Plantations and slavery

When Philippa first arrived in Nevis in 1634 the land that she and her husband worked on Saddle Hill grew indigo, tobacco and ginger.

The switch to sugar did not take place until over twenty years later, and brought both great wealth and great problems. Two men were now needed to work every two acres rather than one man for five. The work was punishingly hard and this was one reason why the slave trade prospered. In 1670 the population of 8,000 was half white, half black. By the time Philippa died only 10% of the population of 10,000 was white, and the 18th century success of Nevis – which was enormous – was crucially dependent on the slaves.

Abolition of slavery

The appalling slave trade was stopped by the British government in 1807. However, owners were given 27 years – until 1834 – before all slaves had to be freed and compensation paid. 8,815 slaves were freed on Nevis; the total compensation was some 15 million in today's money. Records in the National Archive reveal those of Philippa's descendants, both men and women who received compensation. And here for the first time in the research the author found the name of Philippa's first husband, Clement Prentis once more. Though of course he had died two centuries earlier, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren had preserved the name of this pioneering man.

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Ruins of an 18th century sugar mill

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Philippa's grave on Saddle Hill