“…a palace with which Aladdin himself might have been satisfied.” JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE (1818-1894), British historian and editor, Fraser’s Magazine, on Farley Hill in its heyday.
Today, Farley Hill is a charred ruin and a national park of Barbados, but for 100 years it was a breathtaking wonder of a great house where Sir Graham Briggs, a rich British planter and legislator, entertained the crème de la crème of Barbadian society and even British royalty, including Prince Alfred, Prince Albert and Prince George (who later became King George V).
The original building, Grenade Hall, was built in the 1800s by Sir Graham’s father, and he bequeathed it to Sir Graham in 1856. Sir Graham renamed the property “Farley Hill” after a British school of which he had happy memories. Folklore attributes 99 windows to his dream of a mansion. However, after his death in 1887, the building gradually became dilapidated and was in need of a facelift. It got one, Hollywood style!
In 1956, Farley Hill was host to a different kind of royalty – film royalty – Harry Belafonte, James Mason and Joan Collins, for scenes in the movie “Island in the Sun”. Tragically, in 1965, the magnificent mansion was totally destroyed by fire, except for the stone walls, but it would have a partial resurrection. In 1966, the same year as Barbados’ Independence, Queen Elizabeth II opened the property as a national park. Not only is it now a leading visitor attraction, but it is also a popular site for musical and theatrical productions and for weddings! The tall mahogany trees are both romantic and majestic and the view from Farley Hill rivals that from Cherry Tree Hill as one of the loveliest on the island.