Tale of Two Cemeteries
The Planters’ Graveyard
Watch the video. The cane field cemetery for a wealthy planter family. Near Easy Hall, St Joseph, Barbados.
The Slave Burial Ground
Souls in Limbo? How the other half die. The unmarked graves of 600 African slaves at Newton, Christ Church.
Shapes in the landscape
There are shapes in this landscape – shapes which point to a tragic past that is too often forgotten on this island of beaches, fun and sunshine. The same wind blows across the Barbados slave burial ground at Newton as across the walled cemetery near Easy Hall.
But the sugar cane which borders both symbolises wealth and power at one and drudgery, enslavement and death at the other.
There are no tombstones or mausoleums at Newton. The only monument of any note at the slave burial ground is a small tourist information sign and, in the distance, a disused chimney.
Under this, those who escaped the lash in the fields would have laboured in a hotter form of hell, where death and serious injury from scalding, fire and explosion was commonplace.
Those buried in the walled graveyard at the sugar cane field near Easy Hall plantation include descendants of the Culpeper family. (Watch the video, above). Elizabeth Culpeper was the wife of Abel Alleyne Culpeper.
She died aged only 33 when a small pox epidemic swept the island. Small pox didn’t care if you were rich or enslaved. Abel died five years later.
Directions: see map below or ask when you’re near Easy Hall. It’s in the parish of St Joseph. Remember, it’s in a sugar cane field so may be more diffcult to find if the cane is fully grown!
Witchcraft and grave goods
There are a couple of trees, a track and some scrubby bushes.
It was no doubt chosen as a burial ground because the soil is shallow with rocky, limestone outcrops and therefore unsuitable for growing sugar.
If you look hard enough you can see the grassy tombs in this undulating land, the resting place of an estimated 600 people.
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Excavations in the 1970s revealed grave goods left to accompany the souls of the dead in the afterlife – clay pipes and eating utensils, a tradition brought to the island from Africa.
One woman was buried face down – another African tradition, this time indicating that she was accused of witchcraft. The Newton site is the only excavated slave burial ground in the western hemisphere.
Directions: the Barbados slave burial ground is a couple of miles from Oistins, but off the ABC Highway, behind Netwon Industrial Estate.
Turn inland at Henry Forde roundabout. Take the left signposted Boarded Hall and then the first left between two palm trees and drive past the houses and flats (part of the old Newton Plantation) through an open gate and towards the industrial estate.
The Barbados slave burial ground is on the right, 100 metres up a track.