Betty's Hope with El Lobo
Pat reading one of the information boards. Pat, Mike and Bear in the Visitors centre
Team Tinson left five days late because of the ash cloud produced in Iceland - a betting person wouldn't have gone near William Hill with that one. That left us Thursday and Friday before Alex, Adam and Jenny arrived a week late ditto cloud. Thursday we went with El Lobo to Deep Bay and today we started with a visit to Betty's Hope. I have in the past put a photo of Freya of Clyde - our friends Alan and Anne but not of El Lobo.
So here she is, El Lobo, a junk-rigged, ferrous hulled lady seen under sail with Mike and Pat
History of Betty's Hope
Betty’s Hope was Antigua’s pioneer sugar plantation, founded in about 1650. It is now in ruins, as are 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, so 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 windmills at Betty’s Hope worked together to crush the large volume of sugar cane grown here. 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 about 60% of the juice. By the early 1800's a new system that employed three horizontally positioned rollers was introduced. This mechanism was not only more efficient it 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-1850's and is similar to the earlier models.
With a steady wind, working from sunrise until well into the night, each mill could crush sixty to seventy cartloads of cane, or about two acres per day. The juice dripped into a tank beneath the mill and was later 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 two hundred tons of cane to produce five thousand five hundred gallons of syrup in a week. This would have given about twelve 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!”
View from one of the windmills
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.