Plantations of Antigua: the Sweet Success of Sugar: A Biography of the Historic Plantations Which Made Antigua a Major Source of the World's Early Sugar Supply

Plantations of Antigua: the Sweet Success of Sugar: A Biography of the Historic Plantations Which Made Antigua a Major Source of the World's Early Sugar Supply


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It sits there, dormant, nestled in a small bowl or serving-size packet, waiting to be spooned into a cup of coffee or tea, spread across some cereal, or dropped into a recipe for cake, pie, or other scrumptious treat in the making. It is so readily available, so easy to use, and so irresistibly tasty.

But few people stop to realize the enormous economic, social, political, even military upheaval this simple-looking, widely popular food enhancer has caused in many parts of the world. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, even into the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth, sugar cane was a preeminent crop upon which economies succeeded or failed, societies grew, and money flowed like . . . well, sugar!

A region particularly impacted by sugar was the volcanic islands of the Caribbean-virgin soil enriched by crushed coral and limestone and blessed by unlimited sunshine. The result was soil so rich for planting that the necklace of island colonies and small nation-states became a massive source of the world's supply of sugar. Antigua's 108 square miles, an island of undulating hills and indented coastline, fell into this category.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524687335
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/20/2017
Pages: 334
Sales rank: 497,731
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.06(d)

About the Author

Agnes C. Meeker, MBE is a sixth generation Antiguan on her Mother's side, all of whom have been involved in the sugar industry. She takes great pride in her Caribbean island country and its rich history, and works tirelessly to preserve that history for future generations. She devoted more than 20 years of research to document the historical information contained in this volume about Antigua's sugar plantations. Volume 1 was published in March 2017, and Volume 3 is scheduled for publication in 2019. She has been engaged with the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda for 20-plus years, and in 2016, was presented with the distinguished Member of the British Empire award by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for founding Antigua's St. John Hospice.

Donald A. Dery is a former journalist and corporate communications executive, with international experience in Europe, Canada and Mexico as well as the United States. He is the author of two novels: Smooth Talkin' Bastard and It's Not Easy, and is working on his third. He and his wife, Rowena, reside in Newport, RI and Antigua, WI.

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The Sugar Plantations and Mills of St. George's Parish

The numbered circles indicate the location of the Parish's sugar plantations and mills. In 1777/1778, this Parish embraced 6,120 acres.

#51 – Gravenor's Plantation

The Ownership Chronology

1671: Thomas Gravenor. Purchased five acres in New North Sound from Richard Veale, in 1671.

1700: Thomas Gravenor. d.1741 at St. George's.

1741: Thomas Gravenor. Will dated 1787.

1777/78 Luffman map.

1769: Jane Richardson Buckley. Baptized 1769. Owned 1/4

1787: William Gravenor. d.1811

1790: Heirs of William Gravenor, in quarter parts.

1812: William King & John Laviscount (d.1815), in quarter parts. Broke entail in 1815 in consideration for him raising her (Anne Gravenor Laviscount) annuity from 200 pounds to $1200 p.a. secured on Longland and Delaps estates.

1821: George Weatherill Ottley. b.1783 living 1848 of Parry's (#88).

1832: Clement Tudway, Swanston & William Clarke.

1843: Dr. John Freeland. Attorney for Clement Tudway Swanston & William Clarke.

1851: Heirs of Dr. John Freeland. 83 acres.

1851 & 1872 Horsford Almanac

1891: John Freeland.

1891 Henry Martin Adams map

1895: C. D. Ledeatt.

1933: Commander Joseph Turner Dew, VD. b.1867. 1926 on King George V's Birthday Honour List when Commanding Officer of the Defense Force.

1933 Camacho map

1946: Antigua Syndicate Estates Ltd.

1968: Antiguan Government - Crown land.

* * *

Gravenor's was a small plantation of 83 acres (66 in St. George's Parish; 17 in St. John's Parish), with 53 slaves. The sugar mill is in excellent shape, built with particularly well-cut stone, visible from Thibou/Jarvis (#34), but difficult to reach due to extensive bush. The land rises, providing views of the sea at what is now called Jabberwock beach (prior Beach Hotel beach). An enormous rectangular pit in what was the floor still exists, similar to the floor at Betty's Hope (#77a) which allowed the juice from the crushed cane to collect and flow down to the works for processing. Very few of the existing mills show this feature and have probably been filled in over time. The Thibou/Jarvis estate lies to the west.

There is a boat landing near Spanish Point, in Barbuda, known as Gravenor's Landing.

"In 1671 John Heely of Antigua, planter, Ex'or of Richard Veele, sells to Thomas Gravenor 5 acres at New North Sound. Petition of Thomas Gravenor, Gent., for grant of rock, called Exchange, north of Antigua, for building stone for erecting of a dwelling house."

History of the Island of Antigua by Vere Oliver, Volume II.

The Court House in St. John's, built in 1750 (architect Peter Hamilton, US), was constructed from stone quarried from the North Shore islands and ferried to St. John's. The Exchange islands today clearly show that stone has been removed.

There is a 1754 painting by Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) of John and Ann Gravenor with their daughters, which hangs at the Yale Center for British Art (USEVM).

John Laviscount married Ann Gravenor Buckley, the granddaughter and co-remainder for Gravenor's estate under the will of her grandfather. John Laviscount Anderson (1792-1874) was a partner in the firm of Manning & Anderson. Ann Gravenor's will, dated 1789, specifies that she "is to be buried in the burying ground on the plantation of my late father Thos. Gravenor, Esq".

History of the Island of Antigua by Vere Oliver, Volume II.

In 1812, there was an indenture which instructed: "convey to Wlm. Ew. King and John Laviscount their undivided 4th part of all that plantation call "Gravenor" in the Div. of Popeshead, containing 100 acres all in cane except a small quantity of pasture lying between the estate of Mr. Nibbs and Mr. Jarvis which encircle the said plantation all around."

History of the Island of Antigua by Vere Oliver, Volume I.

In 1832 Swanston & Co. was a merchant firm in London, England, going back to 1800 with Sherland Swanston. The name changed to Swanston, and Clement Tudway Swanston had investment in the firm with William Clarke as his partner.

The company was still viable in 1890, and was situated at 1 Laurence Pountney Hill, London.

Legacies of British Slave-ownership.

* * *

Dr. John Freeland, who owned the estate in the mid-1800s, was a Government Medical Officer. Estimates are that in 1890 there were fifty-three lepers in Antigua, twelve men and nineteen women among them, who lived in the leper asylum situated on Rat Island within the ruins of The Citadel, Fort George. The August 1890 Antigua Observer described leprosy as "the Question of the moment" and anticipated the prompt proposal of legislation to effect the "compulsory segregation of those afflicted with the disease." A global panic about leprosy had been galvanized in part by the death in 1889 of Father Damien de Veuster, a missionary priest, at a leper asylum in Hawaii. Freda Cassins' "With Silent Tread" was written around this time, and The British Medical Journal of October 5, 1889 published an article entitled "Notes on Leprosy as Observed in Antigua, West Indies" by Dr. Freeland.

The name of the first Ledeatt, ancestor of C. D. Ledeatt (owner in 1891) first appears in 1632, when the first settlers arrived in Antigua. Forty years later, it is recorded that "one Thomas Lyddiat of Antigua, Planter, leased 12 acres of land to John Cable." The name Ledeatt continues in Antigua until the 1940s, when William Coulls Ledeatt owned Tyrell's (#44). Tombstones commemorating the family are in the graveyard of All Saints Anglican Church.

Following the abolition of slavery by the British Parliament in 1833 (law passed in 1834), the British government made Legacy payments (slave compensation) to plantation owners for freeing their unpaid slaves. Gravenor's received Legacy payment Antigua 361 of £8,911. 5s. 11p. for freeing 45 enslaved Africans. The awardees were William Clarke and Clement Tudway Swanston.

Joseph Turner Dew b.1867, d. unknown, son of Joseph Dew (d.1900) who immigrated to Antigua, and Elizabeth Paynter, was born in St. John's, Antigua. He had an engineering business in Antigua and on his death Dalmer, his fourth child (b.1905) who was studying in England had to return to run the business. Joseph Dew & Sons was one of the major businesses in St. John's and owned several estates.

* * *

Tombstones registered in Vere Oliver, but not found in the family burial ground on site: Gravenor/Thomas (1787), (Gravenor/Elizabeth (1808), Gravenor/William, (1811).

* * *

#52 – Nibbs Plantation

The Ownership Chronology

1671: James Nibbs was granted land for cultivation.

1700: James Nibbs. d.1741.

1750: James Langford Nibbs, friend of author Jane Austen. Will: 1792.

1780: Jermiah Nibbs. d.1808

1788: James L. Nibbs.

1777/78 Luffman map

1780: Samuel Martin. b.1714 d.1788

1829: Samuel Martin. b.1789; d.1825. 131 acres and 140 slaves.

1843: George Savage Martin. b.1789; d.1849

1851 Horsford Almanac

1852: Heirs of Samuel Martin. 121 acres.

1851 & 1871 Horsford Almanac

1870: George W. Bennett. b.1835, d.1879. 130 acres.

1872 Horsford Almanac

1879: Henry Ogilvie Bennett. b.1846 d.1895.

1891: James Rocke.

1891 Henry Martin Adams map

1933: Clyde C. McDonald b.1880 d.1963.

1933 Camacho map

1940: George W. Bennett, Bryson & Co. Ltd. Property was leased to the U.S. military,

1943: Antigua Syndicate Estates Ltd.

1968: Antiguan Government - Crown land.

1980: Free Trade Zone was implemented on area near to the mill.

2008: AUA – The American University of Antigua College of Medicine.

* * *

The sugar mill of this plantation may be seen from the road, not far from the Free Trade Zone buildings. It is in excellent condition, despite the tree growing out of its top. Will Blizzard's plantation (#54) lies to the north, High Point (#55) is to the east, Gravenor's (#51) is to the west, and Winthrope's (#56) is to the south. There is no evidence that this planation converted to steam to operate its sugar mill.

Nearby is what was Stephen Blizard's estate (#54), now known as Camp Blizard, home to the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force. This was part of a U.S. Army base during World War II, and later served as a U.S. Navy Base until 1995.

Boyce Ledwell, of the Ledwell & Scott Company, which owned several estates on Antigua, expressed interest in buying the Nibbs Plantations for his family, according to his 1788 will. He and his family had been living on the estate for several years. He died in 1794 and it has not been ascertained that he was able to purchase the estate.

* * *

Following the abolition of slavery in 1834 by the British Parliament, the British government agreed to pay Legacy awards to estate owners who freed their unpaid slaves. £297 was paid to all four of the following claimants: Ann Nibbs, owned one slave; Dorothy Nibbs, owned two slaves; Eliza C. Nibbs, owned 13 slaves; and Mary H. Nibbs, owned six slaves.

Also, Legacy award Antigua 360 was paid £2,135. 6s. 11p; no slave ownership was mentioned; and a second Antigua 360 payment of £2,063. 10s. 5p. was made for freeing 135 slaves. The awardees were Archibald Kelso, William Kelso, Samuel Martin and James Trecothick the Younger. Beneficiaries were Elizabeth Martin (nee Kelso), Francis Thwaites Esq., John Henry Roper and Anna Maria Wrightwick. An unsuccessful claimant was George Savage Martin. However, he counterclaimed as executor of the estate of Samuel Martin (identified as his father) on the Nibbs estate, but he was again unsuccessful. Samuel Martin was also the father of John Halliday Martin (b.1782).

* * *

According to Vere Oliver, Volume II, the Nibbs family had a burial ground at Barnacle Point (the east end of the present runway) until 1808. The site has recently been disturbed by a backhoe, which uncovered one Nibbs headstone dating to the 1700s, as well as two Collins headstones, father and daughter. The headstones have been transported to Betty's Hope, where a planned cemetery of historic headstones rescued from encroaching development and the ubiquitous backhoe, will be established in an effort to preserve history.

Jane Austen's father, George Austen, taught James Langford Nibbs when he was at St. John's College, Oxford. They became very good friends, and Nibbs was a frequent visitor to the Austen home between 1765 and 1819. He must have recounted his West Indian plantation experiences to the family, and in Jane's novel 'Mansfield Park' Sir Thomas Bertram's estates in Antigua are referred to, obviously inspired by Nibbs' tales to the family about his Antiguan experiences.

Nibbs appointed George Austen principal trustee of his Antigua estate, and Austen appointed Nibbs godfather to Jane's oldest brother.

* * *

George W. Bennett was a merchant and planter, and part of the George W. Bennett Bryson & Co. Ltd. The full history of this interesting company is recounted in Mary Gleadell's "An Antiguan Trading Company." Bennett was sent to Antigua as a representative of Lloyd's in 1833, the company was incorporated in 1895 and Bryson's still represents Lloyd's today.

In 1943, Bryson's acted as agents for eleven sugar estates, but Bennett had acquired several sugar estates of his own in the 1800s. They included Blubber Valley (#170) and Rose Valley (#169), with steam works and 1,164 acres; Claremont (#188), with steam works and 849 acres; High Point (#55), with 212 acres; and Nibbs (#52), with 131 acres. He also had leased from Rev. Thomas Peters, Golden Grove (#23), with 254 acres, and Jolly Hill (#168), with steam works and 708 acres.

For information on the McDonald family see High Point (#55).

(There was a brutal murder in the 1980s, when King Obstinate's (of Calypso fame) sister was found decapitated outside the Navy Base gates.)

* * *

The mill site is currently the location of the Antigua & Barbuda Free Trade and Processing Zone, which their website says offers "attractive investment conditions, an enabling environment, professional courteous service to all in order to facilitate mutually beneficial corporate partnerships."

Nearby is AUA, the American University of Antigua College of Medicine which was established in Antigua in 2004. The present campus was built in 2008 on 17 acres with classes beginning in 2010. It now encompasses 27 acres and offers a US based curriculum.

#53 – Judge Blizard's Plantation

The Ownership Chronology

1750: Stephen Blizard. March 29, 1750, he was appointed Chief Justice, replacing William Lavington, who resigned.

1776: Stephen Blizard, will codicil 1776.

1777/78 Luffman map

1776: Martin Byam, 1/5th moiety.

1825: Mrs. Jarvis refused to yield Blizard's to Messrs. Turner.

1829: Heirs of Byam. 422 acres; 219 slaves.

1843: Stephen Blizard.

1851: Heirs of Stephen Blizard. 422 acres.

1851 Antigua Almanac

1852: Judge Blizard. 422 acres. The Giles Blizard estate (#72) was owned by John Jarvis, Esq., of Mount Jarvis. The Will Blizard estate (#55), of 30 acres) was owned by Messrs. W. & F. Shand.

1878: Mrs. Stapleton, leased to G. M. Andrews.

1872 Horsford Almanac

1891: James Rocke.

1891 Henry Martin Adams map

1933: J. S. McDonald.

1933 Camacho map

1945c: Anthony (b.1909; d.1977) & Ferdinand Shoul. (b.1911; d.2002).

2000: Heirs of Shoul.

* * *

The sugar mill on this estate still exists and is in good shape. It is narrower and taller than most mills, and still has some of the wooden beams protruding from its top. Behind the mill are the remains of the works and the buff house. There is no evidence that this estate had converted to steam to power its mill.

The buff house was substantially destroyed in a 1950 hurricane. The house was occupied by Anthony Shoul and family at the time, and proved too costly to repair so was left to deteriorate. Across the road are the remains of an old brick well, and on the hill above it a scattering of large china shards, probably denoting a garbage dump. Some were examples of the blue ware used by many colonials. The archives at Nelson's Dockyard, assembled by Desmond Nicholson, include an excellent sample board of the different types of china found in Antigua, sourced from around the world. Today (2016) this whole area is being developed as a residential site.

Just north of Judge Blizard's was the Thibou-Jarvis estate (#34), to the east was the Nibbs estate (#52), and to the south the Giles Blizard estate (#72). Green Island (#127), off the east coast, now belongs to Mill Reef. Its 60 acres were owned by Stephen Blizard in December 1731, by patent from General Douglas.

History of the Island of Antigua by Vere Oliver, Vol. II.

A letter written by Stephen Blizard on July 16, 1763 to Charles Tudway, Esq., at Wells, Somerset, and delivered by Captain Patten, states:

"The above is a copy of my last, and I have kept it back some time in hopes that we should by this time have settled the Plantation Accounts, but they are not yet ready to lay before us, tho I have made frequent applications to Mr. Ash, who lays the blame wholly upon the Clerke. As this is the last Bristol ship, I send you one sett of your Son's Marriage Articles. The other sett is yet in the office, but I shall not forget to get them out as soon as they shall be done with them and send to your Son in London. Mr. Farley, Mr. Banister and myself have had no conference as yet about a successor to Mr. Ash."

* * *

With the abolition of slavery by the British Parliament in 1833 (law passed in 1834), the British Government made Legacy payments to Antigua estate owners to compensate them for the loss of their unpaid slaves. Antigua 363 paid £29,191. 14s. 8p. to Stephen Blizard (Judges) for granting freedom to 217 enslaved Africans. Awardees were Robert Hutchins, William Hutchins, Rt. Hon. Lord James O'Bryan, Hon. Hercules Robert Pakenham, and the Hon. Anne Byam Stapleton. An unsuccessful claimant was Jane Kerby (nee Byam). As tenants for life, Mrs. Kerby, of Hampton Court Palace, along with Jane Young of Brocks St., Bath (Somerset), claimed compensation for Stephen Blizard's estate. The compensation was awarded to the trustees of the marriage settlement of Mrs. Kerby's daughter, Anne Byam Stapleton.


Excerpted from "Plantations of Antigua: The Sweet Success of Sugar"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Agnes C. Meeker, MBE ; Donald A. Dery.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface, i,
St. George's Parish, 1,
The Sugar Plantations and Mills of St. George's Parish, 3,
The Plantation Index: St. George's Parish, 144,
The Sugar Plantations and Mills of St. Peter's Parish, 145,
The Plantation Index: St. Peter's Parish, 311,
Registry of Plantation Owners, 313,
Addendum, 329,
Acknowledgements, 330,
Bibliography, 332,

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