and Accurate Survey. London England: Thomas Bowles and John Bowles.

  • Available via David Rumsey Map Collection Database and Blog @ http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~3766~430102:Island-of-Barbadoes
  • Available via Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library @ http://maps.bpl.org/id/14244

Schomburgk, Sir Robert H. (Hermann). 1848. The History of Barbados; Comprising a Geographical and Statistical Description of the Island; A Sketch of the Historical Events Since the Settlement; and an Account of its Geology and Natural Productions. London UK: Longman, Brown, Green and Longman.

  • Available via Internet Archive @ https://archive.org/details/historyofbarbado00schouoft


the island of Barbados: 1736 hand-colored, engraved atlas map with pictorial relief; includes churches, forts, plantations, submerged rocks, windmills, etc. ~ North oriented to left ~

Drax Hall is listed in southeastern Saint George Parish (upper right of blue-outlined parish in center).
Herman Moll: The Island of Barbadoes. Divided into its Parishes (1736)
Herman Moll: The Island of Barbadoes. Divided into its Parishes (1736)
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Barbados 5 Cent "Lighthouse" Two Tone Coin Cut Out Pendant with 18" Chain and Rope Bezel by J&J Coin Jewelry~ Available now via Amazon

Real minted coin cut out ~ All work done by hand ~ Jeweler's saw blade cuts away coin's background, leaving coin's figure floating inside its outer edge ~ Comes with jewelry box on copper rope chain layered in 14KT gold
Barbados-themed jewelry

The Island of Barbados, c.1694 By: Isaac Sailmaker ~ Available as Stretched Canvas Print ~ Available now via AllPosters

ca. 1694 oil on canvas by Isaac Sailmaker (Zeilmaker) (1633 - June 28, 1721), Yale Center for British Art
The Island of Barbados, c.1694

Caribbean Houses: History, Style, and Architecture by Michael Connors ~ Available now via Amazon

West Indian decorative arts scholar Michael Connors examines European heritages of vibrant Caribbean islands (Spanish Antilles, the Dutch Leewards, the English Islands, the French Lesser Antilles, and the Danish Virgin Islands).
Drax Hall featured

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/16/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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