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Chattel House

chattel house


Chattel House is Barbadian slang for a small wooden house that working class people would occupy. The word "Chattel" means movable property as the term goes back to the plantation days when the house owners would buy houses designed to move from one place to another. Chattel houses are set on blocks or a groundsill rather than being anchored into the ground. They are built entirely out of wood and assembled without using nails. This made it easy to disassemble and moved from place to place. These houses were necessary historically because home "owners" typically did not own the land that their house was set on.

It has been traditional for persons in Barbados to build additions on to their chattel house occasionally. The house may look as though different sections are at slightly different heights or in a different pattern due to each part being constructed at different stages.

Modern chattel houses tend to have a greater degree of immovability, as they are often connected to the electricity mains, and may either have a permanent septic tank or be connected to a public sewer system.


Timbers were in pre-cut in average lengths of 12 to 20 feet. The front fa├žades tend to be symmetrical, with the door in centre flanked by a window on each side. As the financial situation changed additions would be made. The roofs were often made of corrugated metal made of iron.