The Barbados Museum and Historical Society is housed in historic buildings which were originally used as the military prison at St. Ann’s Garrison.
During the 18th century the Caribbean was the scene of numerous military conflicts, primarily between England and France who fought for supremacy. The building of garrisons, forts and naval dockyards throughout the region was a direct result.
Barbados became the headquarters of the Windward and Leeward command of the English forces, and St. Ann’s Garrison was rapidly expanded because of this. By 1816 most of the Garrison buildings had been constructed and the military prison was completed by 1853. This building is one of only twelve such prisons constructed anywhere in the British Empire, and as such it is unique to the region.
In the late 19th century the English decided to reduce their forces in the region. By 1906 the last British regiment had departed the island and many of the Garrison buildings, including the military prison, were handed over to the Barbados Government. The buildings were used for a number of different purposes. In 1933 the prison buildings were leased for a pepper corn rent to this day to the newly formed Barbados Museum and Historical Society, and continue in use.
In 1989 a new administration building was completed as part of a capital works project funded by the Government of Barbados. It was named the Jack Dear Wing in honour of the late President of the Museum, Sir J.S.B. Dear. The building houses the Society’s main curatorial and administrative offices.