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Rebirth of Mottley House

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Rebirth  of Mottley House

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SANDWICHED between the building with the impressive wrought iron work at the corner of James Street and Coleridge Street and the home of law and order in Bridgetown and overshadowed, perhaps, by one of the oldest buildings in The City, with those once iconic curvilinear Dutch architectural gables, is an often passed and overlooked edifice in between.

But its significance is no less than that of its neighbours.

For the building was once the home of the West Indian newspaper, the brainchild of Reverend James Young-Edghill.

Its latest incarnation was that of the law offices of the Mottley family.

But in the last few years, it has started a slow slide into decay.

Now its restoration is under way. This week’s Heather-Lynn’s Habitat looks at what goes into the restoration of a historic building like Mottley House.


IT IS ONE OF THOSE 19th century buildings that dot the landscape in Bridgetown.

It has seen the island’s first fire station come and go and it’s been there since the original incarnation of Central Police Station.

From behind its louvred balcony, James Young Edghill and James Barclay put out the West Indian newspaper.

In more recent times, the legal luminaries of the Mottley clan called it their offices.

Today, the building known as Mottley House is getting a much needed facelift with one or two modifications.

“We moved out in 2001 and moved to Strathclyde and the building was up for sale for a while. We were not really getting anybody interested, oddly enough,” said Stewart Mottley, who is overseeing the restoration on behalf of the family.

“Then we just decided to keep it and fix it up.”

That sounds easy enough but, according to him, the process “took a couple of years to get everything together”.

Photographs of the original structure were sourced or kept “popping up” and those have served as a guide for the restoration.

“We’re trying to put it back as original as possible, maintaining all the wooden floors. A lot of the interior is still the original structure,” he explained, as he pointed to the red ballast bricks of which many of the historic buildings in Bridgetown were constructed.

However, one or two modifications had to be made. After all, the landscape of Bridgetown has changed with the passing of the centuries.

One of those changes was the dormer window – the window through which businessmen and trades people could look to see when vessels entered the port.

“Originally the dormer window would have faced the port but we weren’t getting the clearance over to actually maintain it and to preserve it. So we turned it in the direction facing the other way, facing the court, and we’ve added what would be a really nice mezzanine floor so it had a really cool view looking out to court,” Mottley revealed.

And the balcony is still a work in progress.

Like the majority of buildings that lined the streets of Bridgetown in that area, Mottley House boasted a louvred balcony.

Whether it will be recreated is still up in the air.

“We are trying to see if we are going to put it back on but originally what was happening, because we were only renovating the interior, we have to think in terms of that,” he said.