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History Archive > Ten Views in the Island of Antigua (1823)

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Ten views in the island of Antigua, in which are represented the process of sugar making, and the employment of the Negroes, in the field, boiling-house and distillery

Author(s):

Date: 1823

Topics:

Description

William Clark was an American explorer and artist who spent 3 years in the West Indies on the estates of Admiral Tallemach. While there he made drawings of the process of sugar making, showing workers on a number of estates, including in the field, boiling-house and distillery. This is a rare beautifully illustrated work on Antigua and forms an important pictorial and primary source work for understanding West Indies slavery.

The views illustrate not only the landscape and scenery of Antigua, but the various processes involved in the production of sugar; from enslaved people working the fields of the estate planting sugar cane and cutting the cane, to the processes involved in the boiling-houses and distillery, and finally through to the carting and loading of the sugar on to ships for export.

10 unsigned hand colored aquatints on Whatman paper. Each plate with accompanying text.

References:

Abbey Travel 690; Tooley 147; Bobins 09; Cundall, Bibliography of the West Indies 222.

British Library. http://www.bl.uk

Plate List

1. The Court House. St. Johns, Antigua.

This is an aquatint of the Courthouse in the town of St John, Antigua. The Court House, built from stone quarried in the North Sound Islands off Antigua's north east coast, was designed by Peter Harrison, an architect from Yorkshire who was responsible for designing many of the important buildings in Jamaica and on America's east coast. In addition to its function as a court room, it also housed the Legislative Council and, when not in official use, was used to host charity balls, dinners and even bazaars.

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2. Holeing a Cane-Piece on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua.

This picture of enslaved people working on the plantations was drawn on Weatherill's Estate in Antigua in the early 19th century. The estate was located on the north west coast of the island and the terrain included peaks of up to 250 feet as well as 3 valleys. The slaves working to prepare the fields before the planting of sugar canes had a hard and grueling job. Cane holes were hoed in squares and this painting shows children marking out the areas to be hoed with sticks placed 3 or 4 feet apart. It was usual practice for cattle to be enclosed in fields that had been left fallow, thus fertilizing the ground. As can be seen on the left of the print, the herdsman lived in a shelter, often made of nothing more than straw, next to the field so that he could watch to make sure no animals escaped.

3. Planting the Sugar Cane on Bodkins Estate, Antigua.

The aquatint depicts a group of enslaved people planting sugar cane on Bodkin's estate. The slaves - men, women and children, are working in the field together. They would have worked from 6 in the morning until 6 in the evening, with just a short break for lunch. This was arduous work and they were watched by a master or overseer, seen here wearing a black hat and holding a whip. The whip would have been used to drive them to work harder. The painting is set looking south from Bodkin's Estate and in the background can be seen Monks Hill Military Station. Also known as George Fort, this fortification took 16 years to build (1689-1705) and was intended to defend Falmouth, then Antigua's main town, from attacks by both the French and the Arawaks. The entire population of the island (about 1200 people at that time) could be accommodated inside, although it was intended to be a place of refuge for women and children.

4. Cutting the Sugar-Cane on Delap's Estate, Antigua.

This print shows enslaved people harvesting the ripe sugar canes. The canes took about 12 months to mature and grew to a height of 9 or 10 feet. They were harvested using very sharp double-edged knives which could be used on the upstroke as well as the down. This scene was drawn on Delap's sugar estate and a sugar mill can be seen in the background on the right of the painting.

5. A Mill Yard, on Gamble's Estate, Antigua.

This print depicts sugar cane being delivered to a windmill on an Antiguan plantation in the early 19th century. This particular plantation was owned by the Gambles family and was situated near the town of St John's. Mills on sugar plantations could be powered by water or wind but mills driven by animals were the most common. The freshly cut cane would be fed between heavy rollers by 2 slaves working opposite each other. This process extracted the juice which was then piped to a nearby boiling house. It was a dangerous job as the slaves could be dragged between the rollers and crushed to death. The plantation owner and his overseer can be seen on the left side of the picture.

6. Interior of a Boiling House on Delap's Estate, Antigua.

This aquatint is an illustration depicting the interior of a boiling house on Delap's Estate - a sugar plantation in Antigua. Once the sugar cane had been harvested and processed in the mill, the extracted liquid was piped to the boiling house where the juice was boiled to purify and refine it into crystalized sugar. In the boiling house were 4 or 5 copper containers hung over a large furnace. These coppers were carefully scaled in size and became progressively smaller. Any impurities that rose to the surface were skimmed off and the remaining liquid was poured into the next container where the process was repeated. The enslaved workers in the boiling house had to endure not only the overwhelming temperatures and unpleasant smells, but they also had to be very careful to avoid being scalded by the hot liquids.

7. Exterior of a Distillery on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua.

This aquatint is an illustration of the exterior of the curing house and stills on Weatherill's plantation in Antigua. After boiling the sugar was cooled and then packed into ceramic containers shaped like flowerpots with a hole in the bottom. The molasses or syrup would drain out of the pots and could then be taken to the distillery to make rum. After 5 or 6 weeks in the curing house the sugar had dried and hardened into pot shaped loaves which could then be transported to England.

8. Exterior of a Boiling House, on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua.

This aquatint is an illustration of the exterior of the boiling house on Weatherill's estate, a sugar plantation on the island of Antigua. Sugar cane harvesting took place during just a few months of the year and because all the refining processes had to be carefully synchronized, fires were burnt throughout the night to ensure that none of the harvest was wasted. The boiling houses were situated close to the mills so that the juices from the canes could be transported quickly and easily to the coppers. The windmill on Weatherill's estate can be seen in the background of the painting, just behind the boiling house.

9. Interior of a Distillery, on Delap's Estate, Antigua.

This aquatint is an illustration of the interior of the distillery on Delap's sugar plantation in Antigua in the early 19th century. Rum was the staple liquor in the Caribbean at this time and was made by distilling fermented water and molasses & the syrup that remains after sugar cane juice has been boiled and the crystallised sugar extracted. Because the molasses were a by-product of the sugar cultivation process, plantation owners were able to make a good profit from their distilleries.

10. Shipping Sugar, Willoughby Bay, Antigua.

This is an aquatint illustration of Willoughby Bay in Antigua. Blocks of sugar were packed into large wooden barrels known as hogsheads. Each hogshead would weigh between 800 and 1500 pounds. There were no wharves on the island at this time so boats were rowed to the shore where the hogsheads would be rolled onto them down a ramp. A brick built hut can be seen to the left of the picture. This would have served as a storehouse for plantations that were some distance from the coast.

List of Images

1. Title Page

2. Court House, Saint John's, Antigua

3. Holeing a Cane-Piece on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua

4. Planting the Sugar Cane on Bodkins Estate, Antigua

5. Cutting the Sugar-Cane on Delap's Estate, Antigua

6. A Mill Yard, on Gamble's Estate, Antigua

7. Interior of a Boiling House on Delap's Estate, Antigua

8. Exterior of a Distillery on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua

9. Exterior of a Boiling House, on Weatherell's Estate, Antigua

10. Interior of a Distillery, on Delap's Estate, Antigua

11. Shipping Sugar, Willoughby Bay, Antigua

Publication Information

Publisher: London. Published by Thomas Clay, Ludgate-Hill

Language(s):

English

Pages: 25

Contributor(s):

Hamilton College

ISBN-10: N/A

Date Added: 2019-01-11

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