Type: Extant
Parish: St.John
Founding date: 1708
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Current Status

The sugar mill still stands on this estate, one of those converted to steam in the mid-1800s.  The house is not the original, which was riddled with wood rot.  It was replaced in 1948 by Sir Alex Moody-Stuart, who raised his family there until his retirement when he returned to London.  A few outbuildings and the garden wall can be seen.  Surrounding estates would have been Paynter’s (#61), Potter’s (#47), and Cassada Gardens (#13a).

Estate Related History/Timeline

The home was occupied in 1981 by Antigua’s first Prime Minister, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr. (December 9, 1910 – June 28, 1999).  He and Sir  George Walters (the second Prime Minister) were both interred in the walled front garden.  V. C. Bird is considered The Father of the Country because he was Antigua’s first Prime Minister after it received its independence from England in 1981.   He designated the Tomlinson estate house as the Prime Minister’s official residence.  His son, Lester Bird, was elected to succeed him as Prime Minister in 1994.

V. C. Bird was declared a national hero.  He was unique from other West Indian politicians, lacking in any formal education except primary school.  He attended St. John’s Boys School, now known as the T. N. Kirnon Primary School.  He was an officer in the Salvation Army for two years, interspersing his interests in trade unionism and politics.  He gave up the Salvation Army and decided to leave his post to campaign for the freedom of his people because of the way the local Antiguan and Barbudan landowners were being treated. This he succeeded in doing.

In 1943, he became President of the Antigua Trades & Labor Union (ATLU).  He achieved national acclaim politically for the first time when he was elected to the Colonial Legislature in 1945.  He formed the Antigua Labor Party (ALP) and became the first and only Chief Minister and first Prime Minister, an office he held from 1981 to 1994.  He resigned due to failing health and internal issues within the government.   

In 1985, Antigua’s international airport, which was first named Coolidge, was renamed V. C. Bird International Airport in his honour.  There also is a large statue of him, created by a Cuban artist, which stands near the public market in St. John’s, as well as a small bust of him across from the Central Post Office.  V. C. Bird died in 1999, and his body is interred in a walled garden on the Tomlinson estate property, along with that of Sir George Walter, also a former Prime Minister.  The surrounding lands have been declared the Hero’s Park Cemetery.  The home became a museum after V. C. Bird’s demise but suffers from a lack of upkeep.  The Tomlinson’s estate property is located on a small rise, which afforded a 360-degree view of the surrounding flat land and access to cooling breezes from the trade winds.

Major John Tomlinson held the post of Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1744, was a member of the Council in 1745, and was Deputy Governor of Antigua in 1753.

    The will of John Tomlinson, Esq., dated 29 May 1758 states:

    To my dau(ghter) Lydia 2 negroes & 1000 pounds st.  To my dau(ghter) Jane 3 negroes & 1000 pounds st.  To my dau(ghter) Eliz(abeth) 2 negroes & 1000 pounds st.  To my dau(ghter) Alice 2 negroes & 1000 pounds st.  to my dau(ghter) Penelope 2 negroes and 1000 pounds st.  To my said 5 dau(ghter)s.  My title to the house now in the possession of John Hoskins.  All residue to my son John.  He and William MacKinnen & Harvey Webb, Esqrs. & 20 pounds c. each.  Witnessed by Thomas Fraser, Ashton Warner, Dr. William Millar.  Codicil.  My Ex’ors to repair my said dwelling house in St. John’s.  To my 5 daus. Equally my furniture, linen, plate, china, wine, sheep & 30 pistoles.  Witnessed by James Scott, Thomas Fraser 13 —- 1753.                                      Vere Oliver, Volume III.

The 1802 will of Penelope Tomlinson and a codicil dated 1805 states:  “Power to trustees to let my plantation called ‘Tomlinsons’  and houses in High Street, St. John’s.  2nd codicil – all my real estate to my kinsman Wm. White of Antigua in fee simple, and not in trust.”   

Vere Oliver, Vol. III.

By the time Penelope wrote her will in 1805, she was the sole surviving sister and named no nieces or nephews.  She left legacies to various MacKinnons, the children of her first cousin on her mother’s side, and to various Whites, the children of her eldest first cousin on her father’s side.  She left Tomlinson’s estate in Antigua to William White, the eldest son of her first cousin, Michael White.  However, the compensation for Tomlinson’s was awarded to the executors of Marie White for a mortgage of £10,000 and upwards.  The initial claimant for Tomlinson’s was John Osborn as owner-in-fee.  His relationship with the Tomlinson family has yet to be established.

A Legacy payment of £2,220. 8s. 11p. (Antigua 111) was made by The British Parliament to Tomlinson in 1833 for granting freedom to 145 enslaved.  Elizabeth Montgomerie (nee White) was the awardee.  Crisp Molineaux Montgomerie was the awardee’s executor.  J. H. Forbes is listed as “other association.”  Unsuccessful were Thomas Tomlinson, Crisp Molineaux Montgomerie, Elizabeth Hamilton White, Lydia White, Maria White, Michael White and William White.

The sailing vessel Clara left Hong Kong in 1881 with 128 Chinese men, arriving in Antigua on February 1, 1882, with only 100 passengers, the others having died on board, according to the captain.  The 100 who arrived were not greeted with enthusiasm, according to an article published in the Antigua Times.  They also did not settle well in Antigua, engaging in a dispute over the payment of wages with the Chinese doctor and interpreter who came with them, accusing them of having been “in collusion with the enlisting agent to mislead them.”

Almost a year passed without further incident, but the Antigua Times reported on Wednesday, January 17, 1883: “Chinese from several estates congregated at Tomlinson’s on Sunday, and consulted with each other . . . and they decided that some 9 planters against whom they hold some ill feeling, should be subject to death.”  Mr. Look Lai referred in the news article to “burning properties.”  In an excerpt from Colonial Correspondence, Look Lai states that the Governor, Sir J. H. Glover, reported that two Chinese labourers, Lee Sung, and Ah Kung, were executed on January 29, 1883, within the walls of the gaol for the murder of Mr. Augustus Lee, the manager of Green Castle Estate (#163).   

                          Chinese in the West Indies 1806-1995, by Walton Look Lai.

In 1940, the Antigua Sugar Estates issued 18,000 shares of stock, at £1 each to three members of the DuBuisson family (James Memoth DuBuisson, Mrs. Edith Manus DuBuisson, and William Herman DuBuisson) as well as Alexander Moody-Stuart and Judith Gwendolyn Moody-Stuart. George Moody-Stuart declined the shares he was offered.  

                    Antigua Syndicate Estate minutes of January 4 and May 1, 1940.

This was a watershed event, signaling the final shift to the next generation. The estate which would be controlled by the company included Gunthorpe’s (#64), Paynter’s (#61), Tomlinson’s (#17), Fitche’s Creek (#67), Donovan’s (#65), North Sound (#66), Cedar Valley (#42), Galley Bay (#30) and Five Islands (#31).

Gunthorpe’s, however, was restructured into a “new” company on August 1, 1943.  This firm was called Antigua Syndicated Estates, Ltd., dropping the word “Sugar” mindful that Antigua’s sugar refining business was essentially nonexistent by the 1940s.  Over the next year, this new firm purchased the original estates owned by Antigua Sugar Estates, including Tomlinson’s and the tractor workshop from Gunthorpe’s Estate.

George Moody-Stuart CBE (1851 – 1940), who declined shares in the firm Antigua Sugar Estates, first came to Antigua and St. Kitts in 1890.  He never resided in Antigua but visited the island for several weeks annually between New Year’s and Easter.  He was responsible for establishing the central factories for the Antigua Sugar Estates firm in 1904 and St. Kitts in 1911.  The factories were owned by London-based companies and managed by Henckell DuBuisson & Company.

George remained Chairman of these companies (Antigua Sugar Estates, which became Antigua Syndicate Estates, and Henckell & DuBuisson & Company) until 1937, when he was succeeded by his eldest son, Mark.  His youngest son, Sir Alexander Moody-Stuart, came to Antigua in 1924 to manage the Gunthorpe’s group of estates as well as the Codrington (#77a/b) and Tudway (#76a/b, 93) estates, which had been acquired by his father and associates in 1944.  His goal was to bring higher standards of agriculture to more of the sugar cane area, and he formed the firm Antigua Syndicate Estates, Ltd., which he managed until his retirement in 1961 when his firm was acquired by Antigua Sugar Factory.

He was born in Wimbledon, England, in 1899 and attended Cambridge for his Master’s after serving in World War II as a teenager.  He was wounded three times and received a Military Cross.  He was in the first class of the School of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad (now. University of the West Indies).  In 1925, he married Judy Henzell, the daughter of Len and Lena Henzell, who built the Gunthorpes Sugar Factory in 1905 and managed it until 1937.

Alec Moody-Stuart was an agronomist and, with other cane farmers, founded the Syndicate Estate, where he was a manager and director.  He also was the local agent for PanAm Airlines, which made its first flight into Antigua in 1929.  Alec was knighted in 1960 cited for services to agriculture in the Caribbean, especially education. The residents of Antigua had raised more per capita for the college in Trinidad than any other island.

In 1968, Sir Alexander’s son, George Moody-Stuart (named after his grandfather), managed the Antigua factory for the London firm of Henckell DuBuisson & Co. from 1961 until 1966, when it became obvious that sugar production on the island was no longer economically worthwhile.  The island’s government under V. C. Bird then stepped in to purchase Antigua Sugar Factory, struggled to run the firm for a few years, then closed it. 

                                  Memoirs of George Moody-Stuart.

The Moody-Stuart children were famous for their donkey cart, which provided them with hours of fun.  It was also used at the annual Government House fancy dress parties to provide attending children with rides around the gardens.  And it was a hit at Bishop Mather’s school room (across the County Pond) and Anglican fetes and at the Antigua Girls High School celebrations.  The donkey cart was eventually given to the Spencer family at Lavington’s (#121).

In her memoirs, Margaret (Moody-Stuart) Groom wrote: “At Tomlinson’s old house, there was a big store underneath in which they kept tallow, rope, and coffins of plain white wood.  They were there in case someone on an estate died on a Saturday night, in which case the mule cart would be sent on Sunday to pick up the coffin.  Burials took place on the same day, and the workshop was always closed on Sunday.  The new house was built by Terry Peters, who was a Seventh-Day Adventist and who had ten daughters.  Every Saturday morning, they would walk to town in ‘Sunday best’ in a series with the little ones first.  Mrs. Peters used to weave our hats out of date palm that we wore to ride in.  The stone that is cut at an angle by the doors of the new house came from the ruins at Betty’s Hope.  The architect who designed the house was Mr. Mitchell, who drew the plans for a lot of the estate houses and also the new Potters School.  That school had sloping sides, more room at the top than at floor level, and I was told it was because you needed lots of oxygen to learn!

    “The workshop grew immensely.  There was a large mahogany tree that was down in the yard that was used for shade for the carpenters with the blacksmith’s shop down below.  This later died when they stored barrels of weed killer under it that leaked.  They made the mule cartwheels there, then put the steel band around the wheel and put it in the water pit to cool.  I can remember it well as we spent hours watching.  Later, they put up a huge lumber store and eventually a 6ft. fence – probably to stop us bugging the men for wood and nails.”

Memoirs of Margaret (Moody-Stuart) Groom.

The Moody-Stuart name was again popularized during the fight with the Antigua Workers Union, headed by V. C. Bird, in the early 1950s.  This was thirty years before Antigua achieved its independence, and Mr. Bird became Prime Minister.

Lawrence Royer, in his 1948 memoirs, wrote: “The ‘Syndicate’ workshop was situated below the buff house at Tomlinson’s, and J. C. Webster was shop manager in 1948.  He built ‘Baron Villa’ across the road.  He raised chickens in a fenced area where the gas station is now on the corner, but nearly every night, someone would steal a fowl, and he gave up in disgust and turned it into a cane field.

    “Electricity still depended on batteries, but at Tomlinson’s they were charged by a Delco generator, and it was my job to check the oil daily at age 11.  It was also used to pump the water from the pond and catchments.  After school I knocked around the shop and often went out on the road with Eddy Barnes, who was the chief mechanic.  There was King the welder; Mr. Moore was the shopkeeper, and Mr. Lake was on the lathe.  There was a wheelwright who made the cartwheels out of Greenheart and banded them right there.  This workshop was very crucial and maintained all the syndicate mechanical equipment such as the ploughs, tractors, trucks, etc. . . . They could make any part in that workshop.  There was a Giant tiller (rota tiller) that my father used to be the night watchman for in 1938 before he returned to Dominica.”                     

Memoirs of Lawrence Royer, 1948.

Douglas Luery, who is very interested in machines, locomotives, etc.,  apparently has been searching for the rota tiller for several years. It was huge: so large the ground shook as it rumbled over the ground, tilling the soil.  Only a few were built and were sent to various places in the Colonies, India, etc.

In 1969, the lands of the Antigua & Barbuda Sugar Factory Limited and the Antigua & Barbuda Syndicate Estates Limited (Vesting Act), 30th December 1969, were described as “all that piece or parcel of land forming part of Tomlinson’s, approximately 4,946 acres as contained in Certificate of Title No. 6211951 dated 15th September 1951 and registered in Register Book J Folio 157.” 

Pam and Terry Tyrrell arrived in Antigua in 1952, early ex-pats, when Terry was hired to manage the Syndicate Estates machine workshop at Tomlinson’s.  The house they were to live in at the estate was not ready for them, so they were housed in the Beach Hotel.  That first night, Pam viewed the moon rise over the water and the waving coconut trees and vowed she would never leave Antigua.  She never did.  She founded a Toy Shop on High Street in 1955, then moved it onto Long Street, where it was still operating in 2015.

Tomlinson’s had a terrific garden, which included sweet peas and asparagus, among other vegetables.  Pam kept it liberally watered.  She had no fridge, so Terry made her an ice box which they stocked weekly from the fisheries.  Pam was amazed at the huge influx of expats moving to Antigua, expecting creature comforts such as air conditioning, washing machines, and refrigerators.

Terry devised a cane-cutting machine.  It was never put into operation, but he continued searching for a more efficient mechanical way to harvest the cane crop.  He was, however, very successful with T. J. Wolf & Co. (Pam’s father), which produced a fun run-about car called the Hustler. Pam recalled that when the crop was finished, all of the island’s locomotives would be decorated with boughs of flamboyant flowers.   Elsa Hollander was an agent for PanAm and one day told Pam she had dreamed that the flight would crash.  Pam immediately pulled her children, Mike and Nickola, off the flight, which did crash into a mountain on Monserrat, something Pam would never forget.                       

Memories of Pam Tyrrel.

Enslaved People’s History

Based on contemporary research, we have little information to share about the enslaved peoples from this plantation at this time. They probably had a maximum of 149 people working at that plantation. A Legacy payment of £2,220. 8s. 11p. (Antigua 111) was made by The British Parliament to Tomlinson in 1833 for granting freedom to 145 enslaved. We will continue our quest for more information about these vital individuals.

Ownership Chronology

  • 1708: Walter Philips d.1739. In 1709, he granted 264 acres and 16 slaves to John Tomlinson, the second husband of Elizabeth Philips
  • 1709: Major John Tomlinson d. 1739. He was granted 106 acres by Governor Parke. In 1744 Tomlinson was Chief Baron of Exchequer, a member of the Council in 1745, and Deputy Governor of Antigua in 1753
  • 1750: John Tomlinson, Jr. d. 1758
  • 1758: John Tomlinson, Esq. d. 1761
  • 1790: Heirs of John Tomlinson (1777/78 map by cartographer John Luffman.)
  • 1802: Penelope Tomlinson (1735-1806) see codicil of her will, 1805: “Power to trustees to let my plantation called ‘Tomlinson’s’ and houses in Hight St., St. John’s. 2nd codicil: All my real estate to my kinsman Wm. White of Antigua free and simple, and not in trust.” Vere Oliver, Volume III.
  • 1812: William White
  • 1830: Elizabeth Montgomerie (nee White)
  • 1843: John Osborne – 600 acres, 149 slaves
  • 1872: Francis Shand d. 1868. 600 acres. The sugar mill was steam-powered
  • 1891: Heirs of Francis Shand
  • 1921: DuBuisson & Alexander Moody-Stuart (1899-1974)
  • 1943: Antigua Syndicated Estates, Ltd
  • 1969: Antigua & Barbuda Syndicate Estates, Ltd. (Vesting Act)
  • 1981: Vere Cornwall Bird (9 December 1910- 28 June,1999) Prime Minister’s residence