About

Type: Ruin
Parish: St.John
Founding date: 1728
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Cane Field in Bendal’s Mill
Image showing the Bendal Factory

Current Status

The sugar factory on this estate no longer exists, but the manager’s house still sits up on the hill overlooking the factory site below, along with several stone walls, the tennis court, and the foundation stones of several of the staff houses.   The author was born in one of the staff houses in 1940, when her father, James McIndoe Watson, was dismantling the factory, which had closed. One of the store rooms was purchased at auction by Robert Hall, who moved it to the Smith’s estate (#161) by oxen and later enlarged it to accommodate his growing family.

         “A scene of peculiar interest is found near Bendal’s Estate, whose Sugar Works and offices with a bridge in the foreground one might almost imagine to have been placed by the hand of an artist.” Historical & Descriptive Account of Antigua, 1830.

Estate Related History/Timeline

There were three cane sidings in the Bendals area — York, Rigby and Bendals — where cane loaded onto carts (or “bagoons)” to be transferred by locomotive to the factory.  From 1940, the cane from Blubber Valley and Cashew Hill were brought by rail to the Antigua Sugar Factory.  It was a strenuous climb so two locomotives were used to pull the bagoons, #9 and #10.  Mr. Roland Morris worked at Bendals and wrote out all of the tickets for each peasant farmer as cane was loaded in bagoons.

         The loading began at six AM and was repeated later in the afternoon, so each engine made two trips daily.  The tickets were checked against the cane as it was weighed so each peasant could be paid the correct amount. There was no room for error.

         The Hewlett family now lives in the manager’s house, which overlooks the rest of the compound and the location of the Bendals Sugar Factory, which shut down in 1940.

An 1805 article in The Antigua Times stated: “Last Saturday evening the Court House was filled with a most influencing gathering of ladies and gentlemen who had been invited to listen to a lecture on Sacchorometry and Concrete, which Mr. A. Fryer had consented to deliver.  This gentlemen is head of the well-known sugar refining firm Fryer, Benson & Foster, of Manchester, and is the inventor and patentee of an apparatus which has condensed the syrup, which he calls the Concretor.

         “The firm has purchased a number of estates on the island of Antigua, and Mr. Fryer has been here for several weeks making arrangements for thee manufacture of concrete on an extensive scale.  He has at the same time been prosecuting various and important scientific researches bearing upon sugar cane and its constituents.  Several gentlemen who had an opportunity of private intercourse with Mr. Fryer, conceiving that if he were willing he might impart in the form of a lecture information valuable to the planters generally.  I addressed to him the request to do so, to which request he willingly acceded, and on the issue of the invitation the interest felt in Mr. Fryer’s communication was shown by the presence of all the leading proprietors and planters from every part of the island.”

When the British Parliament abolished slavery in 1833, the Bendal’s estate was granted a Legacy award of (Antigua 95) of £2,854. 16s. 6p. for granting freedom to 225 enslaved.  Awardees were George Betts, Samuel Boddington, Thomas Boddington the younger, Richard Davis, and Nicholas Kirwan.  Unsuccessful were John Allan, Robert Hyndman, Thomas Hyndman, Sir William Martin 2nd Bart, Josiah Martin, and James Shannon.  Thomas Bartrum was listed as “other association”.

(Papers. Correspondence and Plans: Hyndman, Bendal’s, Antigua 37; available from the Colonial Office and Predecessions; West Indian Encumbered Estates Commission from the National Archives (UK) – 1866-1892 Ref. CO 441/7/1.)

“Kooka bendal” referred to by Pappy Smith in To Shoot Hard Labour is supposedly derived from the African word “kooka” (cacca) meaning excrement, and “bendal” is an English word for an area used to dump; hence, the kooka bendals were where the villages dumped their excrement prior to the introduction of pit latrines by the Chinese. The Belvedere factory originally was the site of the Fryers Concrete Co., and later became the location of the Bendals Sugar Factory when it was converted in 1904/5 to produce sugar crystals. It never produced more than 1,800 tons of sugar and eventually closed in 1938.  

         On August 18, 1903 Arthur Morier Lee published an 11-page paper entitled “Contract as to Advances of Bendal’s Sugar Factory in Antigua.”  And in 1904, Bendal’s became one of the three central Sugar Factories built on the island.  The last manager of the factory was Mr. Martin (Josiah?); the junior engineer was James McIndoe Watson (the author’s father), who later became one of the last managers of the Gunthorpes Sugar Factory in the 1960s.  The Bendal’s Sugar Factory ceased operation in the 1940s when it was decided that cane was to be processed at the main factory, Gunthorpes.

         Very few photographs of the Bendal’s Sugar Factory exist, although Jean Thomas possesses several negatives which belonged to her husband Gerald Thomas who, with his brother Lionel grew up at Bendal’s.  Gerald later worked at the Bendal’s Sugar Factory, and moved over to Gunthorpes with Jimmy Watson.  Gerald once told the author that her mother, Mae Watson, would have her maid deliver a tray at tea time (4 PM) every afternoon for the men to share.

         In 1910, the government of Antigua issued two postage stamps with images of the Bendal’s Sugar Factory.

         “People today mostly hear of Bendal.  Very little is heard of the estates within close proximity of Bendal because almost everybody now name the whole place Bendal.  In my young days, each plantation was known and identified separately.  To refer to the whole area as Bendal is misleading.  Breaknock [#40] is about one and one half miles from Bendal Estate works.  At one time Antigua’s largest sugar factory was located at Bendal.  That may be the reason why the name Bendal keeps ringing above the names of other estates.”             Keithlyn Smith, “Symbol of Courage”.        

         “Back in the old days members of the Lewis family monopolized the cooper trade at Hamilton, Bendal and Jennings (#187) plantations.  The sugar industry was the main source of livelihood, and coopers played an important part of the operation.  As result, the sugar estates could n ot function properly without the coopers.  Aunty Dood (Mary Lewis) from  Breaknocks (#40),                                                                                                                                       quoted by Keithlyn smith, “Symbol of Courage”.

In the late 1990s, the author met Roy Edwards, a Bendal’s Sugar Factory employee, who took her on a tour of the old factory site behind the Bendal’s Clinic, where there are some old loco rail lines visible  and was able to identify their loco year, concrete walls and bits of machinery.      Agnes Meeker.

         Around 2000, several homes in the community of Bendal’s were relocated due to the bombarding of stones from the government quarry nearby.  In 1980, a young girl playing in the school yard was hit by rocks and her foot was later amputated.

         The Green Castle Agricultural Government Station is located in Bendals across from the medical Clinic.  Plants are propagated for sale, and during mango season the mangoes are harvested and sold to the public.  Behind and to the west of the Station are several wells which continue to provide fresh water to the St. John’s area.

Papers, Correspondence and Plans: Hyndman, Bendals, Antigua #37. Available from the Coplopnial Office and Predecessors: West Indian Incumbent Estates Commission from the National Archives (UK), Colonial Office.  !866-1892 Ref. #CO 441/7/1.

Hamilton’s (aka Hamberly)

Hamilton’s was a village in the hills above Bendals, known locally as Hamberly.  Founded in 1679 by Captain John Hamilton, it originally consisted of 250 acres (granted) by the Honorable Jeremiah Watkins, as surveyed in July 1679.  In February 1680, 233 acres were indentured to Sir William Stapleton.  The village was destroyed by two back-to-back hurricanes in 1950 (“Dog” and “Cat”), and because of its remoteness many of the inhabitants opted to move down into the Bendals valley rather than rebuild.  Ulrica Pierce, who was from Bendal’s, recalled walking to visit people in Hamiltons when she was a girl, but there were only three houses left standing. Currently, plantings of flamboyant and lillies remain, attesting to the existence of the village, and a spring a little further up the hill still provides water for irrigation.

Mark Lewis was a well-known blacksmith in Hamiltons who could “shoe horses and donkeys and he made bits for them, also cart wheels; he could bend iron into any shape.  He also made cutlasses, knives, scrapers and then tempered them so they would remain sharp for long.” Symbol of Courage by Keithlyn Smith.

The only known owners of Hamilton’s Plantation were Archibald Hamilton in 1752 and a Mr. Hart, who purchased the estate on January 31, 1758.  Captain John Hamilton was granted 250 acres by the Honorable Jeremiah Watkins in 1679, which was surveyed in 1680 as 233 acres by Sir William Stapleton.

St. Like’s Anglican Church

In 1715 “The vestry think of building a new church on church hill belonging to me, for 5s. we give the land, S and N 80 feet E & W 50 feet on trust, for a new church.”   By 1752, the land was owned by Archibald Hamilton, and of January 1st, 1758, Mr. Hart purchased the Hamilton estate.  Vere Oliver,Volume II.

         St. Luke’s Anglican Church is on a small outcrop just before entering Bendals.  It has been a place of worship since slavery days.  The building has been renovated several times after hurricane damage.  There is an old cemetery behind the church; Mary Gleadall has recorded several of the memorial encryptions on her web site of graves in the early 1900s.

         Aunty Dood (Mary Lewis), of “Symbol of Courage” fame, was from Breaknocks and recorded a number of her memories:

         “The Lewis family was the corner stone of St. Luke’s Anglican Church for over a century.  At one time the well loved  and distinguished Anglican Bishop George Sumner Hand served at St. Luke’s.  It was there that he became close to the Lewis family, and showed by his words and deeds that he thought very highly of them.   Priest after priest could call on them to do anything for the church.  The family worked hard during the construction of the church and later maintained it with extreme care and devotion over the years.”

         She learned from Bishop Hand that the Lewis’s were descendants of the Ashanti tribe from the Gold Coast in West Africa.  He also said the female slaves that disembarked from the boat at Point Wharf in St. John’s were given the name Elizabeth, which became the most popular name in the Southern part of the island.  For further review, there is an 11-page paper written by Arthur Morier Lee on the “Contract  as to Advances for Bendals Sugar Factory in Antigua” dated 18th August 1903.

Enslaved People’s History

Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. They probably had at maximum 249 people working at that plantation. When the British Parliament abolished slavery in 1833, the Bendal’s estate was granted a Legacy award of (Antigua 95) of £2,854. 16s. 6p. for granting freedom to 225 enslaved. A fact of interest is that Mary Lewis learned from Bishop Hand that the Lewis’s were descendants of the Ashanti tribe from the Gold Coast in West Africa. He also said the female slaves that disembarked from the boat at Point Wharf in St. John’s were given the name Elizabeth, which became the most popular name in the Southern part of the island. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.

Ownership Chronology

  • 1728: Hope for Bendall. d. 1727. He was Collector of Customs, and presumably had some involvement with this plantation, hence the name
  • 1733: Mr. Bendall was reported to be “an imminent Quaker in the minorities, reputed to be worth £20,000.” Vere Oliver, Volume I.
  • 1750: Richard Oliver d. 1791.
  • 1790: Thomas Oliver (1777/78 map by cartographer John Luffman.)
  • 1820: Messrs. Robert & Thomas Hyndman By 1829, the estate contained 503 acres, 249 slaves.
  • 1843: Hyndman
  • 1872: Fryer’s Concrete Company, which also owned Belvedere (#38), and George Byam’s (#39) for total acreage of 1,690. All three sugar mills were converted to steam in the mid-1800s.
  • 1891: L. I. P. Company
  • 1904: Bendall’s Sugar Factory built to handle area crops
  • 1933: S. W. Estates Company
  • 1940: The closing of the Bendall’s Sugar Factory