Type: Extant
Parish: St.John
Founding date: 1710
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Current Status

The original sugar mill on this estate is still in mint condition, serving as the gift shop for the Hawkesbill Hotel.  The mill is located on a headland above the ocean, and during the plantation’s heyday, it must have been a magnificent site.  There is no sign now of the estate’s great house, which most likely was located where the hotel is situated currently, or any of the buildings mentioned in the book “To Shoot Hard Labour.” The mill works were never converted to steam, probably because in the mid-1800s, the estate cultivated very little sugar cane, concentrating on livestock and ground provisions.

The Hawkesbill resort includes five beaches, one of which is Antigua’s only designated nude beach.  The little beach at the entrance to the hotel property remains open for local use.  In the bay itself, there is a large rock formation that has the shape of a Hawkesbill turtle emerging from the water.  It is a natural feature that provided this estate with its name.

Estate Related History/Timeline

In 1649, Antigua’s first House of Assembly met at Hawkesbill, presumably in a building long since gone.

Then in 1713, the will of James Hanson left his Five Island acreage “half to Robert Hanson and half to (his) wife for son Robert till of age.”  And in 1738, the will of Frances Hanson Hawkesbill (Five Islands) and the 1759 will of Hugh Holmes leaves my 2 houses at St. John’s, Antigua, and a legacy that was left to my wife on Hawkesbill estate in Five Islands to my grandson Thomas Harrison, son to my brother-in-law Theodore Hanson in Antigua.”  Somewhere in the mix there was a Samuel Hanson, an Antiguan planter, whose widow’s will is dated 1763.

         Pappy Smith, in the popular book To Shoot Hard Labour, cites the following        “The Hawkesbill fun House was the top entertainment centre in the land for nearly forty years or so.  There was three top houses at the Hawkesbill Estate.  The Great House, the Fun House and the Leap House.  There was a passageway that lead from one to the other.”

“The Leap House was used every leap year at midnight on the 28th of February in the age-old ritual of finding a mate.  At Hawkesbill there was the Irish ‘hengman stone’.  A big stone that was the platform for the gallows on which the English use to hang slaves and Irish people.  Don’t mine who the enemy against the mother country, the Irish man was with them.”

“For generations a particular family used to mold the features of people (clay) painting or in wood.  That was a big business at Hawkesbill.  This was a natural gift between the Hector, the Radison and the Goodall family.  The planters used to get their features molded or painted.  Massas George Goodwin and Affie Goodwin (Duers) dead left their image in their bluff that was done by those two people.”

“Mandy Hector draw the plan for some of the great houses, including Camacho great house at Millars Estate.  And not a copper them get.  Piece of bread or bun and some bebitch [drink] make them feel good.”

“There was a Hawkesbill comb produced by one Norris Billinghurst. He would cut a piece of wood six to eight inches long and use half the portion as a handle and drive nails in the other half.  A simple comb for poor people.”

“The Hawkesbill area was popular too because Missy Mabel used to make soap and hot pepper sauce and pepper powder.  Miss Mabel pepper vinegar tell for everybody else, tan-way.  None could match hers.”

 “Hawkesbill was known in the old days for healing the sick and they would come from near and far on the island.  The women healers at the Sick Hark would try almost everything to revive the sick.  Whatsoever the sickness, they would rub the bottom foot, rub and exercise the ankle properly, rub the back and place the palm of the hand at the back of the head for some time.  The sick must get up in the mornings and walk on the dew grass when dew fall overnight.  This Lady Jumbia tell the neighbors, make the body and limbs move freer.  Besides knowing what bush to apply, vinegar was a common medicine at the Sick Hark.  As a matter of fact, no woman healer travel without vinegar, turpentine and allum.'”          

“Any amount of meat was at Hawkesbill.  It was the chief cattle estate.  Had the right for a long time to import livestock and supply some of the Estates with all the cattle they want.  It had two jetties, one to land animals and the other to land goods.”

“Before then was the people from Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis.  For long years the planters, not poor people, go back and forth swapping their vegetables and meat, and fowl, rum and sometimes coal from the Hawkesbill Market”   

In 1833, when the British Parliament abolished slavery,  the Hawkesbill estate was granted a Legacy award (Antigua 1041) of £10,851. 1s. 5p. for granting freedom to 59 en

In the late 1800s, William Jeffrey O’Mard (born in Liberta) supposedly became the first Black man to own an estate: Hawkesbill.  He also was one of the first Black men to invest in Barclays Bank.  It’s believed that he lived part-time in the Buff house, which was constructed of stone and located on the right side of the road across from the Jeffrey family memorial at the entrance to the Hawkesbill Hotel.  The rest of the time, he resided in his home in Greenbay with his family.

He rode a horse between the two locations and was often hailed by a Portuguese family on his way home asking him to stop, partake of refreshments, and play a few hands of poker.  He apparently suspected them of attempting to get him drunk so he would gamble away his lands, a fairly common practice of planters in those days.  His excuse, apparently, was that he would secure his horse and return, but instead, he galloped out of there! William had three daughters, two of whom married and had families.  The third generation of Jeffreys (William apparently dropped the last name O’Mard) now own the Hawkesbill land, which Kathleen (Jeffrey) Walter leased for fifty years to Mr. Sheppard, who built the Hawkesbill Hotel.

In 2011, a reading of Mr. Jeffrey’s will revealed that he stated the land could not be sold but must remain owned by the Jeffrey family in perpetuity. The family has obviously grown over the years resulting in many heirs to the property, including Jeffrey’s, Richardson’s, Francis’s, Brown’s, etc.

At the entrance to the Hawkesbill Hotel is a memorial honoring the Jeffrey family “who bequeathed to this three daughters (Francis Richardson, Grace E. Francis, and Sarah Brown) and to their heirs and assigns forever in equal shares.” This memorial has recently been vandalized (2021). The Hotel has fallen into disrepair over the past fifty years. Apparently, members of the extended family did not view the lease agreement as favorable, leaving the property’s future uncertain.  It is still being negotiated at this time (2016). 

Enslaved People’s History

Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. In 1833, when the British Parliament abolished slavery, the Hawkesbill estate was granted a Legacy award (Antigua 1041) of £10,851. 1s. 5p. for granting freedom to 59 enslaved. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.

Ownership Chronology

  • 1710: James Hanson
  • 1713: Richard & Robert Hanson
  • 1730: Will Francis Hanson
  • 1738: Thomas Harrison
  • 1790: Elias Ferris (1777/78 map by cartographer John Luffman.)
  • 1829: J. Billinghurst 100 acres; 62 slaves
  • 1852: John Allway
  • 1872: Reverend Peter Malone
  • 1800s: Late: William Jeffrey (Born William Jeffrey O’Mard; died 1927.)
  • 1964: The Hawkesbill Hotel leased the land from the Jeffrey family