Hopefield Manor Barbados

Hopefield Manor Barbados

The History

Although the plantation dates back at least to the eighteenth century, the name Hopefield itself goes back only about 100 years. Previously it was know as Calendars and before that as Bouchers. The name change to Hopefield Manor Barbados was probably made to avoid confusion with another Christ Church plantation called Calendars.

The plantation was owned by the Calendar family for much of the 19th century before passing into the hands of the Ince family. Its present owners, Sir David and Lady Anne Seal, bought it in the early 1970s and have since done a great deal of restoration and renovation work. The results can be seen in the fine house and grounds.

Hopefield Manor Barbados is much more than its plantation house. Its hundred acres of rolling countryside encompasses a working plantation, a rum blending and bottling plant and a renowned racing stud farm.

The homeowners

Hopefield Manor Barbados is open through the kind courtesy of Sir David and Lady Seale, two prominent Barbadian's whose interests require a lot of energy. We don't known how they do it! The Seales value their privacy, so the upstairs is not open to the public. However, between the ground floor, the gardens and the stables, you will find plenty to see and enjoy.

Sir David's education in business started at the age of 5 or 6, when he would hang around his father's provision shop and primitive rum bottling room to help put on labels. In 1954 he finished school at the age of 16, and worked for other companies until joining his father in 1962.

Founded by his grandfather, R.l. Seale, that company has now grown from its depression era origins on hardscrabble Roebck Street to a multiple industrial warehouse complex at four square, St. Phillips. Sir David is also president of the Barbados Turf Club.

Where he hopes to bring horse racing back to profitability as a spectator sport. If you haven't seen racing at the Garrison do go. Its on alternate Saturdays, and is quite a thrill.

Touring Hopefield Manor Barbados

The present house almost certainly dates from around 1831, the year when the great hurricane destroyed many buildings in the island. This structure is classically Barbadian, with its two stories, its enclosed verandahs, its pedimented east porch and the grand portico on the north side with its Doric columns.

The west wing was not original to the house but was added later, some time between then and the 1970s. It fits well, though, and provides informal living space and a seamless transition to out door leisure on the north patio.

The interior of Hopefield Manor Barbados was designed by the late Larry Van Duesen, who chose greens and purple to enhance the fine mahogany furniture; the colour contrast makes the wood stand out. Some of the objects we describe here may have moved to other spots; if that is the case, just keep looking and enjoy the hunt.

Mahogany is prized for its beauty, durability and restraints to pest. It is not indigenous to Barbados. According to A-Z of Barbados heritage. It was introduced sometime after 1763 and was first cultivated at the Belle.

It is a tree native to the northern Caribbean, its earliest recorded use being in the construction of the cathedral of Santo Domingo, began in 1514 . By the 1700 hundreds it was the wood of choice for British cabinet makers and Barbados mahogany was considered the finest.

The early settlers were rampant in their use of native timber for building ships, structures, and furniture, and for making charcoal. In the early 19th century, pieces of legislation were enacted to curb deep deforestation and encouraged tree planting. This helped the mahogany to survive.

Later legislation limited the loss of mahogany antiques which were being purchased at auction and exported, a tremendous loss of Barbadian patrimony. Using imported mahogany, antique reproduction is now a growing business, which pays tribute to the fine craftsmanship for which Barbados was renowned.

Two of the loveliest mahogany pieces are the dining table, which is over 100 years old, and the side board with the deeply curved edges, which was once a dressing table.

Also in the dining room is a painting of the race horse, Sandford Prince, a local champion and three time winner of the Cock Spur Gold Cup, a unique achievement . And here, too, are five Cock Spur Gold Cups won by Hopefield Horses in 1986, 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Other pieces of special interest include a beautiful Waterford crystal chandelier, and the amazingly lifelike great blue heron carved and painted by Geoffrey Skeete, Lady Seale's brother-in-law.

Shell lovers will enjoy finding the peacock shell picture by Maureen Edghill, and the antique Victorian glass domed shell arrangement. The latter was carefully restored by Daphne Hunte of Daphne's Sea Shell Studio, which is near by at Congo Road Plantation house .

Throughout the ground floor rooms you may spot intriguing works of art, some by our local artists. Some are originals and some are prints. The bird and flower paintings are by Lady Seal's sister, Joanie Skeete.

You'll also see that Anne, Lady Seale, is an avid collector of the ornaments, many of them in beautiful glass, and most with sentimental value attached.

And of course there are horses everywhere. The dining room paintings are by a Trinidadian artist. As you walk through the dining room towards the informal living areas, you'll see plenty more racing memorabilia in the stairs hall "gallery".

The comfortable family room with its serene colours opens onto a charming patio whose gazebo holds a Jacuzzi. With its open access to the spacious kitchen, this is a sociable area for the three generations to relax in.

Today, it's also a good place for fabric fanciers to note the draperies with their delightful decorative trim. The monkey print is charming , and a reminder that you may see real ones outside in the late afternoon. They like to eat the white begonias.

Wander the grounds of Hopefield Manor Barbados, where you'll find a poolside cottage. A visit to the stables is a must to see prized horses in the flesh. The ring surrounded by a mesh fence is the "play pen" where horses can relax after exercise without straying too far. The other contains the horse walker, for cooling down after exercise. Up to four horses can be attached to the arms.

Stable personnel will be on hand to answer any questions. Perhaps you'll meet a groom. The Barbados Turf Club's centenary magazine explains.

Many grooms dream of becoming trainers but while the role of the owners, trainers, Jockeys, may argue that it is the groom who holds the most sacred of positions: being responsible for the overall well being of the equine athlete, a good groom knows everything about his horses, their likes and dislikes,their habits, injuries and moods.

The rum blending and bottling plant is not open, but you may want to know what goes on in there. It is here that Hopefield produces what is arguabley the best white run in Barbados E.S.A. Field Rum. Alcohol from molasses is brought here from Foursquare Rum Distillery, and de-ionized water is added along with other secret ingredients.

This blending process is an art that is individual to each different rum. The blending takes place in 200-gallon drums, where it undergoes tests for temperature and density to ensure the consistency of its quality before it is bottled. Six sizes of bottle are used and the gallon and half-gallon sizes filled manually, and then the bottles are labeled.

Sir David is also the developer of Foursquare Rum Distillery and Heritage Park. That facility produces the Doorly's XO, Doorly's Five Year, Foursquare Spice Rum, R.L. Seale's Aged Rum, as well as others made to order for export.

It uses state of the art equipment and boasts a high level of environmental friendliness. Both the distillery and the park are meant to be explored, and entrance to both is free. You'll find the complex not far from here on the way to Six Roads, so do stop in while you're in the neighborhood.

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