Type: Ruin
Parish: St.Peter
Founding date: 1680
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A picture of the estate house 1948

Current Status

There is no longer a mill on this estate which was destroyed in the big earthquake. Records show this estate later converted to steam.

Estate Related History/Timeline

Remains of the estate house can still be seen where the kitchen, back courtyard and large stone bath once stood. All of the photographs and records are from my cousin Rosemary Magoris (nee Goodwin) who grew up in this house – Affie Goodwin was her father.
At the foot of the gap off the main road was a circular driveway up to the house which was on a small hill above the cane fields, lined with large mahogany trees. In the center of this was a tennis court where many a Sunday afternoon was spent in matches between cousins and visitors. The house was different to the usual estate house in that you entered up the front stairs, the dining room and kitchens were to the right, a large hall led you to the rear where the bedrooms were located and on your left was the drawing room off which there was a gallery and beautiful garden with large old cistern. The back bedrooms and dining rooms formed around a courtyard below which was cobbled – there were always chickens in the yard. The main story was stone and the upper comprised of wood. The large stone bath was on the lower level beneath the bedrooms, and when filled (and not full of frogs) was almost as big as a swimming pool. The stables were off to the west of the house. Everyone rode in those days and with four brothers Rosemary was no exception. That was how they explored the island from Monks Hill over to Willoughby Bay. However, her mother would not allow her to go with the boys to Willoughby Bay when the little negro boys were bathing their donkeys for they went in the sea with the animals naked as the day that they were born!

Affie Goodwin passed away in 1947 when Rosemary was 15 years old and her mother decided to immigrate to Canada where Affie served in the Canadian Army in WWI. Times were hard and Duers was sold to the Syndicate Estates. A series of estate managers resided in the house until it was used to house cane cutters from St Lucia during labour problems in Antigua. It was during this period that the house burnt to the ground when a coal pot being used in the dining room area which had a wood floor, apparently caused a fire.

1680: granted 70 acres Stephen Duer. In 1679 a Stephen Dewar left Barbados for Antigua.

1718: John Duer (d.1718) of Great and Little Duers 410 acres. Maj. John Duer d.1764. Rev. Rowland Duer d.1791. Vere Oliver Vol.I p.217
116 acres sold to John Duer for £2,600 from the estate of William Cochran, 1714. V.Oliver Vol.I p.142

1718: “…. and they say John Duer was in his lifetime and at his death seized …. of 2 Plantations in the Division of North Sound near the Town of Parham, but the quantity of Acres they know not …. but they partly consist of Cane Grounds for the planting of Sugar Canes and partly of Grall Grounds for the feeding of Cattle, and some Grounds for planting provisions for the use of the Negroes and the Plantation ….”
“Deceased died of smallpox, and she gave the Nurse, who stripped and Laid him out his Nightgown, Shirt, and some other Linen and things found upon him as are usually given in like cases, besides the half guinea charged in the Account annexed ….”. “The accounts put in include sims for 12 long streamers with Mr. Duer’s coat of arms, 18 mourning coaches with 6 horses, 80 men in mourning gowns and caps to carry branches. Funeral at St. Andrew’s, Holbourne.” Vere Oliver Vol.I p.219

1750: “John Duer disinherited his eldest son and left Big & Little Duers to his second son Roland, who bore five offspring. Settlements left to these children and their progeny continued to mount up over the years and eventually bankrupted the Estates when the annual returns had declined after the Napoleonic Wars. By November 1830 they had to sell. Messrs Manning & Anderson, London merchants, were the consignees of the produce from both estates and it was agreed they would take possession. They in turn later declared bankruptcy also. “Five of the Leewards” by Robert Hall p.104

***In the early 1800’s James Cranstoun a man of colour, the illegitimate son of Lord James 6th Cranstoun who owned property in St. Kitts, was raised on John Duer’s estate. His grandson was named John Duer Cranstoun whose son Langford Selly Cranstoun (d.1920) owned Potte’rs (#47), Cochran’s (#138 Bethesda) and Thomas’s (#139) estates. The Cranstoun family (coloured) were a family of note in the history of the plantations of Antigua. See Thomas’s (#139) for further information.

Prolonged correspondence between Theodora Duer, her lawyers Manning & Anderdon, their lawyers the Creswells and their lawyers, Manning & Anderson’s proposal to purchase the Duer estates, with each party pressing their own claims and privileges. Vere Oliver Vol.I p.125

In 1829 Duers contained 339 acres – 219 slaves owned by Manning & Anderson.

1829: Account to John Duer, Esq, From Messrs Manning & Anderson, relative to the management of his estate. Held by West Sussex Record Office, 1829 Ref. #Add Mss 3218.

1833: Statement of account of the Misses Duers’ claims: Duer’s Estate. Held at West Sussex Record Office Ref.#Add Mss 3234 John Duer who died in 1828 left £400 each to his aunts Frances Duer and Elizabeth Grace Duer and that Duers sold the legacies of £400 each for L100 p.a. annuity each to Manning and Anderdon. (q.v. the West India merchant firm which failed in 1831)

1877-1892: Papers, Correspondence and Plans: Foote: Big Duers: Antigua: No.125 Held by The National Archives (UK) – Colonial Office Ref.#CO 441/12/5

***1843 Murder – “Brown was overseer during c.1843. He was aware of some pilfering by a house slave called Cambridge and one dark night he waited for him in a canebrake. Hearing him coming on horseback he pounced on him killing him with a sharp skimmer. The accompanying boy hid, escaped and later told all. They say no grass grows on the spot where blood fell since the murder.” Journal by a Lady of Quality p.89

1860’s: The West Indian Encumbered Estates Acts established a special Court for the relief of the proprietors of estates over-burdened with financial encumbrances and set up a procedure to be followed.

1843: For instance, George Holborow, who represented the Codrington estates, did so from before 1872 (the earliest reference I found, although he could have been on the island many years before that) until his death in 1891, and was succeeded by his son Frank; Thomas Dickson Foote, who managed the Tudway estates, also held the post from before 1872 until he died in 1908 (at age 86), and was aided and then followed by his son John Freeland Foote. Both the elder men served on the Legislative Council: Holborow was there in 1872 and remained until 1897, while Foote was a member of the Assembly in 1843! Foote had turned the position over to his son by 1890, and the son continued to serve for another thirty years, most of that on the Executive Council as well. Foote was also a proprietor in his own right, but he never seems to have held on to any estate for very long: he bought Big Duer’s sometime after 1843 and Parry s through the court in 1869; he then sold 1869 – antiguahistory.net/upload

1878: The company W.A. Parker & Co. owned Hawes, Mercer’s Creek, Big Duers, Little Duers and Lower Freeman’s but did not last long and had left the island by 1881. William Goodwin was born on January 15th in Ireland and died April 4th 1899 at Collins. George James Goodwin was born on March 13th 1861 at Gilberts, and died December 22nd 1916, on board “R.M.S. Chignechto” and was buried at sea.

In 1950, John Freeland Foote M.A. (Cambridge), returned to Antigua to take up the post of Headmaster at the Antigua Grammar school. He took Law and History in 1933 but always preferred teaching and has had considerable experience in English schools. The school is very fortunate in having secured Mr. Foote’s services especially as he is an old boy of the school who loves the island. Mr. Foote’s ancestors came to Antigua in 1760 from Fermanagh, Ireland, attached to the regiment stationed at Shirley Heights and he is the sixth generation of a Foote to live and work in Antigua. There will be 240 boys on the roll. There will be ten boarding scholars in an establishment which has accommodation for twelve boys. Excerpt from the Barbados Advocate May 14, 1950.

Some of the story “To Shoot Hard Labor” narrated by Sammy Smith took place at this estate in the latter days. Sammy went to Duers to work for George James Goodwin in 1897. “But the best the Goodwins did was to open up their books to me. Duers was the first place I get in contact with so many books. They use to teach me to read and understand what I read. I get to know that there was such a thing call a dictionary. And whenever the Goodwins was finished with the newspaper they would give them to me. For many years I use to be the only man in village that was reading the newspapers regularly”.

1947: Executors offered £7,250 for one undivided half share of Duer’s Estate together with one half of the approved expenses from August 1947 to the date of taking over the estate by the Syndicate Estates.

1948: All live stock was divided up between Delap’s, Diamond and Duer’s

1955: The Syndicate agreed to pay to the Executor for the Estate of the late G.A. Goodwin three outstanding equated payments on the next due date subject to 6% per annum on the payments made in advance.

1969: The Lands of Antigua & Barbuda Sugar Factory Limited and The Antigua & Barbuda Syndicate Estates Limited (Vesting) Act. 30th December, 1969.

23. All that piece or parcel of land forming part of Big Duer’s as contained in Certificate of Title No.1911948 dated 4th June, 1948 and registered in Register Book R Folio 92. In 1921, Duers contained 335 acres.

Big Duers & Yeamans Estates.

Summary of Working Account 1929-1942,

SeasonExpenditure ReceiptsLossGain
* Net Gain for 14 years (1929-1942)= 5441.11.10
All figures in pounds sterling. Not exactly a money making concern Goodwin Family Records

Big Duers & Yeamans Estates.
Summary of Working Account 1929-1942

Year Canes Deliv’d. Price per ton Rainfall inches
1929 3109.13. 0 12/10 41.25
1930 4614. 0. 3 14/- 51.65
1931 2415. 0. 3 14/- 47.98
1932 5454.13. 0 14/- 57.48
1933 5150.18. 3 14/- 39.34
1934 3795. 6 . 1 14/9.67d 39.58
1935 4089.13. 0 14/5.894d 37.90
1936 5101.12. 0 14/- 55.69
1937 6196.19. 1 16/4.33d 44.01
1938 4029. 1. 0 15/0.826d 38.22
1939 3492. 2. 2 16/10.879d 29.64
1949 4679.13. 2 16/8.827d38.63
1941 4686.14. 1 20/1.779d 45.68
1942 4934. 3. 1 18/11.567d 44.28
Total 61749.10. 2 591.32
Goodwin Family Records.

1941: Antigua Sugar Factory, Ltd Cane Returns for 1941 Crop. Duer’s. Estimated 4965 tons, 200 acres estate, 1 1/2 acres peasants on the estate, tons of cane delivered 4702 at 22.43 tons per acre.
The following ghost stories come from an article “My Pots & Pans Rattle at Night” by Richard Allen & Gerald Price. Antigua Star, Saturday, February 1, 1964.

1947: Executors offered £7,250 for one undivided half share of Duers Estate together with one half of the approved expenses from August 1947 to the date of taking over the estate. This was after Affie Goodwin had died to the Syndicate Estates.

1955: The Syndicate Estates agreed to pay to the Executor for the Estate of the late G.A. Goodwin three outstanding equated payments on the next due date subject to 6% per annum on the payments made in advance.

In 1958, the Syndicate decided that the Duers’ house site should not be sold in its present state but sold for its scrap value, and that a scheme be prepared for building houses on the site for sale.

“Mr. Norris Abbot, a senior overseer, lived in the house for nearly three years, but how he happened to remain that long is amazing. Said Mr. Norris Abbot: “In the dead of night my pots and pans started rattling in the kitchen as if they had been caught up in a strong gale. It could be very dreadful,” he said.”

From the moment one approaches the ancient stone steps leading into the spacious 13-room dwelling one is confronted with an intolerable smell and an atmosphere of eeriness which gives a nervous and strange feeling.”

“A female labourer tells that before she was married, she and her husband would meet at Old Duer’s. They thought the place safe from inquisitive eyes as no one dared to go near the house, until, one night they lingered ———–.
Her husband (then fiance) left to get some tobacco for his pipe. He returned sooner than usual and took his seat beside her. They chatted and romanced until the woman began a religious conversation —- then the He was not her negro fiance. She screamed and dashed through the gate. Her fiance who was then returning rushed to her, embraced her and asked the reason for her strange behaviour, but thinking it was the ‘cold white man’ she broke loose and vanished into the can-fields howling with a sound that woke the distant neighbours who later formed a group and returned the woman to safety. That was five years ago.” Antigua Star, Feb.1, 1864. Richard Allen & Gerald Price.

“The most recent to live in this haunted den are 25 St. Vincent labourers who were in Antigua to reap the 1963 sugarcane crop. It was said that the youngest of the labourers, a lanky fellow, found it impossible to sleep under the roof of Old Duer’s.
One week in the island and he returned to St. Vincent. Night after night, immediately after midnight excruciating pains would pass through his body, and if he dared to sleep he would be roused by a fearful vision.
Several said they heard him shout repeatedly: “Help! Help! Do not trample me.” His story is that a headless white man rode a grey horse which trampled him to death but that life refused to leave his body.”

This story ties in with the yarn told by an overseer whose regular beats caused him to pass by the haunted house. He said that as he neared the house he heard the galloping of hooves. He stopped his motorcycle, nothing approached and nothing passed him. He moved towards the east gate, and there he saw a headless man sitting on a gray horse. “The objects were vivid because the moonlight was bright.” he said. Man and horse were motionless like painted pictures on a painted wall. Then suddenly a deep baritone voice came from the man. “Well young man?” The overseer gripped firmly to his motorcycle and uttered, “Sir, w-h-a-t are you doing out so late (1:30am)? “Well” replied the voice “day is for you the living and night is for us. Would you care to join us?” The overseer with super strength snatched his cycle and tossed on the man and horse but the object stood firm. Seeing this, the overseer took to his heels.”

An officer of the Defense Force said “We camped at Old Duer’s for two weeks and every night weird sounds stiffened our hairs. Two nights before break of camp, long after ‘lights out’ a sudden opening and banging of windows caused us to jump from our bunks. All would be quiet for a while, then a steady breeze would fill the air with an obnoxious smell. “We hurried into the open air, then we heard the guard shout. ‘Halt! Halt!’ The boys asked who it was that the guard had seen. The guard went on to describe that it was a man on a white horse and “it appeared that he rode without a head. They dashed past me from the direction of the house.”

Enslaved People’s History

Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. This estate has a painful reputation made clear in the numerous ghost stories that arise from this space. We can tell from these stories that life as an enslaved person working on this plantation would have been very hard. As far as the numbers go, we also know that the estate contained 339 acres and 219 enslaved people in 1829. Once slavery was abolished in the Caribbean, Big Duer’s was then awarded £3306 6 s 9 d for the liberation of their then-accrued 244 enslaved individuals. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.

Legacies of British Slave-ownership: In 1833, Parliament finally abolished slavery in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape. The slave trade had been abolished in 1807 but it took another 26 years to effect the emancipation of the enslaved. The legislation of 1833 was the result of a combination of factors where it was felt that the plantation owners should be compensated for their slaves who were to be freed. The amount of 20 million pounds , a huge amount in those days, was divided up between all slave owners.
Benjamin Aislabie – absentee/resident? – other association – Antigua 257 (Little Duer’s?) £889 10 s 1 d (73 enslaved).

Big Duer’s was awarded £3306 6 s 9 d for 244 enslaved. Awardees were Elizabeth Duer and Theodore Duer. Mary Creswell (nee Duer), Sir George Henry Rose, John Rose and John Duers other association Beneficiary deceased was Rowland Duer, Jr. Unsuccessful were Josiah Martin and Neville Reid.