Short History of the Diocese of the Windward Islands
The nineteenth century was a turbulent period
for the peoples of the Caribbean. The early part of the
century was marked by a series of attempts by the slave
population of the region to secure their freedom. It was
also in the early part of the century that the most important
development of that period occurred. The institution of
slavery was abolished. The formation of the Diocese of
the Windward Islands occurred less than fifty years after
the abolition of slavery.
Alfred Caldecott, in his history on the Church in the
West Indies, claims that the formation of the Diocese
of the Windward Islands was related to certain political
events of the time. In 1876, an attempt was made by Britain
to federate the smaller territories of the eastern Caribbean.
This attempt is seen by some historians as a move by the
British to reduce the cost of administering the islands
and at the same time to gain firmer control of them. The
idea of a Federation was resisted by the Barbadian plantocracy,
and the plans for a federation were shelved. Britain then
proceeded to group St. Vincent, Grenada and their dependencies,
along with Tobago, into the Windward Island government.
This new political arrangement carried with it some ecclesiastical
implications. The Diocese of Barbados, under whose jurisdiction
the islands of the new government fell, was the established
church of that island, with the stipends of clergy and
other church expenses being met by the government of Barbados.
Some of these benefits could have been extended to all
the islands that were politically attached to Barbados.
Now that these islands were being formed into an autonomous
political unit, Bishop Mitchinson, who was Bishop of Barbados
at that time, thought it best that the islands, which
comprised the new government, be formed into a separate
Diocese. He advocated that the islands of St. Vincent,
Grenada and their dependencies, along with Tobago, be
formed into the Diocese of the Windward Islands. The Church
Councils of the individual islands as well as Provincial
Synod gave approval to Bishop Mitchinson’s proposal.
The islands were separated by Royal Warrant from the
Diocese of Barbados and formed into a separate Diocese
under the style of the Windward Islands. The instrument
of separation, which bears the seal of the Most Rev. Archibald
Campbell, Archbishop of Canterbury, is dated 8th November
1877. In 1889 Tobago was placed politically with Trinidad
and passed into that Diocese. St. Lucia was incorporated
into the Windward Islands in 1899.
The Diocese shared a Bishop with Barbados until the year
1927. It was in this year that the original intention
that the Diocese should have its own Bishop became a reality.
A Synod of the Windward Islands, held the previous year,
expressed a strong opinion that the time had come when
the Diocese should stop sharing a Bishop with Barbados
and secure its own. Synod passed a resolution to this
effect. The resolution read:
Whereas the Diocese of the Windward Islands has been
administered from its inception by the Bishop of Barbados
with permission of government of Barbados, and whereas
it appears from the records that it was the original intention
that the said Diocese should be administered by its own
Bishop so soon as provision therefore could be made financially,
and whereas at a meeting of the Synod of the said Diocese
held at the Cathedral in St. Vincent on the 20th April
1926, there was a unanimous expression of opinion brought
about by the impending retirement of the present Bishop
of Barbaods, that the time had arrived for making an effort
for the carrying out of the original intention, and whereas
it is the desire of the said Synod that the Provincial
Synod be humbly approached at the earliest opportunity
with the view of obtaining sympathetic assistance and
advice in the direction indicated, be it therefore resolved
that the Synod places on record its grateful appreciation
of past service rendered to the Diocese by the See and
government of Barbados, and humbly requests Provincial
Synod to convey the gratitude of this Diocese to the See
and government aforesaid, and in so doing, to endeavour
to obtain some assurance, that should it be found impracticable
either to make or to continue to make the necessary provisions
for the maintenance of its own Bishop, the Bishop of Barbados
to resume the administration of the said Diocese.
On March 19th, 1927, the Synod of the Windward Islands,
comprising nine clergy and fourteen laymen, elected Bishop
Alfred Berkeley, the retired Bishop of Barbados, as Bishop
of the Windward islands. Bishop Berkeley held the See
in conjunction with the rectorship of St. George’s
The last fifty years have seen the Diocese going from
strength to strength. During these years, some twenty-four
persons from the Diocese have offered themselves for the
priesthood. Among them is the present Bishop of the Diocese,
the Rt. Rev. G.C.M. Woodroffe. Many others have held responsible
positions both in the Diocese and abroad.
Major Events in Diocesan History
1877 - Diocese constituted by letters patent.
1899 - St. Lucia incorporated into the Diocese.
1917 - Anglican High School of Grenada founded by Archdeacon
1920 - The Cathedral celebrated 100th anniversary of consecration
as a parish church.
1927 - The Bishop of Barbados stopped administering the
diocese, and for the first time in its history the Diocese
of the Windward Islands is administered separately by
its own Bishop.
1943 - The Church of Holy Trinity, Castries, celebrated
its 100th anniversary of consecration.
1947 - The Mothers’ Union organization was introduced
into the Diocese.
1962 - The first consecration took place in the Diocese.
Archdeacon Harold Piggott was consecrated Bishop of the
1964 - Three more Secondary schools started. These are
the Bishop’s College of Kingstown, Georgetown and
1969 - The Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Diocese.
1970 - The Cathedral celebrated its 150th anniversary
of consecration as a parish church.