Betty's Hope was the largest sugar estate on Antigua. Established by planter, Christopher Codrington shortly after the French invasion of the island, Betty's Hope was to become the flagship estate of Antigua. And while Codrington served as governor, the estate became the seat for the Leeward Islands.
Eventually the family returned to England and left the estate to be managed by attorneys until the early 1900's. Interestingly all correspondences were kept by the family in England, and the result is a collection of documents covering two hundred years. These documents, also available on microfilm at the National Archives in St.John's, provide unique insights into a period when sugar was king; a painful period in Antiguan history.
Current archaeological research at Betty's Hope is directed by Edith Gonsalzes Scollard of City University New York, Brooklyn. Previous to this, research was conducted on the north windmill tower, prior to the reconstruction of this building.
Betty's Hope is managed as a non-profit organisation. Its goals are to manage the heritage site as an out-door museum. The lack of funding to continue research and reconstruction has seriously delayed restoration efforts. Betty's Hope and its restored windmill is a popular site for locals and visitors to Antigua.
Volunteers and members of the Betty's Hope Restoration Trust restored the north windmill at Betty's Hope to workable condition.
The restoration team included: Birgit Carstensen (project coordinator), Jerry Bardoe (shipwright/millwright), David Rollinson (industrial historian, machinery specialist), Doug Leury (heavy lift specialist), Tim de Garve (US Air Force Station), Lawson Whiting (machinery restoration), among others.
On completion, in 1998, the mill was turned into the wind and after a few adjustments, ran successfully. However, due to the fragile nature and age of the stone mill walls it was not intended for the windmill to operate on a regular basis.
Today it serves as a popular attraction for tourists and Antiguans reflecting on the painful years when sugar was king.
Research prior to and during restoration provided interesting information and insights into the operation of the mill. Most interestingly, the juice from the freshly squeezed cane did not flow directly to the boiling-house, as was the common and established practice. At Betty's Hope, a large iron tank, into which the juice flowed, was situated beneath the rollers. The juice was then pumped to the boiling-house on demand.
With the introduction of steam technology, the windmills were abandoned, their machinery removed and re-installed in the boiling house complex with the new steam engines. The stone structures were then utilized as a storeroom for scrap iron and debris from the estate.
Archaeological research continues at Betty’s Hope. The foundations of the Great House are currently being excavated by Dr. Georgia Fox of Chico Campus, California State University. Survey of the site continues to find and map additional structures and archaeological deposits. It is now clear that Betty’s Hope was a large and complex industrial and residential site and archaeology to date has only scratched the surface of this large estate. In addition, the microfilms of sections of the Codrington Papers at the Museum of Antigua have now been digitized into a “more user-friendly” format for researchers.