(Updated: July 31, 2022 at 02:10AM)

[Cover] Hampstead Beach, one of the beaches where Pirates of the Caribbean II & III were filmed, Dominica, W.I. © Hans Hillewaert

As Dominicans prepare to commemorate 188 years of Freedom, here are a few thoughts:

Extract from A section of the NorthEast of the Plan of the island of Dominica laid down by actual survey under the direction of the honor…This section covers the lot numbers and landowners in the Bense Anse de Mai and Anse Soldat areas. (John Byres chief surveyor 1776)

The Emancipation Day extravaganza at the Hampstead Estate ruins is back on the cards after the much-anticipated event was dropped from last year’s celebrations at the last minute due to Covid-19 restrictions. I am heartened to see that the idea has been revisited.

Athlene Douglas-Murdock, a descendant of the late Robert Douglas, who purchased the Hampstead Estate, one of the largest estates in Dominica, in the 1940s, speaking at the this year’s launch of Emancipation 2022 activities on July 1, said, “On Emancipation Day itself, the reason for the season, on Monday, the first of August, Dominica celebrates one of the most important and significant holidays of our calendar year.“ Mrs. Douglas-Murdock recounted that on that day, August 1st, 1834, 188 years ago, all slaves in Dominica were declared free. She called on her listeners to appreciate the historical significance of August Monday, and suggested that her personal view is that the August Monday should be renamed as Emancipation Day.

“On Monday, the first of August, Dominica celebrates one of the most important and significant holidays of our calendar year.”

Athlene Douglas-murdock

“On that day, Monday, first of August “she said, “we call on all Dominicans to seriously reflect on some of the historical milestones which paved the way for the freedom we enjoy today. And pay homage to the people who participated in the liberation like the Caribs, as Mr. Paris just told us,” she said, adding, “We invite you to Hampstead, an old sugar plantation, between 12 and 6, to enjoy some Spiritual, Historical, Cultural, moments together in the spirit and atmosphere of cordiality and jubilation. It will be a real education and entertainment day of fun, through exhibition, food, history, inspirational speeches and performances, the ‘works’, at the Hampstead works.”

This is an important day in our history, she said, “when we highlight the bitter/sweet trials of our past and pay homage to our heros of a dark age which would later provide for the foundation for the transformation of the lives that we enjoy, all of us to in our beautiful island of Dominica,” she said.

Cultural Elder, Prosper Paris

Meantime, Cultural Elder in the Kalinago Territory, Mr. Prosper Paris, who also spoke at the event said, “On behalf of the Ministry of Kalingo Affairs, Environment, Rural Development and Kalingo Upliftment, I greet you on behalf of the Kalinago people. We are very happy that we have been included into this program, because one cannot speak Emancipation without mentioning and recognizing the contribution of the Kalinagos, our forefathers have done in the Emancipation of not only Dominica but the whole Caribbean against colonization,” he said, adding, “So it is just fitting that we keep up this program with recognition of the Kalinagos in the many contributions and many aspects of resistance. Of many aspects of Culture of Dominica and the Caribbean. So we speak on a larger level.” Mr. Paris told his audience that this year the launching of Emancipation 2022 coincided with the establishment of the Kalinago Territory established on the 4th of July, 1903.

“Imagine a Caribbean, a Dominica, that was once occupied by the Kalinagos, and due to colonization we were squeezing in a small portion of land less than 300 acres in an area where we call the Carib quarters.”

Prosper said that the extension of the Carib Quarter, an area of less than 300 acres, in 1903 to establish the Kalinago Territory, formerly, the Carib Reserve, was as a result of a bold intervention by British Administrator, Hesketh Bell. Bell he said was “sympathetic to the cause and seen enough suffering. And by reflection, he said, ‘After All, these people has fought and defended the Caribbean. They have defended the island of Waitukubuli, so writing to the Crown to ask them to extend the Kalinago Quarters, as it were, will not be a big thing to give the Kalinagos seeing that they have suffered, and now they are cornered in an area of poverty,” he said, prompting him (Hesketh Bell) to write to the Crown to ask for an extension of the boundaries.

“But we are thankful today that,” he added, “that if it was not that bold step by Hesketh Bell at the time, maybe the dream of some of the colonizers would be achieved when they said the time will soon come when this war-like, fearless, cannibalism-type of people would once [be] liquidated into the negro society,” he said adding, “So our death-call, our ending, our liquidation was anticipated long before now. But because of the bravery, because of the continuous struggle, of the Kalinagos before and present, we are able to fit in into a national agenda where we can recognise and let the nation recognise our contribution,” he said.

“We are very happy that we have been included into this program, because one cannot speak Emancipation without mentioning and recognizing the contribution of the Kalinagos, our forefathers have done in the Emancipation of not only Dominica but the whole Caribbean against colonization”

Cultural elder, Prosper Paris

The repurposing of heritage buildings, such as the Hampstead works, is part of the handing over of one generation to another. The Hampstead estate, is a historical site, and was once the scene of so much oppression. Yet even 100 years ago white colonials could appreciate the significance of history when they and their wives and children would go up the river and hold Maroon parties, thrilled to be in the wild escapes of the hinterland. The sense of history a continuity was not lost on this colonial writer in an 1828 publication, Sketches and recollections of the West Indies, wrote, “Having reached the beautifully sequestered spot, which had formerly been the favourite resort of the runaways, but which now presented to our sight only a single hut, we sought for shelter and shade in the beautiful maroon house, fitted up as a place of retirement, or of amusement and pleasure, for the captain’s family and friends, when they wished to enjoy a day’s fishing or shooting,” Hampstead Estate, although maybe a shadow of its former heyday, is nevertheless, a historical, even sacred site that the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors bled, lived and died.

According to Neil C. Vaz in his dissertation, Dominica’s Neg Mawon: Maroonage, Diaspora,and Trans-Atlantic Networks, 1763-1814In August, the worst had come to fruition for the British planters of Dominica. Just two days before Sonthonax’s declaration of freedom in Saint Domingue, “50 armed Men on the Windward of this island [Dominica], at a Bay called Battibou in the Night and went to the Nearest estate Hampstead plundered the House of everything and carried off nineteen Negroes, the rest of the Gang escaped to the woods.”

Illustration extracted from One Dominica – Odes for I Beloved by Ras Albert Williams (1985)

My father was born in Bense, and I lived in Bense, in my youth, between 1985 and 1990. There, I participate in many areas of village life. Circumstances got the better of me and I joined the band of the last few laborers who still worked on the estate. Mr. RBD Douglas was still alive and very active at the helm. He must have been in his late 80s then. We would gather at the ‘works’ and be broken up into groups headed by a supervisor, and assigned our tasks for the day. As Hampstead, was in its day, largely a sprawling coconut plantation. The fields needed weeding, holes to plant the coconut saplings needed digging in the soil, and fertilized; fallen coconuts needed to be gathered up, and their husks removed; and the husked coconuts transported back to the ‘works’ to be turned into copra.

I remember once we were digging holes to plant some coconut plants in the sandy soil with a garden fork. So I asked the supervisor, how am I able to get the sand out of the hole with a fork? And he told me, “with your hands.” I can vaguely remember too ‘’RBD’ telling me once, “You want work; look work!”

It was an eye-opening experience for me as a published author and informed my understanding of the estate culture that is so synonymous with Dominica. I had already published Honourable Natty Dread (1982) and One Dominica Odes for I Beloved (1985). Even then, no one told me that the ‘works’ covered other ruins. Just like no one told me that “a short 20-minute walk from the road beyond the village of Bense down a narrow trail to Chaudiere, where the Napiers built a second home deep in the rainforest.” I guess, in that regard, not much has changed.

I remember last year I found a Youtube video that featured the Hampstead ruins. British colonists were fond of renaming areas in Dominica after English namesakes, perhaps as a means to remind them of their ancestral homes, they left 4,000 miles away to replace with the toils of establishing estates in the tropical West Indies.

Bense, Anse De Mai, and Anse Soldat
Anse Du Me, Dominica, W.I. © Hans Hillewaert

Dominica’s foremost historian, Dominican-born, Dr. Lennox Honychurch, author of the The Dominica Story A History of the Island writing in his book about two terrible hurricanes of 1813, and the intensification of the war against the Maroons in 1814 on page 118 wrote: “In the same year, 1813, Dominica was hit by two severe hurricanes in July and August which totally destroyed Government House, the Court House, and other major buildings. It affected the life of the whole community, including the Maroons and added to this, the wide-spread action against their members intensified in 1814. In April, a chief called Clemence was brought in from the Colihaut area; in May, Hill from Woodford Hill and Robin from Hampstead. Fifteen Maroons were brought to Roseau by sloop from Rosalie. They had not bargained for traitors, and it was the Rangers — fellow negroes who knew the forests as well as the Maroons – who were the main cause for the downfall of the Negres Marrons..”

Moreover, in a presentation at the Bense Seventh Day Adventist Church on, December 22, 2020, he gave a history of the north-eastern communities of Bense, Anse De Mai, and Anse Soldat, explained that before the arrival of the Europeans on Dominica, the Kalinago people had established settlements at Batibou which was the Kalinago name for the entire area now now known as Hampstead, Anse De Mai and Anse Soldat. Anse De Mai he said got its name from the French who in the early days of French attempts to colonise the island, a certain French captain called Du Mé. and his associates carried out a brutal massacre on a Kalinago village at Anse de Mai. According to Honychurch, the Kalinago regarded the Guadeloupe and Maria Galante as part of their territory and had observed the expansion of the French to nearby Maria Galante setting up a settlements there, and at night, would raid and destroy them in an effort to deter the invaders from coming to Dominica. “And so he reacts,” said the historian, “getting people together, he comes and massacres…he kills a lot of the Kalinago who are living in Anse De Mai.” Honychurch told his captive audience that it was the French who named the sheltered beach, Anse Du Me, because he went there and committed this atrocity.

The British
“Sugar hogsheads” from Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, W. Clark, 1823, plate X.

The British took possession of Dominica in 1763, and between 1763 and 1773 John Byres was commissioned to survey the island to be sold by lots of no more than 300 acres to wealthy Englishmen who renamed the lands they bought after English towns and interests. Batibou became Hampstead, and the land was cultivated with sugar cane. Despite the intrusion of Europeans, many of the Kalinago names are to this day still used for the beaches at La Lai and Swayay.

Throughout the 18-century and a good part of the 19th-century despite the Slave Trade was being outlawed in 1807, thousands of West Africans were imported into Dominica to labour as slaves to clear the forests and plant the sugar cane, coffee and indigo. The early purchasers of lands named them either after themselves, or English namesakes. Hampstead was established as a sugar estate with sugar fields as far as the eye could see. Its mills to crush the ‘canes’ were powered by the Hampstead River, the ruins of which which are still visible today over 200 years later. And the Batibou beach was used a landing bay where the hogsheads of granulated sugar, puncheons of molasses and rum would be transported to waiting ships for bound for Britain. An entry in the Legacies of British Slavery (LBS) database indicates that Hampstead Estate changed hands several times when the proprietors fell on managerial difficulties defaulting on their loans and mortgages. Many planters just sold up and left the island, or land titles would be taken over by merchant/attorney firms, such as Lockhart, Potter and Court,Vance Caldwell & Vance and Harper & Brade who sold them on to new buyers. The graphic below, extracted from the London Gazette, shows Hampstead Estate up for sale in 1787. Note the description, and the mention of 103 slaves, 21 cattle, and 6 mules.

The London Gazette Publication date: 1 December 1787 Issue: 12943 Page: 567
The London Gazette Publication date: 21 May 1799 Issue: 15136 Page: 497

In 1799 the then owner, Peter Turquand fell into bankruptcy An entry at the LBS databank reads

“A meeting of the creditors of Lewis Chauvet and Peter Turquand bankrupts [since 1778] was called for 06/06/1799 for the creditors to agree or reject a proposal for the assignees to pursue proposals to sell the bankrupts’ interest in various estates and particularly whether to accept a proposal to the assignees to buy the bankrupts’ interest in the Hampstead estate on Dominica, formerly the property of Richardson and Elder.

Above is an extract from the London Gazette 15136, 21/05/1799 p. 497 provides more details of the circumstances.

Hampstead Estate
Batibou Beach, Dominica August 30, 2014, by Dr. Matthias Ripp

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, “The estate shifted to cocoa and lime production and by the 20th century it had changed again to coconut and copra. The estate was owned by the McIntyre family, but in the 1930s, when the family got into financial difficulties, the government took over the management until R.B. Douglas bought it in 1946. His descendants still own the estate today.”

The late Robert Bernard Douglas, known more affectionately known as RBD, served as a member of the legislature as Member for the Northern constituency in 1954. He had 16 children with his wife Brenda. but besides legacy as a land and property owner, he left an enduring political legacy which he passed on to his sons. His first-born, Michael Douglas served as Member of Parliament for the Portsmouth constituency and a cabinet minister under the Dominica Labour Party, Patrick John-led administration in the 1970s. In 2000, his second-born, Rosie Douglas, a former Black activist of the 1960s, led the Dominica Labour Party to victory at the polls, ending 20 years in opposition, and became the country’s 5th prime minister. Today the Douglas’s are represented on Dominica’s political landscape by the son of Michael Douglas, Ian Douglas who is an attorney by profession. Currently he is serving in the cabinet of the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) under Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit as Parliamentary Representative for the Constituency Portsmouth (Dos D’Ane, Bourne) since 2005.


The Hampstead estate was named after Hampstead in England by its first owner Anthony Bertrand. In old maps of Dominica, Batibou beach is named Bertrand Bay associated with lot 27, 28 and 49.

In 2006, scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. were filmed at ‘Batibou for Tia Dalma’s shack.

Hampstead, its British namesake,”is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical, and literary associations. It has some of the most expensive housing in the London area. Hampstead has more millionaires within its boundaries than any other area of the United Kingdom.”

Abolition of Slavery Act, 1833, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1833/3&4W4n223

Nevertheless, Hampstead Estate, Dominica remains a “healthy and pleasant Situation on the Windward coast of this island.” There is a lot more I could add, but perhaps another time.

According to the Division of culture, the Emancipation Day extravaganza is scheduled to get on the way by 1pm on August 1st, 2022 at the Hampstead River Works Ruins in the Parish of St. Andrew, and promises cultural, spiritual and historical highlights; art and craft exhibits, musical performances, local cuisine, river bathing and more…all in the spirit and the memory of August 1st 1838. Under the Slave Compensation Act of 1837, the British government paid compensation to the planters for the loss of their property (Slaves) to the tune of £20 million. By doing so, the British government purchased the complete freedom, without apprenticeship of nearly 800,000 enslaved Africans and their descendants in the West Indies who were finally Emancipated when the British parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, outlawing the owning, buying, and selling of humans as property throughout its colonies around the world.

Emancipation Day is a public holiday in Dominica.

Further reading

Anse Du Me, Dominica, W.I. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Beaches_of_Dominica#/media/File:Anse_Du_Me_(Dominica).jpg (Accessed, July 27, 2002)

A writer’s retreat at Elma Napier’s Dominican home (2009). Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/jul/18/dominica-literary-rental-elma-napier (Accessed: 26 July 2022).

Batibou Beach, Dominica. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/56218409@N03/15119800788 (Accessed July 27, 2022)

Britain’s Slave Owner Compensation Loan, reparations and tax havenry. Available at: https://taxjustice.net/2020/06/09/slavery-compensation-uk-questions/ (Accessed, July 27, 2022)

Details of Estate | Legacies of British Slavery (1782). Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/1228 (Accessed: 26 July 2022).

Dominica Library and Information Service – DLIS catalog › Details for: One Dominica : (2022). Available at: http://library.dlis.gov.dm/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=413&query_desc(su%3A%7BDominica.%7D)%20and%20holdingbranch%3AROSE%20and%20holdingbranch%3AMARI (Accessed: 28 July 2022).

EMANCIPATION DAY POSTER Available at: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=421930093308307&set=a.250668857101099 (Accessed: 26 July 2022).

EMANCIPATION DAY – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME? *(2020) Available at: https://archives.blog.parliament.uk/2020/08/04/1017/ (Accessed, July 27, 2022)

Hampstead, Dominica – Wikipedia (2022). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampstead,_Dominica (Accessed: 26 July 2022).

Hampstead. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampstead (Accessed, July 27, 2002)

Hampstead, Dominica. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampstead,_Dominica#cite_note-waterwheel-3 (Accessed on July 27, 2022)

Hesketh Bell Report on the Kalinago | a virtual Dominica (2022). Available at: https://www.avirtualdominica.com/project/hesketh-bell-report-on-the-kalinago/ (Accessed: 30 July 2022).

Hesketh Bell’s Report on the Kalinago (2022). Available at: https://albertwilliams.tech.blog/2022/07/31/hesketh-bell-report-on-the-kalinago/ (Accessed: 31 July 2022).

HISTORIC BUILDINGS, HAMPSTEAD ESTATE, DOMINICA (2000) Available at: https://dloc.com/AA00012428/00025/pdf (Accessed on July 27, 2022)

Neil C. Vaz in his dissertation, Dominica’s Neg Mawon: Maroonage, Diaspora,
and Trans-Atlantic Networks, 1763-1814
available at: Dominica’s Neg Mawon: Maroonage, Diaspora, and Trans-Atlantic Networks, 1763-1814 – ProQuest (2022). Available at: https://www.proquest.com/openview/7dff332fce6898f49e8ab4243ddf3238/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750 (Accessed: 26 July 2022).

Official Launch of Emancipation 2022 (2022) Available at: https://www.facebook.com/divisionofcultureDominica/videos/1237803633699382 (Accessed July 28)

Plan of the island of Dominica, 1776. Available at: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/plan-of-the-island-of-dominica (Accessed on July 27, 2022)

Plan of the island of Dominica laid down by actual survey under the direction of the honorable the commissioners for the sale of lands in the ceded islands by John Byres chief surveyor 1776 (2020). Available at: https://jcb.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/JCBMAPS~1~1~3334~101611:Plan-of-the-island-of-Dominica-laid Accessed: (July 27,2020).

References to the Plan of the Island of Dominica, as surveyed from the year 1765 to 1773. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/References_to_the_Plan_of_the_Island_of/Z2JZAAAAcAAJ?hl=en (Accessed July 27, 2022)

Sketches and recollections of the West Indies : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming: Internet Archive (2022). Available at: https://archive.org/details/sketchesandreco00unkngoog/page/n7/mode/1up?q=Maroons (Accessed: 26 July 2022).

Sugar-Hogsheads Slaves loading barrels into a boat. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogshead (Accessed onJuly 27, 2022)

The Dominica Story: A History of the Island: Lennox Honychurch (1995) Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive (2022). Available at: https://archive.org/details/thedominicastory/page/106/mode/1up?q=hampstead (Accessed: 29 July 2022).

The London Gazette Publication date-1 December 1787 available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/12943/page/567 (Accessed July 27, 2022)

The London Gazette Publication date: 21 May 1799 Issue: 15136 Page: 497. Available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/15136/page/497 (Accessed July 27, 2022)

Urban Exploration – Abandoned Sugar & Copra Factory – XVI Century – Dominica – Caribbean.Youtube.com. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiekKGv8lCM (Accessed: 26 July 2022).