Today Barbados number one source of foreign income is the tourism industry. It is known across the world as a ideal holiday spot. Hotels can no longer be found in Bridgetown today but spread up and down the Islands South and West Coast. The accommodation and hotels of today are much different to their predecessors that once existed in Bridgetown.
One of the most talked about hotels of its time in Barbados was owned by Rachel Lauder. Rachel was the daughter of an African Slave and Lauder a Scotsman who had left England in disgrace. Lauder was the Latin teacher and Harrison's College. As his daughter Rachel grew into maturity her physical charms attracted her father and that when she refused her fathers advances he handed over to the whipper who was usually employed to punish unruly slaves. Rumor has it that Rachel was saved by the intervention of Mr Thomas Pringle an officer of the Royal Navy who then purchased her freedom at a high price. Rachel then took on the name of her protector. the relationship is said to have ended when Rachel trying to hold on to Pringels affections presented a child to Pringle on one of his visits claiming that the child was their child together. Her plan was spoiled when the child's mother came forward and demanded its return. Pringle saw the light and left Rachel forever.
Rachel quickly found another protector and adopted his name in 1780 Rachel Pringle Polgreen opened a hotel in Canary Street. The American Revolutionary War being in full swing and France fighting on the side of the United States meant that there was considerable military and naval presence in the Caribbean. In 1786 Prince William Henry Duke of Clarence and Later King William visited Barbados while serving as a naval captain. The Price took rooms at Rachel's hotel and it is said that one night after wining and dining with a party of officers that the prince and his companions proceeded to wreck the establishment. They even knocked Rachel who was heavy set and well endowed off her chair. Rachel took it all quiet well and gave only a mild protest but the next day before the Price sailed she presented him a bill for 700 sterling which he paid without question. Rachel took the money and maid grand repairs to the hotel and renamed it the Royal Naval Hotel in honour of her Royal guest.
On Rachel's death the hotel passed into the hands of Nancy Clarke. Nancy was however a person of very different character from her predecessor. Purely out of jealousy she once destroyed the beauty of an attractive rival by throwing nitric acid in her face. the tragic accident inspired a song
"If you go to Nancy Clarke,
She will take you in the dark
When she get you in the dark
She will give you aqua forits (Acid)"
Nancy's principal rival in business at the time would have been Betsy (or Susy) Austin another free coloured woman. Betsy was a massively built woman who had a taste for alcoholic beverages and a colourful vocabulary. She nevertheless was said to have kept an orderly house. She sold a variety of jellies and drip stones (cut from limestone and used for filtering water) which she sold for 50% above their value. It is said that when questioned about her prices that her disposition would quickly change and one wold then become acquainted with her colourful vocabulary.
There were many other hoteliers that followed some of them being: Sabrina Bade, Betsy Austin, Hannah Lewis, Hannah Massiah, Rebbecca Phillips, Caroline Lee, Mrs Roach, Miss McAlpine & Mrs Forte.
It was recorded by a visiting Dr. Dr Pinkard that the female slaved who formed the domestic staff at these establishments were permitted to engage in prostitution as this offered their only hope of raising money to purchase manumission. "freedom".