The Chattel Houses visitors see while visiting the island of Barbados were built by the early African plantation workers
A Little History . . .
in 1834 after the abolition of slavery, there was a period of indentured apprenticeship, and former slaves were still bound to the property owner.
In 1840 a Laborers Act granted the workers the right to construct their own houses - without land ownership. Rent for the plot of land the small home occupied was paid to the landowner, and by law the house had to be movable.
If a worker was fired or had a dispute with the land owner the house was quickly dismantled, and moved to another location. This ability to move homes is where the term "first mobile homes" originated.
The modest two room homes were fairly easy to assemble and disassemble, and were built on cement blocks.
Chattel Houses all have the exact same symmetrical dimensions because the pitch pine building material was shipped from North America and pre-cut in length.
The gable roof made of corrugated iron was suitable for the tropical environment, and the steep angle was designed to deflect the wind.
Jalousie shutters and French doors were placed facing East to West in order to catch the prevailing trade wind breezes, and also served as protection from the rain and sun. As a workers finances improved additional rooms, placed one behind the other, were added on to the chattel house.
Photo Credit: Barbados.org
While some of the Chattel houses have fallen into disrepair over the years, many houses around the island have been in the same family and passed down for generations. The Chattel houses occupied today have solid foundations with several additional rooms built onto the original structure.