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HEATHER LYNN’S HABITAT: Alleyways to progress

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER LYNN’S HABITAT: Alleyways to progress

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tHEY HAVE BEEN PART of Bridgetown’s street scape from the mid-1600s.

Some have narrowed with time, others have lost their original names, and there are some which no longer exist – the victims of the many fires that ravaged the city centre in days of old.

But many of them still remain and one heritage expert feels they can be used as something other than urinals.

President of the Barbados National Trust, Peter Stevens, said he believed the alleys could become “social spaces” adding to the island’s World Heritage Site.

Stevens was speaking at the Barbados Town Planning Society’s workshop/seminar on Getting It Right – Development Within The UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the Courtyard By Marriott Hotel on Tuesday.

He referred to Willemstad in Curacao, which has had its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation since 1997, and used it as an example to show what could be achieved in Barbados.

Willemstad, Stevens said, was using its alleys to enhance the experience of its city, unlike Bridgetown.

“They have so many alleys in Bridgetown that are completely wasted,” he declared.

He singled out Flowerpot Alley (commonly called Pissy Alley) as “one of the more inherently beautiful alleyways even though it stank to high heaven”.

“That is a stunning alley but it’s messed up. It has a little bend in it and the architecture. Others are full of air-conditioning condensers and some are just plain,” he said.

Stevens noted that for alleys to reach their full potential, the unsightly condensers and all the electric cables should be hidden.

“If we got rid of all the cables; if we started repairing all of our sidewalks; if we started putting in sidewalks; if we stopped people using alleys like urinals; if we started relocating our air-conditioning systems; started new designs, not licking off the roofs and putting on concrete roofs with condensers on top but actually putting on proper roofs or redesigning the roofs so they can accommodate the condensers. But what happens to us is we delete them in our minds.”

Alleys on Broad Street

On the right side from Lower Broad Street (from Nile Street) to Upper Broad Street

• Flowerpot Alley/Fleur de Lis Alley/Flower de Luce Lane

• Dromedary Lane

• Mahon Alley

• Higginson Lane

• Philadelphia Lane

• Liverpool Lane

• Lancaster Lane

• Shepherd Street

On the left from Lower Broad Street to Upper Broad Street

• Luke’s Alley

• Bolton Lane

• Manchester Lane

• Shepherd Street (formerly Rockers Alley)

• Middle Street

He also singled out at least two blocks in The City where the alleys and little courtyards onto which they led could be used.

He pointed out the Hincks Street block with Cloister Bookstore. Fronting the bookstore is the brightly-painted shop which was the former location of Rachel Pringle’s hotel.

There is an alley between the two buildings and another to the right of Cloister from Hincks Street’s side.

“And you can see the back of the buildings that are fronting the street on the other side. That old courtyard that goes around the back of the buildings doesn’t have to be a delivery driveway.

“It could be an extension of whatever is the business or the activity or the shops that are closest to it. That would be a place where people hang out. It could be much more attractive to the design of the buildings. But it’s just sitting there, in a sense under-utilised.”

The alley on Lower Bay Street that leads to the side of the old Empire Theatre.


Stevens also pointed to the block containing the dilapidated Empire Theatre. It has a number of alleys leading from Independence Square and from Lower Bay Street.

“So you have in the middle of this block, which is Probyn Street, Lower Bay Street, Fairchild Street, you have an open space of which the Empire Theatre backs out onto.

“All the alleys come into that central portion. It’s like a rabbit warren. What we could do in there is fantastic. From a general view of it, it would be an enhanced version of what it is and all of a sudden it becomes sustainable.

“And I’m thinking this is as social space. That entire block, this is a larger potential project in terms of when we look at Bridgetown what we can do there.”

But Stevens suggested officials “forget” the World Heritage designation and look again at the resources of the historic city.

“We have plenty of room to develop modern 21st century structures that are in keeping with their older brethren on the streets.”