320+ Years Into the Story and Still Learning!

Stephen Byrns*, a long time friend of Philipse Manor Hall SHS, has just returned from a vacation in Barbados, where he took the time to do some research on the Philipse family, who, reportedly, had owned a plantation there in the late 1600s. His research delivered two real gems!

(Photos: ©T.W.Gibb)

First of all, he tracked down Spring Head, the Philipse plantation, on the north half of the island, due east of the midpoint between Holetown and Speightstown on lovely elevated land. It is now owned by British tycoon, Derrick Smith, who raises race horses there. The original house is still visible, although with disfiguring additions, and it is currently used for storage.

The following are pictures from the plantation as it stands today:

(Photos: ©T.W.Gibb)

Secondly, while researching at the Barbados National Archives, he found the death/burial notices of Philip Philipse and his wife Mary, finally creating a clear picture of their final days. Up until this discovery, historic sources were mixed on how and when the couple had passed away. Some sources had them dying in 1700 during a tropical disease epidemic, while other sources claimed that Mary died shortly after childbirth and Philipse died years later.

The definitive answer: Philip Philipse died on Sept. 14, 1698, while Mary died on Oct. 18, 1698; cause of death: "belly ake". An eminent local historian, Henry Fraser, was able to help define "belly ake" as dysentery, a frequent cause of death during that time period on the island. Their death notices were signed by the rector of nearby St. James Church (today one of the nicest churches on Barbados; Reagan went there for Easter services while president).

* Mr. Byrns is a partner at BSKS Architects in New York and serves as a Landmarks Preservation Commissioner in New York. A graduate of Princeton University, where he majored in history, and Columbia University, he has played leadership roles in Yonkers at the Park Hill Residents’ Association, Yonkers Landmarks Board, Yonkers Planning Board, Yonkers Historical Society, and Philipse Manor Hall Coalition.
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