William Henry Howard (@1783 – 1856 ) and Sarah Elizabeth Brereton ( 1782 – 1863) The Barbadians

  I’ll start off by saying there are a LOT of Howard’s and Brereton’s in Barbados.  How many are related to us is open to discussion and someone out there has the answer and I would like very much to hear from them.

In the absence of being able to jump straight in with family related facts I’ll start off with a brief history lesson for those of us who have not yet had the benefit of travelling to what I can ascertain from online videos is surely paradise on earth. (Don’t ever underestimate the value of YouTube etc when you are gathering information in this little anthropology study where genealogy sits. Context is everything).

In 1627 the English settled Barbados. They were not alone and the French and Dutch were also keen to to settle the Caribbean. Once the English acquired Barbados they found it was unoccupied.  That is not to say that it had always been the case, there was evidence of a prior indigenous (?) people having lived there by virtue of a man-made bridge on the site of what is now Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados.  It is generally thought that local tribes may have held the island at one stage and possibly have been usurped by another tribe.  I have my own purely romantic theory that given the islands long history of frequent and destructive hurricanes that the island was not deemed safe and the locals were terrified of the vengeful ‘wind god’ and subsequently would not inhabit the island.

Enough to say that when the English under Captain John Powell in 1625 peered across what really is quite a tiny little space of about 166 miles square of what would become known as Barbados (or Barbadoes depending on who was spelling it) they would have seen the largely lush flat plains, fresh water supply and the sloping rocky ranges emerging across the central spine of the island and thought; ‘Here is somewhere for us, someone grab the flag and with gay adulation I claim this radiant jewel in the name of Charles the 1st of England’.  ( I made that last bit up).

So what was going on in the world at this time?  Well we had a highly mobile population of peoples moving from Britain across to the Americas and the sub-continents.  The folk on the Mayflower had not long made their progress of pilgrims to what would be the British colony of America. The ownership of course would go on to be a hot contest between the French and the British not to mention the pioneering colonists for quite some time yet. The poor old first nation people of the Americas were about to get a very poor deal. Ocean going vessels were for the first time in history really able to make long haul voyages with many passengers aboard in relative safety and the likes of people like Oliver Cromwell was kept busy darkening Britain with his ethnic cleansing plans for Ireland and Scotland. Hence the mood back home was fairly bleak depending on what side of the border you stood on.   Barbados in the initial stages was never considered as a colony for slave labour.  It would become infamous for this in later years.  In those initial years the slaves were white and were called indentured workers.  They hailed predominantly from Ireland and Scotland and most of them were political prisoners who after working their term of about seven years were able to get passage back to Britain or on to the Americas. Being ‘barbadosed’ was the term used to describe these hapless souls. Given that England would in the next thirty years lop off the head of their own king and be engaged on just about all fronts with war and affray its not too hard to understand that in those initial days Barbados was pretty much left to its own devices.

I did find a ‘Matthew , the son of Joseph Howard & Mary his wife was baptized October 20th 1678  St. Philips Parish’. in the parish registers but at this time do not know if we can lay claim to him or Joseph and his wife.

Now I don’t know many people who would knock back the change of a Barbadian holiday.  However, we are talking about those early years in Barbados where there existed a tropical sticky heat for several months of the year.  A fierce supply of flies and other insects and the very high chance that your ship might sink either arriving or on the voyage elsewhere.  Alternately you could become life threateningly ill or dead with any number of the tropical illnesses that multiplied in the balmy weather.  Sanitation was still quite basic and it took awhile before Barbados was self-sufficient with her food source.  And if that didn’t get you excited there was the tropical storms season (read hurricanes) from June to November each year.  Winds of up to 200 miles per hour could come shrieking off the ocean and blow you straight to your grave. Suffice to say life was probably a bit on the tough side in those early days of colonisation.

Barbados map

What did come early to Barbados was plantocracy. In this largely the British speculators grabbed large tracts of the land for sugar cane farming.  In Barbados by 1638 the first census of landowners of more than ten acres was held. By 1680 this now included not only landowners but their slaves.

Barbados  became home to a flourishing  and diverse population of pirates, landholders, down on their luck labourers who were either indentured and sold accordingly. In many cases they were Irish and Scottish political agitators in their own lands or just the venturer seeking a better opportunity. Quakers escaping persecution, African slaves, merchants of the middle-classes and soldiers, navy and merchant seamen alike and all manner of people in-betwixt.  The stain that included the trade in humans for slavery and forced labour on the islands made up just one part of the growing human story on Barbados.  West Africa was the favourite place for slavers to abduct their prey of human cargo and by boat they were taken across to Barbados to work on the emerging sugar plantations. No common language, no hope of return and no idea of what their future would hold. Piracy was a hot trade in the Carribbean.  Barbados had her own pirates and apart from maybe one they were a pretty rough crew of people.  One so cruel he used to lock his wife in the dungeon beneath his home on a regular basis!

Barbados would like the rest of the West Indies become famous for what was called it’s triangle of trade; slaves, rum and sugar.  The first made the production of the second possible and a gaping maw existed back on the continent for these products with little thought given to the human cost that wrought their supply.  Aristocratic and wealthy landholders in Barbados were supported by the government in Britain to suck great wealth from the tiny nation.

The tide began turning from the beginning of the 19th century and leading up to emancipation the industries in the Indies were in decline. What had been their golden cash cow was now viewed as a very sick beast indeed by those in England. Back home the mother country wanted reform of the slave trade.  The strength of the movement from Britain worked from the politician right down to the people in the street. In 1814 novelist Jane Austen outlined the plight of the slaves in the West Indies for her readers in her book Mansfield Park.  Her heroine, Fanny Price horrified at the reality of what was happening became a social media exponent of the day and the movement gained quick speed under the Whig’s back in England. In 1834 the abolition of slavery began in Barbados however it would not be until 1838 when the final tide of distaste would turn upon itself and the emancipation of all slaves in Barbados would be enacted by law.

Now despite all the Howard’s I’ve found even back to those early days I’m not yet in a position to definitively link to the one’s before our William.  I can claim at this time William Henry Howard and Sarah Eliza Brereton are definitely ours.

In the Parish of St Georges Parochial Register it state:  This 25th April 1802, were duly married by me, by licence of his Excellency Lord Seaforth, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, William Henry Howard (Batchelor) and Sarah Elizabeth Howard, both of this Parish.  

Source:St Georges. Barbados Church Records.  Parochial Register.

Sarah Elizabeth Brereton his wife was born around 1782.

Between them there were a slew of children;

  1. Anthony Howard b. 1803 who lived his whole live in Barbados.
  2. Maria Howard who was born in 1805 but died in 1807.
  3. Frances Ann Howard b. 1807.
  4. William Henry Howard b. 1810.
  5. Joseph Harris Howard b. 1813.
  6. Eliza Brereton Howard b. 1815. Would live many years in Barbados before leaving with her family and husband for Australia.
  7. Mary Elizabeth Ann Howard b. 1817 and died 1818.
  8. Adrian Foster Howard b. 1818.
  9. Benjamin Simpson Howard b. 1819.
  10. Walsingham Howard b. 1829.

Back to our William Henry Howard. Who were his parents and where did he come from- at this time is a very good question?  St Michael’s Parish Records. “English Settlers in Barbados” records William Henry Howard aged 8 on the 18th November 1791. He is not recorded with any other family members. Was William an indentured servant lad and this was his baptism being recorded? Unlikely given his very young age.  The records don’t refer to anything other than stating his name and his age and the date the records were taken.

A couple years later on the 24th November 1793 there is a baptism for a James William son of Joseph and Sarah Howard in the Christchurch Parish records. This parish neighbours St Pauls and St Michaels which I know our fellows family lived and frequented.  Whether this was a brother or cousin to our William?  He did name one of his sons Joseph so it is possible?

Of their children, Anthony Howard seems to have done quite well for himself.  He married Ruth Johnson Odwin of another old Barbados family and they went on to have a large family of their own.  In St Michael’s Cathedral there are memorials to their death and that of one of their sons.  Ruth died quite young at only 48.

In memory of Ruth Johnson wife of Anthony Howard Died Dec 20 1852 aged 48 years. Also Anthony Howard died August 24 1872 aged 69 years. White marble headstone adjoining reads In memory of Thomas Anthony eldest son of Anthony and Ruth J Howard. Died March 20 1853 aged 26 years. (Thomas left behind a wife and daughter who in turn would be buried with him. His daughter Isabel was interred with her grandparents and parents in 1933.

By the time his mother dies Anthony describes himself as the owner of the Golden Ridge plantation in St George’s.

Golden Ridge Plantation House 3

Golden Ridge Plantation House

Benjamin Simpson Howard married Juliana Browne in St Michael’s and they went on to have children with the most fantastic names.  I’m not sure whether Juliana was an avid reader of all things romantic or whether these were family names but they are outstanding.  Charles Winston Redwar Howard, Helena Augusta Susan Howard, Horatio Fitzgerald Howard, Julia Elizabeth Anne Howard and Theresa Ethelinda Chesterfield Howard.

Joseph Harris Howard marries twice. The first time at 23 to Mary Worrall Perkins in St Michaels.  Then again when he is 41 to Jane Trundle also of St Michael’s.

Eliza Brereton Howard goes on to marry Captain William Gay an Englishman and mariner in Barbados. Her story is covered separately on the Gay Family page.


In 1836 the British Government made a financial payment to the slave owners that was deemed to be compensation for each of the slaves whose value they would lose as a result of emancipation.  If former slaves wanted to stay on the plantations working for their former owners or indeed any other plantation or works and the plantation owners were agreeable then they would have to pay them wages.  In all matters of the law the former slaves were to be considered freed men with the same rights as other freed men. I’m not even going to get into a discourse here of how that went down through the centuries until today, it was however the principle that sat underneath emancipation for the former slaves of Barbados upon being freed from bondage.

in 1836 in Barbados the following Howard’s receive compensation payments. Whether they fit into our branch or are relations of our fellow I cannot say at this time without evidence.

William Murrell Howard, Margaret Ann Howard, John Forster Howard, James and William S. Howard have a shared claim, Marsia Howard, Jacob Howard and John Christopher Howard.

source. http://www.caribbeanfamilyhistory.org/compensations/search.aspx


William died in 1856 and was interred on the 27th May 1856.

Sarah died on the 4th July 1863 in St Georges Barbados and her son Anthony (I surmise) arranged the following on her behalf. At St George) recorded on a stone vault (906) SARAH ELIZABETH Relict of WILLIAM HENRY HOWARD and mother of ANTHONY HOWARD of Golden Ridge in this Parish died July 4th 1863, Aged 81 years

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