The Betty's Hope Restoration Trust is a non-profit, NGO.
Donations are essential for ongoing restoration.
Transform your thoughts to a hundred years ago. Imagine a three hundred and sixty degree view of sugar cane waving in the wind, the noises of a bustling farm operation; the extreme hardships endured by the slaves and labourers in contrast to the comforts of the Great House. It is located in the limestone district of Antigua’s tranquil rural area with beautiful vistas over the rolling landscape to the distant ocean. Such is the environment of the many, now non-existent sugar plantations of Antigua were set.
BETTY'S HOPE is about 10 miles east of St.. John's,
and a mile east of Pares Village
History The Windmill Points of Interest & Plan Visitors’ Centre Conservation Project Home Page
Betty’s Hope was Antigua’s pioneer sugar plantation, founded about 1650. It is now in ruin, as so many other West Indian sugar estates. The founder of Betty’s Hope was Governor Keynell, whose widow inherited the estate upon his death in 1663, but was forced to flee Antigua during the French occupation in 1666. When Antigua was reoccupied by the British, Parliament annulled all land claims of those who had fled or been disloyal to the Crown prior to the French occupation. Instead, in 1674, Betty’s Hope was granted to the Codrington family, then residing in Barbados.
Under the Codrington ownership, lasting until 1944, Betty’s Hope was soon transformed into one of the most efficient large-scale sugar estates in Antigua. From 1689 to 1704, two successive Christopher Codringtons served as Governors General of the Leeward Islands, and later heirs continued to be among the most influential and prosperous planters throughout the colonial era.
Like other large plantations, Betty’s Hope was an agricultural as well as an industrial enterprise, and home to a large number of people. Supervised by a handful of European managers, hundreds of Africans lived out their lives on this and similar plantations, first as slaves, then as labourers after emancipation in 1834. Enduring the hardship of cultivating and processing the sugar under exhausting conditions, they developed great skills as craftsmen, boilers and distillers which gave Betty’s Hope its reputation for excellence lasting to this day.
THE TWIN WINDMILL TOWERS
THE RESTORED MILL
The twin windmills at Betty’s Hope worked together to crush the large volume of sugar cane grown.
The windmills of the early eighteenth century, used three vertical iron rollers; an inefficient system that required two men to feed the machine. Each cane stalk had to be crushed twice to extract as much juice as possible. At best, this system extracted only 60% of the juice.
By the early 1800s, a new system that employed three horizontally positioned rollers was introduced. This mechanism was more efficient, required only one cane feeder, and extracted about 80% of the juice from the cane. The machine installed in this mill dates to the mid-1850s and is similar to the earlier models.
With a steady wind, working from sunrise until well into the night, each mill could crush 60—70 cartloads of cane, or about 2 acres per day. The juice dripped into a tank beneath the mill and was later then piped through an underground conduit to the boiling house. The pressed stalks, called “bagasse” were tossed out into the mill yard to dry before being used as fuel in the boiling and distilling furnaces.
The tall, narrow opening, or “exchange slit” on the north side of the mill was needed for changing the central drive shaft. A lantern was kept in the small fireplace for use when milling at night. The Restored Mill bears the original date of 1737 on a plaque above the main entrance. It also denotes that the mill was built by Richard Buckley.
With an average trade wind, such a mill could grind about 200 tons of cane to produce 5,500 gallons of syrup in a week. This would have given about 12 tons of sugar crystals. The sails would have revolved four times a minute or six to seven in a stiff breeze while driving the crushing rollers.
Canes were brought in through the main entrance and the squeezed pulp (begasse, used as fuel) was tossed out through the other opening to the right. There is a fireplace high up inside. This gave light and warmth during night shifts. The “bosun” was in charge of the mill and the orders for starting and stopping the mill were “Turn her out” & “Turn her in!”
The Cistern Complex is still in working condition, indeed, in times of severe drought Pares villagers, up to quite recently, drew water from its cisterns. There are four catchment areas each with its own cistern. Notice the sundial base atop the cistern wall that borders the entrance road.
The Great House (Buff or Estate House) once stood on the grassy knoll next to the mill. The house was surrounded by a stone wall with dependency buildings on each corner. In these small buildings, now disappeared, lived the doctor, bookkeeper, overseer and a tradesman.
The Curing House was where the crystals were placed into barrels, (hogsheads) to be drained of molasses for the manufacture of rum and for export. Today the stone from its walls have disappeared.
The Boiling House was on a lower level, so the cane juice could flow by gravity to the fifteen coppers, where it was boiled until crystallisation.
The Still House was where the rum was made. This now roofless building is on a lower level and there are magnificent arches to be admired. There is a row of cisterns along the outside of the south wall.
A Still House 18th century
Betty's Hope, c. 1910.
1987/09 A committee was set up to conserve Betty's Hope Estate site
1990 Betty's Hope Mill started restoration, finished in 1995, mill parts from a Shoul property.
1990 The Friends of Betty's Hope became the Betty's Hope Trust.
1990/05 A Penny Concert was revived when Betty's Hope was being restored. Project raised funds.
1995/03 28th. The sails of the restored mill at Betty's Hope were fitted.
1996 Betty's Hope mill won 5th Ann. Islands Eco-Tourism Award. Won US$1,000.
2005/01 28th. Opening ceremony of Eco-Enhancement Upgrade of Betty's Hope.
Throughout its 300 year history, Betty’s Hope played a prominent role in Antigua and Barbuda’s history and influenced the lives of many generations of Antiguans. The Project was initiated to preserve this heritage site for study and interpretation of the colonial sugar era for the benefit of West Indians and visitors.
Betty’s Hope was chosen for preservation and development due to its historical importance, central location, the availability of extensive documentation and its unusual twin mill towers which, combined, provide a unique opportunity to establish a major West Indian heritage monument.
One of the windmill towers has undergone restoration with modern machinery to an operable condition complete with authentic sugar cane crushing machinery salvaged from a similar mill. The cistern complex and fencing has been completed to facilitate the planting of trees and sample crops of former times. The project also aims to increase environmental awareness, showing how the indigenous forest was destroyed to make way for sugar cane, with devastating consequences for the island’s rainfall, (From the Restoration Project literature, 1992).
The OEC/ESDU Eco-Tourism Enhancement project - The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is committed to the principles of the St. George's declaration of the principles for environmental sustainability in the OECS.
The Betty's Hope has been awarded a grant by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Environmental Sustainable Development Unit (OECS/ESDU) to continue with the conservation of the Betty's Hope Estate through an eco-tourism enhancement project.
The OECS-ESDU will finance fencing of the property, a trail system, interpretive signage, brochures, self guided maps and brochures park benches, a website, video, certified training of tour guides, educational training, community awareness programme, public awareness strategy, and a critical Management plan/Financial Plan which would guide the Trust over the years to maintain the sustainability of the project.
|Still house||Still House||Exposed ruins|
Today, though the project is still on its way to completion visitors can still view new and improved exhibits, follow a trail system to view the exposed ruins and the local flora, rest on the picnic benches, enjoy interpretive signage and self guided brochures (28th September)
Thanks to the OECS/ESDU and the GOAB this project demonstrates the commitment of the GOAB to the principles of the St. George's declaration of Principles for environmental sustainability in the OECS.
A visitor’s centre has been created by converting a former cotton house storeroom into a museum. This includes various aspects of the plantation’s history and shows early estate plans, pictures and maps, artifacts and a model of the central site to orient the visitor.
Hours are: 10 am - 4 pm.
Entrance: EC$5 or US$2
An OECS, CIDA Project managed by:
The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
Box 2103, St, John's
Phone 269-462-1469. Email: email@example.com.
Updated by DVN on 8 Feb 2005.