When I step out of the bike shop with a rental bike in my hands, I realize I still have a couple of hours before sunset, and calculate that a visit to Betty's Hope plantation should still be doable. According to my information, this is the only day I can visit before I leave, and the plantation would close in a few hours. I have just arrived on Antigua a few hours before, and am excited to plunge into the island. There is quite some traffic at the beginning, but the further I come, the more it dries up. When I turn off the main road, a gravel road leads me the last stretch to the plantation. To my surprise, the gate is open, but no one is there to collect the entrance fee. I see one couple strolling the ruins, but they are visiting as well, and sit down under a tree. The site officially is not open, which also means the small museum, housed in a former cotton house store room, is closed. I now basically have the ruins to myself.
The most prominent feature of Betty's Hope is the restored windmill, which supposedly is in operation again on special occasions. Not today, though: the four wooden sails are not turning. Betty Hope's plantation is the oldest on the island. It was established by the Codrington family back in 1674, and named Betty in honour of their daughter. Here, sugar cane was processed and made into rum. It once saw a lot of activity, and consisted of several buildings both for administration and for housing of the staff and slaves. Not much remains now: apart from the windmill, the site consists mostly of ruins, and plaques explaining the former function of the ruins.
Perhaps precisely for that reason, Betty's Hope is an evocative place. I walk around the building which once was the Managers House. You can see how it must have been an impressive building once upon a time with columns supporting a verandah, but it burnt down a long time ago. Nearby are few remains of the slave village; the labour-intensive processing of sugar was one of the main reason to get slaves from Africa to the Caribbean. Opposite, on a mound, archeologists are in the process of uncovering the foundations of the Great House. It certainly offers the best views of the surrounding area. Downhill, the ruins of a large building, which contained the Boiling House, the Curing House and the Still House. In here, the sugar cane juice was boiled, drained in wooden barrels, pumped into casks where they would ripen before they could be exported. I enter the Still House from the backside, and walking between the arched walls of the roofless ruins, overgrown with plants, is a special experience. When I come out again, the couple is still sitting under the same tree, where I leave them. Betty's Hope, once a bustling plantation in the east of Antigua, was made obsolete by the invention of the steam engine, and has been turned into a solitary place.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Betty's Hope Plantation (Antigua and Barbuda). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Betty's Hope Plantation.
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