Founding date: 1777
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The sugar mill on this small estate still stands, but the estate house purchased in 1962 by Dr. Locker burned to the ground in the 1980s. The mill is now surrounded by a housing division and no longer commands the landscape as it once did. Some of the land still belongs to the family of John Barreto.
Estate Related History/Timeline
The estate buildings were severely damaged by an earthquake on February 8,1843. There were 172 sugar mills on Antigua at that time, and 35 were entirely leveled, 82 were split from top to bottom, and virtually all of the remaining 55 suffered considerable damage, including Bellevue, the various Shand’s estates, Renfrew’s, Belmont’s, Bath Lodge, among others.
The Horseford Almanac of 1872 shows that the owners of Renfrew’s rented the Dickey Hill 26-acre estate from M. Chambers and others. Dickey’s Hill later became part of the Renfrew’s plantation. In fact, in 1944, when John Barreto purchased the land, it was comprised of only 64 acres, which included Dickey Hill. He later purchased an additional 80 acres known as Hunts Pasture from John I. Martin, expanding the Renfrew Estate to 144 acres.
Dickey Hill was a small estate in its own right prior to being incorporated into Renfrew’s. Another old map shows this as the area where Government House was once located, right across from Clarke’s Hill, the acknowledged site. By 2015, the land was being cleared for sale and an elderly man named Fredricks, who tethered his cows in the area, identified a burial site on the south side of the main hill. A wall which most likely surrounded the site is still visible, along with three or four broken and weather beaten headstones. The writing on one stone remains fairly legible but no date can be seen: “the Baby of _____ William_____ Horsford______”. In Vere Oliver’s Volume II he shows, under Horsford, a William Edward Yeamons Horsford, baptized August 4, 1746 at St. Paul’s of Grenada 1780; and a William Entwhistle Horsford baptized June 1771 at St. Paul’s.
On top of the hill there are many large stones suggesting there might have been a residence there with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. There also are broken bits of pottery and china. Most of the old plantations buried their people, both slaves and owners, on the estate property prior to churches establishing grave yards. Regrettably, most of these private burial grounds have been destroyed by backhoes as the land has been reclaimed.
“From Caribeanna 1774, an article states that the residence of Richard Oliver was on Dickey Hill, according to 1746-48 Baker map. The article says that at the burial ground ar Dickey Hill, most of the accompanying headstone inscriptions are illegible and the stones badly broken. There are a few inscriptions intact.but most of the accompanying headstone inscriptions are illegible and the stones badly broken. There are a few inscriptions intact”:
* “Here lies the body of Mary Camron, who departed this life July 2nd, 809, aged 8 years 2 months 21 days.”
* “Sacred to the memory of Henrietta Horsford who departed this life 17th March” (rest is illegible)..
* Here lies the body of Mary Darby who departed this life June” (rest is illegible).
Also, standing up on the pasture about 150 yards from the little graveyard in which these and another six or eight stones stand or lie, is another clearly marked “My Elizabeth departed May 12th 1805.” This headstone faces northeast, so it may have been the grave of a slave or animal rather than a family member. Archbishop Spooner.
Excerpts from the bill of sale dated May 4, 1944, between George Alexander Henry and John Barreto’s memories make for interesting reading:
“AND WHEREAS the Vendor has agreed to sell the said hereditaments to the Purchaser at the price of Eight hundred fifty Pounds . . All that estate called ‘Renfrew’ situate in the Parish of Saint John in the Island of Antigua containing seventeen (17) acres or thereabouts and bounded on the North by lands called ‘Hunt’s Pasture’ on the South by lands called ‘Laws Land’ and ‘Dickey Hill’ on the East by ‘Hunt’s Pasture’ and on the West by lands commonly called ‘Herbert’s’ or however otherwise the same may be butted and bounded lying and being.” “In the early 1940s, John and Angelo Barreto leased Willock’s Estate from Dennis Gabriel which was planted in sugar cane, while John Barreto lived at Renfrew’s and raised cattle, race horses, guinea fowl, chickens, pigeons in the old mill, and at one time had over 100 ducks. Just about every Sunday they had duck for lunch! The ducks went down to the large pond towards Lightfoot and when they returned they formed a 40-foot line of waddling ducks! “There was a big black bull called Confusion who, when young, used to walk right into the house. He later became very mean and because he would chase everyone was kept on a 100-foot chain – everyone was frightened of Confusion. It was a wonderful time to live and grow up on an estate which was totally self-sufficient. The windmill generated electricity, the cisterns contained enough rain water which was tediously hand pumped to an overhead tank to provide gravity feed and you raised your own livestock and vegetable garden. “The four Baretto children were allowed full range of the estate picking tamarind, cashews, mango, ginnip, cherry, plums and guavas when in season. They played by the pond which contained as all ponds did, leaches, lilies and collie fish. They hunted ground and turtle doves with hand made catapults and BB guns, played cricket or rounders and were told stories about jumbies and jack o’lanterns at night by the servants which scared the daylights out of them. Life was simpler and slower paced. ” Renfrew’s was known for the quality of clay for making coal pots, yabbas, and so on, and as far back as the slave days, vessels produced in the village of Seaview Farm were made with Renfrew clay. Samuel Captain, an old man who worked for Mr. Barreto, walked up to the Seaview Farm once a week to collect money from the potters for the clay they used. It usually amounted to eight or ten shillings, but after Captain died, it was a “free for all!” Memories of John Barreto.
The Harper name comes from the Kingdom of Delriada in ancient Scotland. It was the name of a person who occupied the lacking role of “harper”, an important figurehead where the elegance and music of the harp deserved noble status. Harpers were first found in Lennox, Scotland. There is a record of a William Joseph Harper, born in 1790 in Antigua, died in America in 1847. The Royal Bank of Canada, in 1915, opened for business in a two-story wooden building owned by the Harper family, proprietors of Harper’s drug Store. Elizabeth (Miss Bessie) Harper established a scholarship foundation so students lacking funds could attend the Antigua Girls High School.
Hyacinth Hillhouse still runs her mother’s business, “Elvie’s”, in her backyard at Seaview Farm, using clay from Renfrew’s. She produces flower pots, yabbas and candle holders in the age-old manner of slavery days, shaping her products by hand and firing the pots under boughs of coconut in the back yard. It is a dying art.
In 1941, the Antigua Sugar Factory, Ltd., reported estimated cane returns from Renfrew’s of 2,518 tons from the 120 acre estate; 26 acres under peasants on the estate; 2,567 tons of sugarcane delivered at 19.26 tons per acre.
Enslaved People’s History
Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time.Most of the old plantations buried their people, both slaves and owners, on the estate property prior to churches establishing graveyards. Regrettably, most of these private burial grounds have been destroyed by backhoes as the land has been reclaimed. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.
- 1777: An estate called Murray’s was located in this area, owned by Sir John Laforey. It is unclear if they owned the land or merely lived at Renfrew’s. (1777/78 map by cartographer John Luffman.)
- 1831: Edward Emerson 17 acres
- 1872: M. Chambers of Dickie Hill; rented from the owners of Renfrew’s
- 1900: Harper (The Harper family does not give dates.)
- 1900c: Miss Bessie Harper’s family
- 1933: George Alexander Henry
- 1940: Dennis Gabriel
- 1944: John Barreto 144 acres (1909-2007)
- 1962: Dr. Locker. The sugar mill and house only
- 2000: Residential area
- 2015: Dickie (Dickey) Hill for sale as part of Renfrew’s