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  • Writer's pictureJude

Betty's Hope, Antigua

Updated: Apr 24

Betty's Hope Sugar Plantation in Antigua

Betty's Hope, Antigua's first sugar plantation and one of the largest rum producing works, is now an open-air museum. The entrance fee is just US$2, payable in cash into a donation box. The former cotton store is now an interpretation centre crammed with artefacts, a miniature village and informative signage explaining the history of this large estate. Wander around the sprawling grounds at your own pace. The rural location is peaceful, the only sounds to be heard are bleats from the free roaming goats. Visible remains to explore include stone water catchments, two mill towers, one restored, the Still House, Manager's House and Antigua's former railway carriages.

Brief history of Betty's Hope

The estate was founded by Governor Keynell in 1650. After he passed away he left it to his wife. However when the French invaded the island in 1666 she fled and abandoned it. The French occupation was brief and recaptured by the English less than a year later. The estate was then awarded to the Codrington family in 1674. At that point the land was used to grow tobacco, indigo and cotton. One of the family members, Christopher Codrington, a former Army Officer and later, Governor of the Leeward Islands, came up with the idea to develop it into a sugar plantation, naming it 'Betty's Hope' after his daughter.

Free roaming goats at Betty's Hope

Slaves were brought over from Africa to work here as well as on other sugar plantations throughout Antigua. Their work would have been extremely difficult and exhausting. They continued to work there following emancipation, as labourers.

The Codringtons were initially given a lease of Barbuda for 50 years by King Charles II which was extended. They continuted leasing it until 1870. At that time, Barbuda grew crops for the Codrington estates throughout the Caribbean islands including Antigua.

Water Catchment Systems

It was necessary to have large water catchment systems at the estate, not only for the rum and sugar production but for the quantity of people and animals based there too. Antigua relied heavily on rainfall and still does, as there are no rivers or lakes so it was important to catch as much as possible. The stone catchments had underground holding tanks for water which was then pumped to the boiling house. These are still in use today.

South Mill Tower

South Mill Tower at Betty's Hope

South Mill Tower was converted into a cistern during the late 18th Century.

North Mill Tower

The North Mill Tower at Betty's Hope

North Mill Tower has been carefully restored.

Up to two acres of cane a day was transported to each mill by mules and oxen. It was then transferred to the mill for squeezing through large rollers. The sails rotated at an incredible speed. Thirteen sail revolutions were necessary to turn the incredibly dangerous rollers just once. The juice frome the cane was then pumped to the boiling house. Workers had to be careful not to get their arms pulled into the rollers. An axe was kept close by, as if an arm was pulled in, it needed to be cut off to prevent death.

The Still House

The Still House

Rum was made in the Still House. Walk around the remains and see the huge arched windows, The pipework that allowed rum to flow into tanks for dilution before being transferred into barrels, is still visible.

Remains of the Manager's House

The Manager's House

Antigua's Railway System

Railway carriages of the former railway at betty's hope

A railway was developed in 1904 spanning approximately 50 miles which took sugar cane to the factory. However, production of sugar at Betty's Hope ceased in the early 20th Century when a central factory was set up.

Betty's Hope is a highly recommended attraction to visit especially if you have car hire, are staying on the East coast or visiting nearby Stingray City. Expect to stay for around an hour, longer if you plan on taking a picnic. Take the opportunity to experience rural Antigua and learn a little about the island's history.

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