|Highway 1, Holetown|
Saint James Barbados
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Located in Holetown (see map behind), Saint James Parish Church stands on one of the oldest parcels of consecrated land on the Island, often spoken of in Barbados as "God's acre".
The original wooden structure was built in 1628 near the landing site of the first English settlers to Barbados, who arrived on February 17, 1627. After a hurricane on August 31, 1675 which devastated most of the island, a stone structure replaced the former wooden building in the early 1690's.
Another violent hurricane struck in 1780 and according to 'Schomburgk's History of Barbados' only two churches and one chapel remained; St. Andrew, St. Peter and All Saints. There is no specific record of what happened to St. James in the storms of 1675 and 1780 but after the hurricane of 1831, St. James was not among the churches listed as having been destroyed. Schomburgk's states that in 1846 at the time of his writing this book, the building was 54' X 40' in size with a seating capacity of 550 and a congregation of approximately '360 souls'.
After nearly 200 years the walls of the original stone building began to decay and were partly demolished and replaced by a larger, more substantial structure in 1874. At this time, the nave roof was raised on new pillars and arches. The enlarged building was consecrated by Bishop Mitchinson on Easter Tuesday, 1875. Except for the sanctuary and north porch, added in 1900's, this is substantially the building still in use today.
While coral stone buildings are not uncommon in the Caribbean, most have a lot of black discoloration; in contrast, this Church building is kept bright white. It is noted for the round tower with its spiral staircase and 1684 baptismal font. The King William III Bell, which was cast in 1699, is older than the famed Liberty Bell of the United States.
Many of the original settlers and various noted Barbadians were laid to rest in the Church and its yard. Indeed, a walk through the churchyard and Church examining the grave stones, vaults and memorial plaques, is like a journey into the history of Barbados.
There is a popular legend attached to St. James' Church, that a gate in the north wall surrounding the churchyard, referred to as 'The Devil's Gate' is opened about one hour before service. When the bell is rung the Devil leaves the church by this gate, and it is closed as the service is about to begin, so that the Devil is excluded from the area. This legend may have been derived from the old belief that church bells were rung to drive the devil out of the building.