Founding date: 1730
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There is no longer a mill at this site but the original house built in 1727 still stands empty and open to the elements, along with many of the outbuildings. The bush has taken over both at the ‘landing’ where the lime kiln used to be and which was where ships and barges docked, and at the Narrows where the pontoon was pulled across by ropes. The road up to the house is overgrown, the sheep were stolen and the deer shot. Perhaps a few Whistler Duck still fly by.
Guana Island is a corruption of Guiana. After the Treaty of Breda in 1867 English settlers migrated from Guiana and settled on this island. The island consists of some 600 acres and is accessed at the Narrows by a hand pulled ferry on the south coast. Several Amerindian Sites are located on the island. Early Siboney Sites at Monocle Point and Barnes Point while Arawak Sites are at Grape Bay and Byam Point. These are of tremendous historical significance.
Estate Related History/Timeline
1759: Edward Evanson of Guana, Esq. who lived on Guiana Island and leased land from the Tudways now known as Parham Lodge. It is uncertain if he owned Guiana Island at that time or if it was leased though it is stated that he owns two houses on the island. His nephew Alexander Crawford took over the lease and it is noted that there were Evansons living at Parham Hill from 1836-1846. Will dated 19 Dec., 1759. To be bur. near my uncle Baptiste Looby in Parham Churchyard.
“To my kinsman Nath’ Evanson, sen’, of Foremill, Bantry, co. Cork, “200 a year, ” if he come to the West Indies after my death, all my wine ” old rum one part, and Edward Evanson of Guana Island, being on” of the islands adjacent and belonging to Antigua, Gentle in the room south of the kitchen chimney where I now live, all my wether sheep, hogs, poultry, 2 horses, chaise, and liberty to live in either of my 2 houses at Guana Island, “
1759: Edward Evanson Will 1759. “in default of issue my trustees are to divide Guana Is. East from West, as on plan, the East to my kinsman Tankart Looby and the West to my Kinsman Rich. Evanson of Foremill Water, Perth.” Vere Oliver Vol.I p.246
“To 5s. Edward Byam and Lydia his wife and John Byam grant, etc., to Edward Evanson all that plantation ..Byam …. in Guana Island …. containing 211 acres, and now in the possession and occupation of Edward Byam and Mary Mason of Cork 3s. weekly.” Vere Oliver Vol I p.245
Owned by Charles Tudway of Parham Hill estate in the mid 18th century leased to Edward Evanson, who owned two houses on Guiana Island. Hon. Edward Byam, Council Member, occupied one of the houses in 1749.
Evanson died in 1760 in debt of £11,000, due to an extended drought. A new lease was made to his heir.
In 1812, Sir William Codrington II bought Guiana Island for £4,272 and it remained within the Codrington family until 1929. Natural Heritage by Desmond Nicholson.
1754: “Indenture between Edward Byam and Lydia his wife and John Byam of Antigua, Esq., ….. convey to John Byam all that plantation on Guana Island near Antigua containing 211 acres …. for one whole year. “ Vere Oliver Vol.I p.107
Sir William Codrington purchased Guiana Is. for £4,272 which remained in the family till 1929. The Fallow deer (Dama, dama, dama) was introduced around 1740, now an endangered species, as is the Whistler Duck. Sea Island cotton was grown in abundance until the 1950’s. The ruins of two lime ovens or kilns remain at the old landing on the NW coast and the house and surrounding buildings now lie in ruins. The main house has two stones with the dates 1725 and 1929, the latter added when renovations occurred.
In 1921, this estate contained 300 acres. Cattle were once raised.
VESTIGES OF AN EMPIRE by John Ogden. US Navy Duty, Antigua 1958 (poetic license – the original name was Turner).
Jack Tanner was the overseer of a West Indian sugar cane plantation. Together with his sister, he managed that isolated hot subtropic spot on Guana Island, under very difficult conditions, for an absent landlord who lived in London and had not yet set foot upon the island which he owned. I would say Jack Tanner was fifty – give or take -; his sister Mary, maybe forty-five. They’d planted cane for more than twenty years, and had sent home a good enough return upon investment. They were friendly in a proper sort of way.
In the nineteen fifties there were still vestiges of empire, Great Britain’s glorious accumulation. You must know that Antigua, Guana Island’s larger neighbor, had been Lord Nelson’s West Indian Dockyard at English Harbor. Now a noted maritime museum, it boasts many mementos of Lord Horatio’s Campaigns. Shirley Heights, the fortified redoubt High above the entrance to the harbor where, in safety, Nelson could careen his ships, was the sometime habitation of the Duke of Clarence, who later would be crowned King William IV.
If you visit Shirley Heights, you’ll see, among the other vestiges of empire, the bathtub of the Duke of Clarence, which is, I would say, about six by six, cut into the living rock and equipped with running water brought in by wooden piping from the mammoth catchment open to the air. Fresh water still is a very rare commodity in the Indies, especially up on Shirley Heights. But during the highest height of empire you would know how to bathe, if of course, you were a duke, scion of the House of Hanover. Soap and sterling went hand-in-hand over the entire world.
After driving five, or maybe six hard miles along a dusty rock and gravel road wide enough for just one vehicle, between ten foot high fields of sugar cane, you would come to the muddy, tidal ferry slip that gave access to Jack and Mary Tanner’s place. At some risk, you would drive onto a wooden platform buoyed by several dozen dented and rusting fifty gallon drums and, in the old way pull yourself across a hundred yards or so of open water, one person to a side. Hauling on lines slung between posts embedded on each shore and loosely reeved through stanchions on the left.
On Guana Island, Jack and Mary Tanner occupied a cut-stone bungalow dating from Lord Nelson’s time. A modest dwelling, it is sited quite correctly to catch the Easterlies, and this was relatively cool even in the hottest time of day: but, in the sun out of the breeze, in cane, that time was very hot. Just outside this house stood one of those 18th century, cone-shaped, stone mills built to grind the sugar cane. Its masonry was excellent – rock cut and dressed, no doubt, by slaves. The wooden works were gone, but the mill tower stood in silhouette against the shimmer of the sea.
The farmhouse was, of course, without electricity. Fuel oil lamps or candles could furnish all the sparse illumination the couple would ever need at night. Planters, from necessity rise early before first light, and retire spent, at dusk. A portable gasoline generator gave backup to the batteries powering the short-wave wireless Jack Tanner used to make what little communication was needed with the outside world. He listened punctually, twice each day, to the weather broadcasts and storm advisories, then made his regular transmission checks to provide against the demands of an emergency.
Close by the mill stood the boiling houses were crushed cane was rendered into syrup to be dried into coarse, dark sugar, or refined into rum. This boiling house now housed Jack Tanner’s battered Rover. And beyond this building stood quite a number of small huts – structures you’d dignify to call them shanties. Wood, on blocks, tin-roofed, one or two shuttered windows, and a single door which could be tightly barred against the jumbies. The huts housed Jack Tanner’s field hands, vestiges of empire, and little more than modern slaves, toiling in the sun for a dollar British West Indian currency, and rum.
Only one in fifty persons in the Indies could be considered to be white, or remotely Caucasian. The rest were clearly African. You could not find a trace of Carib Indian. For three hundred years the blacks had been so tightly bred, or inbred themselves, that you’d think you were just among the heat and huts of Dahomey. And, of course, slavery was a topic you never would discuss with Jack and Mary Tanner. Nor would you talk laissez-faire or mercantilism, or trade monopoly. In fact, you would not talk political economy at all. You did play bridge.
Jack and Mary Tanner always dressed for dinner, Jack customarily in mess jacket and black tie: Mary customarily in a long flowered gown (was it Chintz?) with ruffles. She had but the single gown, because there was no dry-cleaning, even in St. John’s. These formal clothes were redolent of sweat. The smell was worse before you all had started to sweat, or you’d had too little Scotch. Shortly, you failed to notice. Both Jack and Mary Tanner drank a lot, but it was a matter of good form and propriety not to show the drink. Drunkenness was frowned upon. Indeed, no one could recall Jack or Mary Tanner tight.
They served good Scotch, neat, or gin, usually laced with bitters. Of course, there was no ice. Sometimes you might get soda. They had rum, too, but you’d not get inferior local rum – only that imported from Barbados. They ate fresh fish caught by local fishermen, or lamb. Sheep grazed the rocky land not suited to the cane. Occasionally, you’d get port. One of Jack Tanner’s hands could butcher, and would roast a pig whole over charcoal, turning the spit with his foot, and drinking Antigua rum straight from a bottle that formerly held Coke. That way of roasting pig goes back as far as men and pigs.
The household cook, as from tradition, used charcoal kept burning through the day and night in a massive stove of stone. Coals from that stove were put into heavy, open iron, ten pounds maybe, used to press out Jack and Mary Tanner’s clothing. The laundering was done by hand, outdoors, in metal tubs, and on scrubbing boards, the garments then draped to bleach and dry under the scorching sun, upon sea grape bushes which grew abundantly about the house. Needless to say, the vigor of this usage was very hard upon the Tanner clothes, and resulted in a wardrobe threadbare – and noticeably shabby.
Jack Tanner was an O.B.E. As they say, his Order of the British Empire was received for “Service to the Queen”. Of course Jack Tanner would not discuss the decoration… Even to make mention would have been bad form in the excess. Therefore just exactly what service he had rendered to or for the Queen, I never did discover. Even I knew it would have been a gross impropriety to enquire. For the graceless few who do not realize the great gaucherie of violating personal privacy that admonition cannot be too emphatically or frequently repeated.
Always the Union Jack flew proudly over Jack and Mary Tanner’s place. Jack Tanner would haul down the colors each and every day, just at sunset in a most official way, even if he were forced to interrupt his guests at dinner. Of course, you would understand that the ensign was for him a fundamental source of pride. In fact, it was Jack Tanner who lodged official complaint at Government House that, at the U.S. Navy Base, the Union Jack was very frequently flying upside down. The A.D.C. paid a call to teach the U.S. navy diplomatic etiquette. “To fly the colors in the proper manner, not in distress,” he said in an imperious way, was a matter of noticing the width of stripes, and insuring that, at the peak, the narrow white was always lower than the broad, “attending to detail.” The incident was one of very great embarrassment, a continued insult to Her Majesty, the Queen, His Excellency the Governor; every British subject, a display of Yankee ignorance and lack of form. The U.S. Navy commanding officer found thereafter that his visits to Government House were few, and awkward to a very high degree.
As was the invariable colonial custom every three years, Jack and Mary Tanner would return to the UK. on holiday for six months’ time. Otherwise, they lived a life of rigor and routine, on Guana Island, toiling in the sun and drinking Scotch, and getting dressed for dinner, and hauling down the Union Jack at sunset, every day. When Jack and Mary Tanner were gone on holiday you might get one of the islanders, who’d had too much pink gin, in strictest confidence, of course, and certainly not wanting to talk behind their backs, to say that Jack and Mary Tanner practiced incest. END
Major Hugh Hole (World War I) – in an article on Trade Unionism, the question was asked if Major Hole had been given enough accolades for his tutorial role in planting and nurturing the seeds of Trande Unionism and political change in Antigua. He used to entertain and lecture the founding fathers there. He was among a group of public-spirited professional and businessmen who early on, after 1945, openly espoused the working class cause in Antigua: Reginald Stevens, the jeweler, the Rev. Charles Francis, R.H. Lockhart the lawyer, the Englishman Major Hugh Hole, and others.
The writer of “Birds of Antigua”, Danforth, owes a special debt of gratitude to Major Hugh Hole of Nottingham, England and to his representative in Antigua, Mr. Marion Moore, for permission and facilities for visiting Great Big Bird and Hell Gate Island.
The island was the home of Taffy & Bonny Bufton who were caretakers for Guiana Island Farms, Ltd. for over 30 years until they were unceremoniously evicted in 1998 by the Government who sold Guiana Island and four outlying islands to Dato Tan for an Asian development. It was about this time that the world recession was taking place and the whole project was dropped shortly after starting to build at Coconut Hall on the mainland which was also part of the deal. The ruins stand on the headland today.
The Bonnie & Taffy Bufton story, caretakers of Guiana Island for over 32 years for a London lawyer by the name of Alexander Hamilton-Hill is what books are made of.
They were originally from Wales and while managing a farm in Africa saw an ad to take care of the Guiana Island estate. They arrived in 1960 when Guiana Island was still growing cotton and oversaw 120 paid cotton pickers annually. By 1968 they had to stop growing cotton because they were unable to get anyone to pick it. They then concentrated on the sheep and had as many as 500 at one time.
The great house was built in 1727 which is where the Buftons first lived, later moving into a nearby small galvanized bungalow.
The second Mrs. Hamilton Hill (Elfreide Rostick) would often visit alone, but she was very fond of her Scotch who would strip naked, become weepy and say “I wanted it all and now that I have gotten it all I don’t want it”. That was when the Buftons decided to move out of the great house and into a small galvanize cottage nearby.
They lived simply with the bare necessities and took care of a herd of sheep, the wild deer (Dama dama, dama), and the wild ducks (Antigua Whistler). Both the deer and the ducks were on the endangered species list.
They lived very simply. Bonnie made their own clothes from cloth purchased by Taffy in town, she corresponded a lot and talked to the animals. Water was collected off the roof, and electricity was generated by a 12-volt plant dating back to 1929 and powered by used car batteries. They also used candles and kerosene lamps. They had a kerosene refrigerator and her oven was a “hay box” which functioned quite well and was used for baking bread and cakes. It was said Taffy never bought a pair of shoes, he’d just pick up the odd shoes that washed up on the shore and made do, even if they didn’t match.
The Buftons didn’t always welcome visitors and many an unwelcome guest was chased off the island by Taffy and his shotgun. Others however, got invited to tea and were treated to one of Bonny’s cakes with tea from one of the chipped and mismatched cups and saucers. Towards the end Taffy figured there were about 250 deer on the island and 26 sheep. However, once the Buftons were removed from Guiana Island, the Defense Force were put in charge and before long every single one of the deer had been killed – so much for protecting the Dama dama dama on the national crest.
Hamilton Hill attempted to make sure the Buftons were taken care of after he died and a five-year job contract drawn up in 1970 stated the Buftons should receive five acres of the 460 acre Guiana Island for a 99-year lease at “peppercorn” prices. Unfortunately they never formerly took title.
John & Jimmy Fuller claim they spent three years negotiating with Hamilton-Hill’s widow before borrowing $277,000 to buy Guiana Island and fifteen other neighbouring islands.
In 1976 the Buftons stopped getting their monthly payment cheques of about $222 and began living off their modest savings. In 1983 Vere Bird as head of the Ministry of Public Works engineered a $700 monthly salary for them as wildlife conservation officers of Guiana Island. They also received a white Suzuki jeep to patrol the island and protect the deer which appear on the nation’s crest. Once a week Taffy would load it onto the pontoon at the Narrows for his trip into St. John’s for food, mail and supplies. In 1988 the Buftons filed a squatter’s rights claim to Guiana Island which failed as it was ruled that they lived on the island as employees, not squatters. The Fullers supposedly tried repeatedly to get them to leave, even supposedly offering them monetary compensation, but for whatever reason they were left alone. Then in 2000 along came Dato Tan Kay Hoc with a project to build an Asian Village. The Government offered him Guiana Island and four neighbouring islands for about 6 million, supposedly less than the amount paid to the Fullers to obtain the land. At this point Bonnie and Taffy were unceremoniously removed from the island and ‘put up’ by the Government in a house on Willoughby Bay where Taffy later died. Bonnie later received compensation for the ‘supposed’ five acres and has built a small home in the north part of the mainland where she still lived until her death in 2014. Information taken from both the Observer and Tropic magazine 1997.
The Narrows with the pontoon boat Bonny and Taffy used to get to and from Guiana Island. Below is a picture of the Narrows today.
Enslaved People’s History
Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.
- 1730: Edward Byam
- 1753: Edward Evanson d.1759 leased Guiana Island and land on Parham Hill Plantation (Parham Lodge)
- 1759: Hon. Edward Byam
- 1790: Brinton & Rigg
- 1812: Sir William Codrington III
- 1878: Sir. C.W.H. Codrington 1872 Horsford Almanac Grazing farm
- 1929: Major Hugh Hole. d.1948
- 1933: Hamilton-Hill (d.1972) who formed a company called Guiana Is. Farms, Ltd., which included several other neighbouring islands.
- 1976: The Fuller family purchased all holdings for $750,000.00.
- 1998: Dato Tan Kay Hock who was interested in building an `Asian Village’ development (non-payment resulted in contract broken).
- 2003: Owned by Government.
- 2015: Part of the YEDA Project.