THE GREAT HOUSE
Although the Plantation itself boasts an exceptional natural beauty, St. Nicholas Abbey’s true masterpiece is its great house, built in 1658 by Colonel Benjamin Berringer.
AN ARCHITECTURAL GEMSTONE
Jacobean architecture, named for King James I of England (1603-1625), was a transitional phase in English design; it saw the adaptation of the Tudor and Elizabethan styles to continental Renaissance influences, particularly that of Flemish, Dutch and French architecture. Characterised by elaborate multicurved Flemish gables, Tudor arches, decorative chimneys and casement windows, Jacobean architecture was applied to many English homes, grammar schools and colleges built in the 17th century.
It is believed Col. Berringer purchased the plans for St. Nicholas Abbey on a journey home to England; his steadfast dedication to detail is evident by his inclusion of the cornerstone chimneys and fireplaces on a home in the Caribbean, where temperatures rarely drop below comfortably breezy.
The elegant curvilinear gables and ornamental detail typical of Jacobean architecture make it one of the most stunning examples of the architectural style surviving today. In fact, St, Nicholas Abbey is one of just three Jacobean mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere; the other two are Drax Hall, also in Barbados, and Bacon's Castle in Virginia, USA.
The Georgian-style triple arcaded portico and sash windows were added in 1746. The cedar paneling, installed in 1898 to protect the home from dampness, and solid Mahogany door c. 1910 were both felled on the Plantation. The roofing beams, while not visible from the first floor, are original to the home; the original flooring was replaced with North American Pitch Pine in 1910.
Many of the antiques date to the 1800s, including two Wedgewood tea sets, artwork and the Sailor's Valentines collection, popular souvenirs often brought home from a voyage at sea for loved ones. Featuring intricate designs created from local and imported sea shells and other natural materials, the patterns typically centered on a compass, heart or sentimental message. Although the name suggests the sailors made these valentines themselves, most originated in Barbados, a popular seaport of the era. New Curiosity Shop, located in the island's capital city, Bridgetown, sold most of the valentines produced on the island.