Whilst researching the Parish cancels of Barbados recently I was struck by how little information there is on the current Post Offices of Barbados. The main resource is on the Barbados Postal Service website and while the information there is good from a historical perspective there is not much there about today’s operations of the Barbados Post Office.
I therefore set myself the challenge to visit, photograph and get a cancel on a cover from every post office using nothing but a tourist map issued free with the hire car.
I resolved to use whichever stamps were on offer at the first Post Office and then try to get them everywhere else for consistency (but that didn’t work out!) and to ask in each Post Office if they would cancel them nicely for me. Each item had to travel through the post to the UK so it was genuinely posted and whatever state the cancels and covers were in was in the lap of the gods. If they supplied stamps with selvedge I was going to leave it on. If the stamps were damaged it didn’t matter as this was to be a true test of the postal system.
The plan was to send two covers from each location in the hope that at least one of them would get a clear cancel and I also sent myself back a couple of other philatelic items but hopefully something that doesn’t get seen every day, and these I will share elsewhere on this site.
The following therefore is a chronicle of my journey around Barbados, visiting every Post Office over what started out as a day trip but turned into a two day epic.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning on 26th May 2014 when I set out from the hotel near Rockley Beach to the first Post Office, just a mile down the road. My chosen method of transportation for this quest was ‘The Beast’, shown below, which you can clearly see is a lean, mean driving machine. OK, so some or all of that might not be true. Mostly the bits about it being lean and mean. It did drive though, mostly very slowly but as drivers in Barbados do tend to go at a slower pace than the UK this wasn’t a real problem.
Worthing Post Office, Christ Church, Barbados
The first stop on the tour was Worthing Post Office which is easily found next to the Super Centre Supermarket, behind the Shell Garage which is at the corner of Worthing Main Road and Rendezvous Hill.
As with all Barbados Post Offices it is clearly signed and there is ample free parking right outside.
Inside I was lucky enough to be served by Peter who is a proud Aston Villa fan and although he couldn’t cancel at the counter he did point me to the post boxes and assured me that they would be cancelled carefully.
True to his word, they were and here is the first cancelled cover which arrived back to me in the UK a week later.
I told him that my next stop was Welches Road Post Office as I believed from my research that this was just down the road before Oistins. Sadly as it turned out I was wrong. If you search online for Welches Road Post Office you won’t find a decent map or useful directions, so I ended up in Welches wondering where the Post Office was. After asking a very helpful policeman I realised I was in the wrong place so I carried on to Oistins for the next office.
Christ Church Post Office, Oistins, Christ Church, Barbados
Easy to find at the junction of Oistins Main Road and Oistins Hill, the Post Office is a large building with easy parking right behind it.
I was served by a lovely lady who went out of her way to get my covers cancelled. Having explained what was trying to do and taking pity on a mad stamp collector she asked me to wait whilst she went to another part of the building, brought back the canceller and then cancelled the covers in front of me. Once again I managed to buy the ‘Local Fruits’ stamps for the correct current Europe Postcard/Letter rate of $2.20 and within fifteen minutes I was on my way.
Grantley Adams International Airport, Seawell, Christ Church, Barbados
Probably one of the easiest Post Offices to find on the island as it’s hard to miss the airport!
The office is located on the concourse right next to the Chefette Restaurant and of course there is a huge amount of parking. Unlike everywhere else this parking isn’t free however it is just $1 (33p) for half an hour so it isn’t an issue. Quite a change from the swingeing parking charges at airports here in the UK!
Inside the Post Office I was served by a lovely young lady and when I explained what I wanted again she went out of her way to help. She even stuck the stamps on the envelopes for me but used a glue stick to do so instead of licking them so they won’t be coming off anytime soon!
Every one of the envelopes I sent myself back was sealed but empty and every one arrived back safely, apart from this one. For some reason someone has carefully slit it open, as if to inspect the contents, before it completed its journey to me. Of course it’s impossible to say whether it was opened in Barbados or the UK but as it was clearly an empty envelope it remains a mystery as to why this happened.
This was the first of the ‘timed’ cancels that are sometimes used in Barbados where there is an arrow pointing to the time of receipt against a dial of 24 hours. I arrived around 11am but the cancel says 9am so I’m guessing that it is changed twice a day, once for morning and once for afternoon.
Once again, fifteen minutes later I’m on my way to the next stop up in St Philip.
St Philip Post Office, Emerald City Complex, Six Roads, St.Philip, Barbados
Straight up the road and just before the roundabout at Six Cross Roads there is an entrance to the Emerald City complex and once again the Post Office is easy to find.
Once again I purchased the local fruits stamps, affixed them to my covers and asked the nice assistant if they would cancel them carefully for me as they were for a display once I got back to the UK. The result is a relatively clean strike in black ink and in ten minutes I was in and out.
This was going swimmingly, what could possibly go wrong?
St John Post Office, Four Roads, St John, Barbados
This post office is really easy to find, but it took me thirty minutes of driving around to finally nail it. The problem was that I was approaching it from the south and therefore missed the building completely. I got to the cross roads, couldn’t see anything obvious so turned right and started to search and this was my first mistake, you see the Post Office is actually on the cross roads, right next door to the Fire Station and if you approach from the south the entrance to the car park is on your left hand side.
By the time I had messed about, picked up a local family who were walking and going that way and who kindly showed me where it was, I had lost over half an hour and I arrived at 1.01PM. The office shuts at 1.00 for lunch.
Fortunately there were a couple of local ladies sitting outside the office at the back and when I got talking to them and explained what I was trying to do they shouted one of the staff out. Despite being on lunch she was extraordinarily helpful and sold me two local fruits stamps, allowed me to stick them on the covers then she took them off me to cancel.
As you can see they also use a time ring canceller although it doesn’t appear to show any time indicator on it for when they received the cover.
We had a great chat for a couple of minutes and then I was gone onto the next one. After all, it was their lunch time!
St Joseph Post Office, The Eric Holder Jr. Municipal Complex, Blackmans, St Joseph, Barbados
If you know where you are going this is a fifteen minute drive. I didn’t and this wasn’t. It took me almost an hour to travel the short distance between these two offices. Sadly Google was no help with this one as it simply doesn’t recognise the address and the tourist map I was using was showing roads that didn’t exist, one’s that did exist but weren’t signposted and before I know It I was going past the same sugar refining factory for the third time.
On the bright side I saw parts of the island I’d never seen before and even if I had got there in ten minutes I’d only have had to wait in the car until the office re opened at 2pm.
Eventually I did arrive at the Post Office and found a massive empty car park as it is opposite the Magistrates Court building, Police Station and Library.
Inside there was a customer ahead of me in the queue for the first time that day; everywhere else I had walked straight in and been the only customer there. After she had been served I explained my crusade to the lady behind the counter who was again very helpful.
Here is the cover and a rather faint cancel from St Joseph.
Ten minutes later I was leaving and on my way out the lady who had been in the queue ahead of me was talking to the guard on the steps outside. She asked me which was I was going to see if I could give her a lift. As it turned out I was going in neither direction that she needed but when I explained my plan she offered to show me where the Post Offices were. Just like that. And that is Barbados in a nutshell. This lady, Marjory, was prepared to spend a couple of hours of her day helping a mad tourist to locate remote post offices.
Naturally I agreed and we were off to continue the adventure, but this time with a twist. What I hadn’t accounted for was that all the rural post offices in Barbados not only close for an hour at lunchtime but they also close for the day at 3pm. So the race was on to see how many we could get to before closing time!
St. Thomas Post Office, Welchman Hall, St. Thomas, Barbados
Without Marjory on board I doubt I would have found the next few so quickly. We went cross country and followed the signs for Harrisons Cave, which is the nearest tourist attraction. The office itself is quite a large building set up from the main road by a roundabout and parking is, once again, immediately outside the door.
Diving inside and explaining what I was trying to do I obtained two more local fruits stamps and received two nice cancels.
Outside, we decided to go next to Bellplaine but on the way we stopped at one of Marjory’s friends houses to say hello. It’s not every day you get to guide a tourist around the island, especially when you were only going out to pay a couple of bills!
St Andrew Post Office, Bellplaine, St Andrew, Barbados
St Andrew Post Office is straight up Highway 2 at Bellplaine and for the first time on the tour I found that there were no local fruits stamps available so I had to settle for two of the Lighthouses series.
The office itself is quite small and it wasn’t much of a surprise to find they had a limited range of stamps but even so the staff were extremely helpful and the young lady who served me promised to cancel the stamps neatly for me.
The clock was ticking now so under advice from Marjory we decide to get to Speightstown as soon as we could, but this is literally on the other side of the island from where we were. Time to use the turbo booster!
St Peter Post Office, Speightstown, St. Peter, Barbados
Following Highway 2 most of the way across the island we made good time and when we arrived we had been told that it was in the back streets near the bank. Indeed it is so aim for the First Caribbean Bank and beware there is a one way system so you have to go in a loop to get to the Post Office. If in doubt look for the postal workers buzzing about on their mopeds.
Inside the staff were wonderful and amazed at what I was trying to do but as always really helpful. I decided to buy a handful of the local fruits stamps here as I realised that time was running out and the offices would all be closing very shortly. The plan therefore was to simply photograph and post covers from the remaining offices without going in and buying any stamps.
Here’s the cover I finally received when I got back home.
Next up was the northernmost office on the island in St Lucy.
St Lucy Post Office, Benthams, St Lucy, Barbados
We left Speightstown at quarter to three not thinking we would get to St Lucy in time, but with a clear road and the fact that Benthams is on the main road into St Lucy (follow Highway 1b and it appears on your right hand side) we got there just in time.
I jumped out of the car and started to take photographs but was greeted by a security guard who told me I wasn’t allowed to take photographs. Here he is, pictured telling me I couldn’t take a photo. Which I obviously ignored.
Inside however the young lad at the counter was helpful and as we were approaching closing time he cancelled two covers for me in double quick time. As I had a few minutes to spare I thought I would do something different so I decided to send myself a Registered Letter from St Lucy on the basis that there can’t be many of them in existence. More of that in another post.
As we left they were closing the Post Office so I figured that was the end of the adventure for the day but with only half of the offices done. Marjory was having none of it though and so I agreed to take her into Bridgetown and as we dropped down the West Coast we would try to fit some more offices in.
St James Post Office, Police Station Complex, Holetown, Barbados
This one stumped us for a good few minutes and we had to stop and ask directions. In fact we were actually in the car park of the Post Office and we still had to ask where it was.
What fooled us was that everywhere else there are the familiar red, black and white signs which clearly identify the Post Offices but in this case there was nothing. This is the best photo I could take of the building and this is the signage.
Easy to miss but equally easy to find if you know its opposite the Esso garage just down from the Limegrove Shopping Centre in Holetown.
The covers that arrived back from here were disappointing in that there are no distinguishing marks to tell it came from St James. The only way I knew is that I had marked the back of every cover to ensure that I could match them up.
West Terrace Post Office, NCF Complex, West Terrace, St James, Barbados
[Update May 2019 – West Terrace Post Office has now been closed permanently]
Leaving Holetown and heading south towards Bridgetown we followed the road and then turned right just after Daphne’s restaurant and headed up Holders Hill. Following the tourist map it looked as if we would need to drop down into the residential area to get to the post office and this is in fact what we did, but in reality had we simply stayed on the road we were on we would have found it.
In the end we had to ask some locals who were sitting by the side of the road and in typically Bajan fashion we got two completely different sets of directions!
West Terrace is nothing much of a Post Office although I never got to go inside. In the end I simply posted the covers in the box outside but as you can see this is the best of the two cancels I got and it’s very disappointing. An indistinct smudge on an unremarkable cover; it could have been posted anywhere. If you look really closely you can just about make out the words West Terrace Post Office but without being told that you may be hard pressed to see it.
Had I been able to go inside I’ve no doubt I could have asked for a clear cancel but as I had to just drop the cover in the box it is what it is.
Eagle Hall Post Office, President Kennedy Drive, St Michael, Barbados
Dropping further south from West Terrace we resumed towards Bridgetown but instead of taking Spring Garden Highway into town we took the road through Black Rock down to Eagle Hall. Sadly Black Rock post office closed some time ago so there was no way of getting the cancel that appears on so many stamps for the 1970’s, but we did find Eagle Hall by driving down the road to the first major junction then turning right towards Bridgetown, with the Post Office being on the right hand side.
Although the cancel is slightly smudged it is clearly an Eagle Hall cancel and as the office was shut, the cover got a 27th May cancel so it must have been processed the day after posted it.
General Post Office, Cheapside, Bridgetown, St Michael, Barbados
Our final stop for the day was the main Post Office in Bridgetown which I was surprised to find open as by this time it was gone 4pm. Once again there was no queue and the lady I spoke to at the counter was very helpful however she did advise me that she had no way of cancelling at the counter so I had to simply drop my covers into the airmail box and they would be cancelled in the normal way.
As you can see this has left a pretty poor cancel although I’m sure that it won’t be that difficult to get another better one in the future.
With that I dropped the extraordinarily helpful Marjory off (with a small gift to help with tea and her fare home) and I headed back to the hotel. Marjory was very camera shy but I did manage to get just one snap of her for posterity. If you are ever in Bathsheba and see her than tell her this is online and that she is now famous!
Brittons Hill Post Office, Brittons Hill, St Michael, Barbados
Day two of the adventure started with just three more offices to get. First on the list was Brittons Hill which was just down the road from where we were staying.
It is easy to find as it is just two minutes north of the racecourse at Garrison Savannah. Inside, once again, everyone was very helpful and it took just a couple of minutes to get covers cancelled and take these photographs.
Having purchased some more stamps and received a nice cancel the covers went into the post. When they arrived back I found a nice cancel on the reverse in a different colour and this was the only office I found that did this.
Then it was onto the one I couldn’t find the day before, Welches Road. This time round I asked the staff in Brittons Hill and got really easy, clear directions so it was a breeze.
Out of Britons Hill, down to the traffic lights and turn right at the Petrol Station. Keep straight on the is road and don’t turn off left or right and in about a mile you get to a small gyratory system with a big church on the left. Opposite the church, in the middle of the gyratory system, is Welches Road Post Office. Simple!
Welches Road Post Office, Welches Road, St Michael, Barbados
When you know what you are looking for it’s easy isn’t it, and so it was with this one.
The Post Office is quite a strange arrangement with no apparent ‘indoors’ part for them public – you simply go to the counters which are on the outside of the building facing the road and are served from there. Sorry no photos of this as there was another helpful security guard present.
The lovely lady Peter from Worthing had told me to ask for the day before served me and helped ensure that the covers got a clear cancel and as there was nothing else to see I jumped straight back in the car and headed for the last office.
St George Post Office, The Valley, St George, Barbados
Easy to find as it is right next door to the Police Station which is marked clearly on all tourist maps.
When I explained to the staff what I’d been up to for the past day and half they could hardly believe it and thought I must be mad but I did assure them that I would be writing this up on the website and that they should check to see what I had written. They were all lovely and we had a good laugh about my little adventure.
The cover got a nice clean St George Post Office cancel and another random and slightly smudged time cancel as well.
And that was it, the end of the adventure. The next day the car went back to the hire company and although I got the bus into town to the Philatelic Bureau a couple of days later this was the end of the philatelic journey. Of course there is one more Post Office that I didn’t get to visit which is at the Cruise Terminal but as all mail from here is taken into Bridgetown for cancelling I decided not to include it in this quest.
What did I learn from visiting all the Post Offices on Barbados?
One of the other guests in the hotel asked me why I did this. My answer was because it was there.
To my knowledge no one else has done this in recent times, or of they have they haven’t written it up like this. I wanted the covers to make a display for my local philatelic society and more importantly I actually wanted to visit all the offices myself.
After all this site is all about Barbados Stamps and it’s all very well writing about stamps and covers that are 100 years old but what about the stamps of today? What about the current Postal operations? And how do you go about visiting every Post Office on the island?
I chose to go anti clockwise around the island although if I were to do it again knowing now where all the offices are, I’d probably go the other way. I’d also make sure I planned it over two days not one as it was a real rush.
I learned that the staff who work for BPS are great. Every one of them went out of their way to help a crazy English stamp collector on a mission to get a cancel from every office and they were a credit to BPS. Even the security guard who stopped me taking photos; nothing personal, I know he was just doing his job.
I learned that Google has no ideas where some of these places are. Try it yourself, try putting some of these addresses into Google and see what you get. In once case it tried to tell me I needed to go the the USA!
I stopped to ask for directions so many times I learned that the Bajan people are some of the most helpful and hospitable in the world, although having been there a number of times before I already knew this. My journey simply reaffirmed this fact.
I also learned that this is probably the only place in the world where a complete stranger will get into your car, show you the way around the island and give up two hours of her day with no expectation of reward. Marjory, I am truly grateful for all your help. Without you I would probably never have completed my mission. I hope you enjoyed your late lunch and now have a great tale to tell your friends.
Finally I saw parts of the island I had never seen before, drove down roads I didn’t know existed and saw some breathtaking sights. It was a real adventure and one I will never forget.