Type: Ruin
Parish: St.John
Founding date: 1668
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An image of the Gamble estate house

Current Status

No mill has survived on either Upper or Lower Gambles, but it is confirmed that in combination with Daniel’s estate (The Villa #15) the original mill had been converted to steam by 1872.  Lower Gambles apparently operated the “works”, which is depicted in the 1830 drawing featured as a postcard below, and Upper Gambles was where the buff, or estate house, was located.  

Estate Related History/Timeline

The Wood estate (#12) was directly north of Gamble’s, the city of St. John’s was south, Lower Gamble’s was west, and Clare Hall (#13b) was east.  The old estate house on top of the hill is currently (2002) the home of the last estate owners, Dr. & Mrs. Ivor Heath.

In 1689, merchant George Gamble secured 127 acres and four “proportions” of land in St. John’s town, granted July 2nd by Sir N. Johnson.

In 1710, The Honorable George Gamble, age 44, was in considerable debt, owing the Assembly £2,000, so he mortgaged the estate’s 316 acres to Governor Daniel Parke for £6,000.  The estate was then bounded on the east by the property of Captain Giles Watkins. south by the common road leading to Parham, west with the common road leading to Dickenson’s Bay and Popeshead, and north by the estate of Jonas Langford (#6) and Jacob Leroux.  There is a portrait of Governor Parke painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller and engraved by G. Vertue “with his arms”.      Vere Oliver, Volume II.

Edward Chester (probably Lucy Chester’s husband) subsequently purchased the estate and, in 1720, turned it over to the Royal African Company.  Lucy is listed as the owner as of 1723. 

In 1721, the planter Joseph French and his wife Ann sold to Richard Oliver (Clare Hall, #13b), also a planter, their moiety of the Gamble’s plantation for £150 and quit claim.  Then, in 1723, the merchant Sidney Rodney, executor of the estate of the late Governor Daniel Parke, gave to Thomas D. Parke and his wife Lucy the Governor’s estate of 316 acres, formerly mortgaged by Colonel George Gamble.      Vere Oliver, Volume II & III.

Lord Combermere, the son of Viscount Combermere, was a British cavalry commander in the early 1800s who distinguished himself in several military campaigns. Combermere Abbey, in Cheshire, England, was founded by Benedictine monks in 1133, who were evicted from the Abbey in 1540 by King Henry VII.  The Abbey later became the Seat of Sir George Cotton KT, Vice Chamberlain to the household of Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII.  In 1814, Sir Stapleton Cotton, a descendent of Sir George, took the title “Lord Combermere” and in 1817, he became the Governor of Barbados.  As Governor, he ordered a  professional investigation of “Moving Chase Coffins” located inside a sealed vault.  The coffins were said to “have been moved about by unnatural forces.”  There is a well-known photograph of Lord Combermere’s library, taken in 1891 by Sybell Corbet while the Lord’s funeral was underway a few miles distant.  He had died after being struck by a horse-drawn carriage.  Apparently, the photograph shows Lord Combermere sitting in a chair.

    “I remember Colonel Cotton  – he was the owner of Gamble’s estate and a war man like my boss, Affie Goodwin.  He got crippled in the Boer’s War.  The Colonel was the first man I ever see knit like a Granny.”   Sammy Smith in “To Shoot Hard Labour”.                       

A legacy award of £19,961. 4s. 5p. (Antigua 123) was paid by the British Parliament following its abolition of slavery in 1833 for Gamble’s plantation of freedom 115 enslaved.  Daniel Hill, deceased, with the primary beneficiary; Vice Admiral John Richard Delap Tollemach (nee Halliday) and John Tellemach (nee Halliday), also were successful claimants.  Both Daniel Hill and George Wickham Washington Leadeatt were unsuccessful.

In January 1866, there was an exchange of lengthy letters between Viscount Combermere in the U.K. and Mr. Hartman, who was sent to assess the estates recently purchased by the Viscount.  They included Gamble’s (#14), Weatherill’s (#5), Delap’s (#137), Lucas (#135) and Glanville’s (#97).  To review the detailed correspondence, refer to Weatherill’s (#5).

Selvyn Walters, author of “Not A Drum Was Heard”, remembers being sent to Gamble’s by his mother to buy milk.  He and his friends also played a game called “Putian” (Lilliputian), a form of cricket played on one’s knees using golf balls found in the bushes of Gamble’s Golf Course.

Land was acquired from the Gamble’s estate by the government for use as a public cemetery, and when someone died, it was often referred to as “passing on to No. 10”, the number of the field when sugarcane was grown there.  Upper Gamble’s was turned into Antigua’s first nine-hole golf course and later became a housing development.  Rumors claim there supposedly are two ghosts at Gamble’s, one being a groom for horses and the other Major Dyett, who wanders around the grounds.

    “Major Dyett [he was really a Colonel] came from near Cheshire, England, and came out to Antigua to manage the Cotton estates [about 1933].  One of the Cottons lived at Gambles [Colonel R. S. Cotton] and shot someone around the back steps leading people to say the place was haunted.  The Major was also haunting the place — one of our cooks saw him very clearly.  At one time Major Dyett lived at Belvedere Estates [#38] — which is out in the foothills beyond Greencastle.  He died on 15th May 1937 shortly after marrying his second wife, Alice Smith.  Major Dyett was not related to the Abbotts, but left McKinnon’s [#10] to John Abbott (his Godson).      Mary Evelyn Smith.

During Bob Smith’s ownership, which began in 1945, Gamble owned and trained a fine stable of race horses.  It was not unusual, when arriving at the estate house, to see saddles draped over the balcony rail with the currying brushes nearby.  Bob (“Whiffy”) Smith was an excellent horse trainer.  His wife worked at the Antigua Girl’s High School and also was the house manager for the Beach Hotel.  They had one daughter, Mary Evelyn, who married and settled in Canada.

Lower Gamble’s, also known as the Buff House Gamble’s, was the domicile of Carlton Moore and his family in the 1950s.  He was a Senator and was very active in the now-defunct West Indies Federation.  Helen Abbott (see McKinnon’s, #10) is certain that Senator Moore purchased Lower Gamble’s from the Abbott family after the death of her grandfather, W. J. Abbott.  At one time, there was a circular “bread and cheese” hedge planted by Helen’s grandfather, in which the Moore children’s birthday parties were held.  Mrs. Moore ran a small shop in St. John’s, called Moore’s, in which she sold cloth and sewing items.  The ruins of the building are still visible to the east of Joseph’s Lumber Yard.

A map drawn by Geoffrey Owen in 1952 shows a sugar mill called “Willows” at the Gamble’s site.  His map is based on information dating from 1884 – 1891.

In 1872, the Horseford Almanac lists another Gamble’s Estate in Five Islands; 157 acres owned by J. E. Anthonyson.

In 1941, the Antigua Sugar Factory Ltd. had cane returns estimated at 1,213 tons: 101 acres under peasants on the estate; 782 tons of cane delivered.

Enslaved People’s History

Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. A legacy award of £19,961. 4s. 5p. (Antigua 123) was paid by the British Parliament following its abolition of slavery in 1833 for Gamble’s plantation of freedom 115 enslaved. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.

Ownership Chronology

  • 1668: Honorable George Gamble. 50 acres, surveyed July 18, 1668. Mr. Gamble, a merchant, had increased the acreage to 127 plus four portions of land in St. John’s, according to a land grant dated July 2, 1689, by Sir N. Johnson.
  • 1710: Governor Daniel Parke (1664-1710 – murdered)
  • 1723: Lucy Chester d. 1770
  • 1750: Charles Dunbar
  • 1790: John Halliday (1777/78 map by cartographer John Luffman.)
  • 1829: Rear Admiral John Halliday Tollemach
  • 1843: John Tollemach (nee Halliday) By 1852 – 300 acres.
  • 1872: Viscount Combermere. 290 acres
  • 1891: Lord Combermere & C. I. Thomas. Lord Combermere was the son of Viscount Combermere, who purchased the estate from John Tellemach in 1872
  • 1921: Colonel R.S. Cotton
  • 1933: Colonel Dyett & W. J. Abbott heirs (1933 Comacho map.)
  • 1945: Bob Smith 2
  • 1990: Dr. Ivor Heath, Buff house only