Barbuda: On the Map

Barbuda is one of many small Islands in the Caribbean that form a chain known as the Leeward Islands. It is now part of the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda, with Barbuda located just north of its larger sister island. The first stamp issues were released on 13 July 1922 – stamps of the Leeward Islands overprinted with ‘BARBUDA’. Stocks of this issue were exhausted by October 1925 and from then the island used the stamp issues of Antigua until 1968 when a series featuring a map of Barbuda was released.

1968 Barbuda stamp issue featuring a map of the island
1968 Barbuda issue featuring a map of the island

The island of Barbuda is just 160 square kilometres and was populated by the Arawak and Carib Indians when it was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493. The island was settled by the Spanish, the French and then the British who established a colony in 1666. In 1685, Barbuda was leased to the Codrington family who had grown wealthy on the sugarcane plantations of Antigua. Despite the family’s close association with the slave trade, their name lives on in the only notable town on the island – Codrington – which hosts the vast majority of todays population of approximately 1,500 people.

1971 Barbuda stamp issue featuring the Martello Tower
1971 Barbuda issue featuring the Martello Tower

Barbuda is noted for it’s Frigate Bird sanctuary in the Codrington lagoon, Indian Caves and beautiful Pink Sands Beach, all of which have featured on the island’s stamp issues. Also to have featured on more than one stamp issue is the River Fort Martello Tower which is located on the south coast of Barbuda and seven miles from Codrington. Martello Towers are small defensive forts that were built across the British Empire during the 19th century, from the time of the French Revolutionary Wars. Most of these towers were coastal forts and follow a similar design, standing up to 12 m high with two floors and typically supported a garrison of one officer and 15 to 25 men. The River Fort Martello Tower was built on the site of a former Spanish fort to protect River Landing, which at the time was Barbuda’s principle quay. It was the first of the many Martello Towers to be built in the Caribbean and remains the highest building on Barbuda.

1974 Barbuda stamp issue featuring the Martello Tower
1974 Barbuda issue featuring the Martello Tower

Sadly, the island has been severely damaged by repeated hurricane storms. In September 1995, Hurricane Luis destroyed much of the islands’ fledgling tourism industry and the shells of multiple luxury hotels can still be seen in close proximity to the spectacular beaches that edge the island. In September 2017, Barbuda was hit again by Hurricane Irma which destroyed virtually all of the island’s infrastructure and buildings, and all of the island’s population were temporarily evacuated to Antigua. Antigua and Barbuda gained full independence from the UK in 1981 and is now a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth.

To view postal issues of Barbuda, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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