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West Indies Chattel House — beginning mid-19th century


Photos: Barbados (October, 2007).

chattel houses

While today less likely to be actually moved, homes are frequently found resting on rubble or rough-set cinderblock foundations.


chattel houses

Found among a small neighborhood of residences bordering a public beach access in Holetown.

chattel houses

This commercial shop may have been a residence made more-permanent (note porch and foundation), or simply constructed to emulate a chattel-house style. Signs are for "hair styling" and 'plus-size' womens clothing.

chattel houses

Here's a site we found amid prime, beach view property in Appleby, St. James. It was unclear whether this was "coming down," "going up," or abandoned.


Photos: Miscellaneous chattel or chattel-style structures along the west coast of Barbados (October, 2007).


'Chattel Houses' are most often associated with the islands of the Caribbean West Indies. We recently experienced their legacy during a trip to Barbados (2007). After emancipation in the mid nineteenth century, former slaves were permitted to reside as tenants on lots of the various plantations. Continuity, tenure and 'terms' were, however, subject to the whims of the landowners. Therefore the tradition evolved of building homes in a manner by which they could be dismantled, transported by simple conveyance (originally, horse-drawn carts), and reassembled at a different site.

These early homes were rarely larger than one or two rooms, though some expanded to varying degrees as the needs and sizes of families grew.

Typical features:

  • Symmetrical fronts with centered door and 2 windows.
  • Expanded in modules as family growth or other needs required.
  • Often bright, contrasting colors.
  • Many with steep-pitched, metal roofs shaped to resist blowing off in high winds.
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