Christopher Codrington III (1668-1710), the benefactor after whom Codrington College is named, was the son of a very prominent Barbadian, Christopher Codrington II, who was at one time Governor General of the Leeward Islands. He was born either at Codrington Plantation in St. Michael, or Didmarton Plantation, now called Society, in St. John. He spent most of his boyhood at Consetts, the site of the present College. After joining his father in Antigua for a short while, Christopher Codrington III went to England where he took a degree at Oxford University and became a Fellow of All Souls College. He served in the Army for sometime before returning to the Leeward Islands to succeed his father as Governor General. His policy of amelioration of the poor whites and slaves brought him into disfavour of the plantocracy. Consequently, he gave up the position of Governor Codrington College and returned to Barbados to live in retirement at Consetts in St. John.
Christopher Codrington III, died on Good Friday, April 7, 1710 and was buried at St. Michael's Cathedral. Later his body was exhumed and taken to be buried in the Chapel of All Saints College, to which he bequeathed his large selection of books and £10,000 in cash. In his will he had left to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel the estates at Society and Consetts. One of the purposes of the bequest was that there should be maintained a number of professors who should be obliged to teach medicine, surgery and divinity. So his request stated:
Give and Bequeath my two Plantations in the Island of Barbados to the Society for propagation of the Christian Religion in Forreighn parts, Erected and Established by my Late good master, King William the Third, and my desire is to have the Plantations Continued Intire and three hundred negros at Least Kept always thereon, and A Convenient number of Professors and Scholars Maintained there, all of them to be under the vows of Chastity and obedience, who shall be oblidged to Studdy and Practice Physick and Chyrurgery as well as divinity, that by the apparent usefulness of the former to all mankind, they may Both indear themselves to the People and have better oppertunitys of doeing good To mens Souls whilst Takeing Care of their Bodys. (See Harlow, Vincent T., Christopher Codrington III: 1667-1710, London: Hurst & Company; New York: St. Matrin's Press, 1928, 1990, 213, , 218. The clause in italics was deleted by Archbishop Tenison after being considered popish by Christopher Codrington's heir Colonel William Codrington. So Harlow, Christopher, 213 esp. note 1).
For some time the estates were ran by Barbadian planters, who acted either as agents or trustees or managers, conducting business in the way all estates in Barbados were ran. Codrington's desire to Christianise the slaves was rejected by the Barbadian plantocracy, who opposed teaching the slaves how to read and write. Evidence shows that the slaves were even branded with the letters "SOCIETY" on their chest, a practice that was discontinued when Reverend Holt, Rector of St. Andrew protested to the SPG. In 1741 over 100 slaves from the estates marched to Bridgetown to protest their treatment to the SPG's agent in Barbados. It was only in 1790 when the anti-slavery movement in England exerted pressure on the Anglican Church and the SPG that there was some amelioration in the conditions of the slaves.
After some delay - the result of legal disputes - the erection of the College got under way in 1715. The buildings were not completed until 1743, economic depression, drought and other difficulties having caused further delays. The College was officially opened on September 9, 1745 and the Chapel dedicated on June 11, 1749 - the Feast of St. Barnabas. In 1745 a grammar school, The Lodge School was established at the Chaplain's Lodge (thus the name) to teach the basics of education, reading, writing, Latin, and accountancy.
For a long time the College provided a general education which included philosophy and divinity. As early as 1748 it began lectures in advanced studies, following the appointment of professors of Philosophy and Mathematics, and of surgery, though Codrington College never produced medical doctors nor surgeons. The first graduate was ordained as early as 1759. In this regard, it catered for the sons of the local gentry who would otherwise have gone to England for their education. It also catered for a number of poorer, but academically able, young boys. It served, therefore to prepare young Barbadians for entry into the two Universities in England - Oxford and Cambridge. Later on the College began to offer tertiary education, and was affiliated to the University of Durham in 1875. It prepared candidates for Durham degrees until 1958. At a later date the College became affiliated to the University of the West Indies, for whose degree and Licentiate candidates are now examined.
It was in 1830 that the College began training candidates exclusively for ordination under the Rev. J.H. Pinder. Codrington College, therefore, holds a venerable place in the Anglican Communion as its first Theological College. It ante-dated Chichester (1839) England's First, and Wells (1840), in which latter, J.H. Pinder became the first Principal. He had served at Codrington from 1829-35. An eminent successor of Pinder's, Richard Rawle, 1847 - 1864, successfully opposed the attempt to have the College revert to its former function of educating the sons of the gentry.
Following affiliation with the University of Durham in 1875, the College proceeded to offer programmes in Classics as well as in Theology. As a result, the College has produced many persons who made their mark in teaching, law, medicine, the civil service, as well as in the Church. Since 1955, following the establishment of the University of the West Indies, the College has concentrated on Theological Studies. Its graduates are to be found in various parts of the Anglican Communion: Europe, Africa, North America, Australia, as well as the West Indies. A new development followed the affiliation of the College to the University of the West Indies in 1965. By virtue of this arrangement, the students of the College may be admitted to the Licentiate in Theology and the B.A. Theology of the University. Though the affiliation with Durham University continues, and students may still enter for the Durham B.A. Hons. in Theology, this affiliation is being used for post-graduate studies.
Beginning in 1989/90 the College expanded its offerings into post-graduate study. It is beginning with limited work in Biblical Studies and in Church History. The College has become a depository for archival material on the churches in the West Indies. Its microfilm collection includes the records of the SPG, The Church Missionary Society, the Baptist Missionary Society, and the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Grenada. It is hoped that in due course the College will add other collections.
There is a vibrant lay training programme that meets at the College on Saturday. Graduands are granted the Diploma in Theological Studies of the College. Efforts are being made to offer these programmes to the Dioceses of the Province using online technology. The College has a service to perform - a service that is greatly in demand - but it has limited resources with which to do its task. Nevertheless, the College presses on with its mission. That mission is to provide the instrument and means by which the Church in the Province of the West Indies pursues its mission which is to bring all people into unity with God and each other in Christ.
For Further Reading See:
Bennett, Harry J., Bondsmen and Bishops: Slavery and Apprenticeship on the Codrington Plantations of Barbados, 1710-1838, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1958.
Harlow, Vincent T., Christopher Codrington III: 1667-1710, London: Hurst & Company; New York: St. Matrin's Press, 1990, 1928.
Holder, John W., Codrington College: A Brief History, Bridgetown, Barbados: Caribbean Contact, 1988.
Hoyos, F. A., Two Hundred Years: A History of the Lodge School, 1745-1945, Barbados: Advocate, 1945.
Klingburg, Frank J., Codrington Chronicle: An Experiment in Anglican Altruism on a Barbados Plantation, 1710-1834, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University Press of California, 1949.
Schomburgk, Robert H., The History of Barbados; ComprisingaA Geographical and Statistical Description of the Island, a Sketch of the Historical Events Since the Settlement, and an Account of its Geology and Natural Productions, London: Frank Cass, 1971, 1848.