17th – Early 20th Century
During the 17th until the early 20th Century most economic activity was centered on agriculture, particularly sugar production, so it came as no surprise that most manufacturing that would have taken place during that time was also based on this particular crop production. One cottage industry that grew out of this particular economic activity during the 17th – 20th century was that of the manufacturing of pottery. Manufacturing of clay pottery took place in Chalky Mount, St. Andrew, where skilled potters used the clay deposits found in the area to make clay pots that were subsequently used to cure Muscovado sugar. After emancipation such potters continued to ply their trade by making various household wares that were either traded by women in Bridgetown or sold directly to hotels and visitors.
Another industry that was born out of this era was that of the rum industry. Dating back from as early as 1637, one witnessed the distillation of Barbadian rum which was done on small scale distilleries around the island. Initially, such distillation was not systematic but with the official opening of Mount Gay in 1703, rum production became organised and regular. To aid in such rum and sugar production, the Central Foundry Ltd. and the Barbados Foundry Ltd. were created (The latter being registered in 1910). Both of these companies offered services such as electrical maintenance; installation of diesel pumps, electric motors etc.; welding and many other services to various companies especially those involved in sugar and rum production.
Another company by the name of the Barbados Cooperage Limited was also established in 1929 to give assistance to rum and sugar producers. This company was in the business of importing staves that were consequently utilised in the manufacturing of barrels.
As the 20th Century approached, and early into this century, many of the manufacturing businesses as we know them today opened their doors. At this point, we saw the expansion of manufacturing that was not based solely on agriculture this therefore signaled a shift in manufacturing within Barbados. These businesses included:
- Cole’s Printery (1860)
- The West Indies Rum Distilleries (1893)
- BICO Ltd. (1901) began its operations with the production of ice but by 1950 the company had set up a small ice-cream plant and was in the business of producing ice-cream. In August 2009, the BICO manufacturing plant was destroyed by fire,
- Purity Bakeries (1910)
- The West India Biscuit Company (1910) was established to produce a range of biscuits to the local and regional market. It played a vital role in the survival of local persons during the two World Wars since imported food was scarce.
- Zephirin’s Bakeries (1923)
- R.L. Seale and Company (1926)
- Roberts Manufacturing Co Ltd. (1944) origins dated back to the first decade of the 1900s with a gentleman by the name of Mr. James Roberts who was in the business of producing soaps. Over time he expanded his business to include the production of ‘Oleo’ margarine. It was then in 1944 that Mr. Roberts was propositioned by a Mr. Hunte to further expand the company’s operation and change its management structure. Mr. Hunte’s proposal consequently gave birth to the Roberts Manufacturing that we know today. In 1956 the company began making animal feed and in 1973 it stopped its soap production.