Type: Extant
Parish: St.Philip
Founding date: 1790
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Current Status

Montpelier (c.1890 to 1954) was one of three sugar factories on the island and was known for its muscovado sugar.  The buff house was situated on the top of the hill just outside of the village of St Philips with a view of the surrounding sugar cane fields.  As you approached up the hill with the factory on your left and the mill on the corner just before turning into the garden beneath old mahogany trees, the walls on the right side reminded one of a bastion or fort.  A small stairway cut into the wall led from the kitchen garden at the back of the house as a ‘short-cut’ across the road to the factory.  The original house contained Gothic doors, a balcony with a stone floor in the front that wrapped around to the south and a stone cellar.  It was a beautiful estate house, remodeled cheaply after several hurricanes and finally left in disrepair to the bats and wondering goats.

            The factory was considered one of the finest muscovado sugar factories in the Caribbean in the 1890’s and would have made an ideal museum before being pillaged and allowed to run to bush.   Stone outhouses abound that were offices, the pay master, storage, etc…. and the cattle pen still stands at the entrance on the right.

            To the south is The Hope (mill with a brick heart above the door) and the village of St. Philip’s comes right up to the entrance.  To the left before entering the compound is a dirt road that cuts around the back near Harman’s estate (to the north) through to the road that goes to Harmony Hall.   It was a great shortcut, still used, but more accessible during the dry weather.  The village of St. Philip’s came into being after the 1950’s hurricanes when the Government built several small concrete homes down and across from the Church.  Today it is a thriving community.

Estate Related History/Timeline

1696: “Capt. William Harman RN (d.1708) owned lands in Antigua & Barbados before 1696.”

William Wickham Harman of “Murray’s” now “Montpelier”

Besides owning Harman’s and Montpellier, there is also reference to a Murray’s.   “Samuel Bickerton Harman (1819-1892).”   “Thomas Duberry Harman (d.1813) of  ‘Murrays’ died at a feast given by him to celebrate the coming of age of his son William.”  

Vere Oliver Vol.II p.62

1832: William Harman Will 1832 “and give her (wife Mgt. Spencer) everything in the house on my estate called Montpelier.” 

“Montpelier I charge with £1,000 to any future child.” Vere Oliver Vol.II p.61

“Thomas Gillan Harman (1816-1834) of Montpellier.”

*Joseph Lavicount claimed the compensation for the Montpelier and Mount estate in right of wife, guardian of the heirs of Wm. Harman.  William Harman was known by Vere Langford Oliver as of ‘Montpelier and Gobles’ and as dying in 1824 with his wife then marrying with Joseph Lavicount.  Legacies of British Slave-ownership.

In 1829 this estate contained 75 acres and owned 212 slaves shared with Gobles.  

In 1921 contained 985 acres.

1851: The Antigua Almanac shows Montpelier of 75 acres and owned by Heirs of Wm. Harman.

1852: “William Harman of Montpelier and Gobles (1792-1823).”

“Montpelier of 75 acres owned by Heirs of William Harman.”

1896: Archibald Spooner was the manager for the Lee, Crerar & Co. and lived at Montpelier in 1896.  Letters show the dissolution of the firm of Lee, Crerar & Co (Arthur Morier Lee and Alexander Crerar) to continue as A.M. Lee & Co.West India Merchant. 1889 London Gazette.  Letters regarding Antigua: coal duty from Lee, Crerar & Co. available at the National Archives

1872: An example of a newly arrived family that benefited from act was the Maginleys. Two brothers, John and Robert, arrived from Ireland sometime between 1852 and 1872—they are not listed as owning estates in the 1852 almanac, but are 1872.  The story is that they came as apprentice planters, or managers, but quickly set about acquiring estates of their own.  Using both the court and private sales, they had, by 1878, accumulated almost 4,500 acres and together were the largest owners in Antigua. Their estates (Comfort Hall, Gilberts, Long Lane, Lavington, Lyons, Willis Freemans, and Burkes/LaRoche/Table Hill) were primarily in the fertile southeast. By 1891—again using the court—these had been supplemented by Cedar Hill and Sandersons, for a total of nine estates. John served on the Legislative Council for twenty years, as well as on a number of public boards, and was a leading member of the plantocracy.  


Taken from Small Islands, Large Questions.  “Unless the elected side of the Council was dismantled, the island would neither receive aid nor be able to attract much-needed outside investment.  In March 1898 a resolution proposing a council of eight official and eight nonofficial was introduced by John Maginley, an aging resident planter and loyal member of the Council for more than twenty years.  The vote, which took place in secrecy to forestall any public protest, was carried by an eleven to eight majority.  The non-whites who lost their seats included the last of the upper-level free-coloured families to take part in Antigua’s political life.”

One of the last planters “Tank” Maginley, who in retirement, became host at the Kensington Hotel in St. John’s.

            Ernest Dew was born in Antigua, son of Joseph Dew (d.1900), engineer who arrived in Antigua in 1905.  Ernest David married twice, firstly to Irene Violet Maginley 1918 while he was a Planter at Belmont Estate.  Secondly after Irene’s death to her sister Millicent Margaret Maginley.  There was no issue from either marriage.  Rootsweb.

            In 1944 The Antigua Distillery purchased Montpelier for £12,000 and later 8 other surrounding estates bringing the acreage to a total of 2500 acres.   These were Lynches, Harmon’s, Skerret’s, Folly, Archbald/Brown’s, Hope, Waldron’s, Manning’s and Colebrook’s.   The Antigua Distillery was founded on 1st February 1933 by nine men from the Portuguese community – Emanuel Gomes, Manuel Dias, John Viera, Emanuel C. Farara, G.F. Joaquim, Joseph De Freitas, Quin Farara, John R. Anjo and Frances R. Anjo.  (The first Portuguese arrived in Antigua from Madeira in 1847 and again in 1860)   All shareholders were directors.   Start up Capital required: Pounds Sterling (PS) 2,500.  Subscription 25 shares of £100 sterling each.   Shortly after another 5,000PS needed at 50 shares of 100PS each.  The distillery was built near Rat Island at what was known as The Citadel shortly after the Leper Colony was moved to Pearn’s Bay near Jolly Harbour.   Mr. R. Pilgrim was the first Distiller, Mr. Maynard was the mechanic and fireman and Mr. Henzell of Antigua Sugar Factory (ASF) was consultant.   1943 onwards Mr. G.T, Warren, Chemis; and Mr. J. Watson, Engineer Antigua Sugar Factory, gave much consultation and support.   The first matured rum was called “Caballero”, this progressed to “Cavalier” and recently “English Harbour” was added.

            In 1949 Mill Reef paid £10 an acre to Crumps, Cotton Garden & Montpelier Estates.   In 2000 the Antigua Distillery owns 1800 acres after some lands were sold to Government, Mill Reef and Harmony Hall.

Montpelier is a fine example of a steam muscovado sugar factory in the Caribbean in the 1890’s and reputed to have been the finest in the Caribbean during that time.  The large horizontal steam engine remains with its enormous flywheel still sporting its governor and ornamental colours of yellow and green.   It is dated 1890 and was manufactured in Glasgow by McOnie, Harvie & Co.   There are two other steam engines, a high speed one used for cutting cane prior to grinding and a small one for pumping water into the boilers.  

Francis Nunes arrived in Antigua from Guiana in 1946 in an engineering capacity.  Montpelier was very run down and it was in 1947 quite a bit of money was spent on the factory.  In 1952 a large overhead crane brought in from Barbados (still visible) and shortly after in 1955 the factory

Montpelier is a fine example of a steam muscovado sugar factory in the Caribbean in the 1890’s and reputed to have been the finest in the Caribbean during that time.  The large horizontal steam engine remains with its enormous flywheel still sporting its governor and ornamental colours of yellow and green.   It is dated 1890 and was manufactured in Glasgow by McOnie, Harvie & Co. There are two other steam engines, a high speed one used for cutting cane prior to grinding and a small one for pumping water into the boilers.  The large overhead crane (still there 2015) was brought in from Barbados in 1952.

            Francis Nunes arrived in Antigua from Guiana in 1946 in an engineering capacity.  Montpelier was very run down and it was in 1947 quite a bit of money was spent on the factory.  In 1952 a large overhead crane brought in from Barbados (still visible) and shortly after in 1955 the factory closed due to labour troubles.  Approximately 3/4 of the cane was supplied by the estates, 1/4 by the peasants.   Grinding capacity was 10 tons of cane per hour and it took approximately 14 tons cane per ton of sugar.  The 1947 crop yielded about 60 tons of sugar and by 1954 it was approximately 800 tons.  The sugar was bagged and shipped to England and the molasses was collected in tanks and sent to the Distillery for making the best known Cavalier Rum.  The lime for the sugar operation was purchased from Oliver Knowles who operated a lime kiln on the east side of the island.

            The original buff house was a beautiful building with Gothic doors and stone cellar.  Unfortunately, after being partly destroyed in the hurricanes of the 1950’s there was not the finances to restore it to its former glory and it was repaired cheaply.

The mill and many of the stone outbuildings, cattle pen etc. are still in existence but in dire need of repair         Francis Nunes.

1944: In a memo from the Distillery to the Plantation Manager at Montpelier, the variety of cane recommended by Director and Superintendent of Agriculture for growth and ratoons, and by Mr. Warren (ASF) for producing more Molasses were as follows; Varieties now planted were B3439 and B34109 and it was recommended that B37161 now be used.

Plants can be had at Fitches’ Creek from Mr. Wynter or from The Diamond from Mr. McSeveney.   Average 2 1/2 M to Acre.

1944: Another record of interest was the Approximate Cost of Converting One Acre of Bush Land into Cane Cultivation with Description of work:

No.1 Digging & Clearing 27 1/3 Lots @ $1.44s = $39.36

No.2 Burning Bush 27 1/3 Lots @ .72c  = $19.69

No.3 Close Ploughing by Cattle Plough Ploughman and 2 Plough Drivers 4 days @ .42c = $2.72; 4 days @ .36 = $2.88 + 70% = $7.62

No.4 Banking by Cattle Plough, 1 day of Ploughman @ same rate = $1.90

No.5 Planting canes 3,500 @ $1.00 per 1000 = $3.50

No.6 Manuring – artificial 2 cut @ $4.80 = $9.60

No.7 Harrowing by forking banks $3.68

No.8 Farming continue for 38 weeks @ $1.07 = $38.76

No.9 Supplying & Sundry Expenses = $5.00

Total $129.10

Footnote – $129.10 approx. with favourable weather.

Frances Nunes was the last Manager of the sugar factory and the last family to live in the house was Mr. Carroll Mellanson who took care of the Red Poll cattle & black belly sheep on the estate for the Antigua Distillery after the factory ceased operation.

Note – The small steam engine that appeared in a US periodical as “being rescued from the Montpelier Estate in Antigua”, Mr. Nunes thinks must be the small steam engine that drove the knives.

            Muscovado Sugar Process:   

Muscovado sugar is the old fashioned unrefined ‘Brown Sugar’.  After sugar canes were crushed by rollers powered by wind mill or steam engine, the dirty greenish coloured juice was heated and passed into the clarifier tank.   It was then mixed with lime to separate the impurities from the juice, which was then flowed down to the coppers of ‘tayches’.   Here evaporation of the juice or liquor took place.   The juice, or ‘sling’: as it was called, was ladled by dipper from the first tayche to the second to the third, in which the process of evaporation was concluded.   When the juice reached a sufficient density, it was poured with a ladle into large square boxes called coolers, in which it finally crystallised into sugar.

The sugar was then packed in large wooden casks called hogsheads with perforated bottoms.   These were placed on ‘rangers’ or rafters on the floor in what was called the stanchion room.   Here it was left for 2 to 3 weeks to drain the uncrystallised sugar or molasses.   This ran out through the holes, guided by plantain stalks, into a tank below.   The top of the cask was of a better quality, lighter in colour, while further down it was darker and called the ‘foots’.   In later times,, the muscovado sugar was dried in centrifugals.   (Compare method with modern vacuum pan process under Gunthorpes #64).

Heritage Landmarks by Desmond V. Nicholson.

            1900‘s: Mr. David Edwards of Freetown (2015 age 92) remembers Mr. Maginley who owned Montpelier, who had put up a refinery which made the finest muscovado sugar.   During crop time anyone who worked there was given a jar of ‘likka’, the sling, one of the first processes of sugar making, to take home.   This was used to make ‘brebitch’, a beverage or drink more or less sweetened water, sometimes flavoured.   Every year at Glanvilles on Easter Monday the children would get their ‘brebitch’ and bun.

Mr. Maginley also leased the land by the acre for $5.00 for anyone to plant cotton.

Mr. Edwards was getting $3 a pound at the time but Mr. Osborn from Montserrat came over to Antigua and offered $3.50 a pound, so he turned around and sold all 5000 lbs to him.    Mr. Osborn had his own ginnery.

There was a school house that Mr. Edwards used to attend at Montpelier and when the roof was blown off during a hurricane, Mr. Maginley built a ginnery that also was the school house.   He hired people to clean out the lint and stuff into crocus bags.   Mr. Edward mother was one of the best pickers and could easily pick 100 lbs of cotton a day.   On Fridays and Saturdays people would gather to draw their wages and people would come from town to sell their wares.   There was music and much liveliness.   Rum was sold that had been bought from Johnny Diaz – Red Cock, Blue Ribbon were some of the names of the rums.                 Memories of David Edwards.

Nearby is Harmon’s Estate and in a field nearby is the private cemetery of the Harmon family. Samuel Harmon who died in 1750 and another Samuel Harmon who died in 1767.

www.tombstones.bb (2005)

Graves found.   Harman/A, Harman/M, Harman/Mary, Harman/Samuel, Harman/Dorothy, Harman/Samuel, Harman/St. Harman/….., Harman/IX, Harman/Mary Blizard, Harman/Thomas DuBerry.

There is also a Harman grave at St. Philips.

A bill dated 21st April, 1953, presented by Mr. A. Knowles for trucking (license AG118 & 241)

canes from Montpelier to the Antigua Sugar Factory.    The surrounding estates of Hope, Harmon and Waldrons are also mentioned.   The signature of the Manager was F. Nunes, and the Book-keeper Arthur Lake.   205 tons 14 cwt. were transported at $1.68 per ton for a total of $345.57.

1956 there was an entry in the Antigua Syndicate minutes saying “Montpelier did not operate for the third year in a row and their total cane crop of 4,488 tons was sent to Antigua Sugar Factory (for processing).   It is doubtful that this factory will ever operate again.”

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 do know that Montpelier was awarded £1,708 1 s 5 d for the liberation of 101 enslaved people in 1829. John Jones was the awardee. William Hardman was ‘other association’ and unsuccessful were George Athill, John Athill, Hardman Earle, Joseph Lavicount*, John Hayward Turner. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.

Ownership Chronology

  • 1790: William Wickham Harman born at Murrays, Montpelier Antigua – 9 children
  • 1800: Thomas Duberry Harman (d.1813)
  • 1750: Robert Oliver
  • 1790: William Wickham Harman (d.1824)
  • 1800: Thomas Duberry Harman (d.1813)
  • 1820: William Harman (d.1832)
  • 1843: Mrs. Margaret (Spencer) Harman
  • 1852: Heirs of William Harman – 75 acres 1851 Antigua Almanac.
  • 1872: F.B. Harman – 318 acres with The Hope 1872 Antigua Horsford Almanac.
  • 1891: Heirs of F.B. Harman sold through the Encumbered Estates Court
  • 1896: Lee, Crerar & Co. West India merchants
  • 1896-1921: John Maginley
  • 1933: Ernest Dew 1933 Camacho map.
  • 1944 – present: The Antigua Distillery
  • 1953: last crop processed at the Montpelier Sugar Factory.