Nugent Homes and Estates

Nugent homes in Antigua: from top left, Merrywing Hall, home of Dr Nicholas, Betty's Hope where Sir Oliver was born and Millar's, his marital home, (lower from left) Renfrew, Scotts Hill and Erdiston, the homes of later generations of Nugents.
Nugent homes in Antigua: from top left, Merrywing Hall, home of Dr Nicholas, Betty's Hope where Sir Oliver was born and Millar's, his marital home, (lower from left) Renfrew, Scotts Hill and Erdiston, the homes of later generations of Nugents.
Map by Robert Baker showing estates of Walter Nugent, the first Antiguan Nugent, in 1746-8.
Map by Robert Baker showing estates of Walter Nugent, the first Antiguan Nugent, in 1746-8.
Nugents first settled in Antigua in the early 18th Century, following the family’s forfeiture of lands in Co. Westmeath, Ireland. The first settler from Drumcree, around 1720, was Walter Nugent who “acquired two proportions of land at St. John’s town”. A map of the 1740s shows four plots of land to the north and east of St Johns belonging to Walter Nugent. It is unclear whether he acquired these by Letters Patent from the British monarch in return for service, the common means of acquiring property, by purchase or through his marriage in 1721 to the daughter of wealthy merchant, Jacob Le Roux.

Eman. Bowen map showing Nugent-Garrat estate, 1747.
Eman. Bowen map showing Nugent-Garrat estate, 1747.

 

Walter and Antoinetta’s son and heir Oliver called the properties ‘Nugents’ and built a mansion house which he named ‘Clare Hall’ to mark the family’s links with County Clare, Ireland, where Nugents retained property interests. Land records show that Clare Hall was owned by Walter Nugent and then by his son, Oliver, from 1757. Another map of this time shows the estate of ‘Garrat Nugent’ north of St John’s, the colonial capital from around 1700. This may have been a joint enterprise between two families.

According to a circular of the West India Committee 22 October 1936 (subsequently quoted in the Antigua Star) the ‘Nugent’ estates were in 1765 sold by Oliver Nugent (son of Walter, grandfather of Sir Oliver) to Robert Skerrett, who had married his sister, Antoinetta (daughter of Walter and Antoinetta) creating the ‘Skerrett’ estates.

The once great Betty's Hope sugar estate
The once great Betty's Hope sugar estate
The Skerretts had come from Galway and were, like the Nugents, one of the original Irish families to have settled in Antigua. Robert and Antoinetta had no children and some of the estates, variously known as ‘Skerretts’ or ‘Nugents’, reverted in due course to Nugent ownership. In 1768 a small part of the estate called Dunning Hill was sold to the island’s Assembly for £2000 to erect Government House. The sale was concluded by Mrs Antoinetta Nugent, widow of Walter Nugent, and Nicholas Nugent, her grandson.

Oliver Nugent’s first born son, Robert (by Elizabeth Dunbar) inherited lands from his mother at Marchermore, Kircudbrightshire, south west Scotland, agreeing to change his name to Nugent-Dunbar. Oliver’s second son, Nicholas (by Bridget Lynch) became a doctor and lived most of his life in Antigua, becoming Speaker of the Assembly. In 1829 he bought or inherited back the ‘Nugent/Skerrett’ estates from his cousin, John Lynch, Antoinetta Skerrett’s nephew.

At the time of emancipation in 1834, Nicholas managed ‘Lyon’s’ estate in the east of the island (north of Willoughby Bay, west of Nonsuch Bay) and lived there whilst evidently owning ‘Skerretts’. Later he lived at Merrywing Hall, whose location is unknown.

Scotts Hill in 2008
Scotts Hill in 2008
His son, the future Sir Oliver Nugent, spent his early married life at ‘Betty’s Hope’, an estate in the middle of the island owned by the Codrington family. In 1860 Sir Oliver acquired ‘Millar’s’ estate, close to Fitches Creek, living on the estate and managing its substantial sugar production. Named for Dr William Millar, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, ‘Millar’s’ consisted of 406 acres in 1829 and 929 acres by 1921. Despite never having converted to steam, in 1836 it recorded the largest production of sugar in the whole island. In 1891 the estate passed to Sir Oliver’s son-in-law, Sir Charles Cameron Lees (husband of Maria Nugent) who was previously Governor of the Leeward Islands. Later it was acquired by the Comacho family, and was leased to the United States air force as an officers’ club during the Second World War. If any remains still exist they are within the perimeter fence of Antigua’s 1950s-built airport.

Johnson map of 1826 shoes distinct Skerret, Clare Hall and Folly estates. Millars is in the top right corner.
Johnson map of 1826 shoes distinct Skerret, Clare Hall and Folly estates. Millars is in the top right corner.

In 1891 Sir Oliver and Lady Nugent acquired ‘Skerret’s and Folly’, previously owned by his father, who had died in 1843 – probably part of the land originally acquired by Walter Nugent around 1720. At some stage Sir Oliver, or perhaps Lady Nugent, gave or sold plots from ‘Skerret’s and Folly’ for good causes, including a home for truant boys and a cemetery for the poor. The land on which stand Antigua Grammar School, the old and new Parliament buildings

and Holberton Hospital are all thought to have been owned by the Nugents at this time. Clare Hall, though, was no longer in Nugent hands having passed to Charles Warner Dunbar in 1790 and later to Sir C Bethel Codrington. It is now the site of a school of that name and a model housing complex.

A tranche of land identified as “Skerretts, otherwise Clare Hall” consisting of 612 acres was sold at Grays Inn coffee house, London, on 13 September 1847 “…pursuant to an order of the High Court.” The land sold was bordered by Frenches (north), Cassada gardens and lands of William White deceased (east), of Bayer Otto Bayer (south) and by the government and of J D Halliday and T L Brooke, both deceased (west).  On his death in 1894, Sir Oliver bequeathed what remained of “the Skerrett estates” to his eldest son, Nicholas, whilst land in Redcliffe Street, St John’s went to his elder daughter, Emily.

Land records show two distinct Skerrett properties by this time: ‘Skerret’s Pasture’ was the site of the boys’ home and paupers’ cemetery and the street known as Lady Nugent Avenue, so would not have been available for Sir Oliver to bequeath. (See Comacho 1933 map.) Then there was ‘Skerret’s and Folly’, originally known as Nugent’s according to the land registry, though its pre-1769 ownership is unclear. This had passed from Robert Skerrett to John Lynch (a nephew of Antoinetta’s) in 1790, then to Nicholas Nugent in 1829 and Sir Oliver Nugent in 1891. It was

The Camacho-Moody map (1933) shows Lady Nugent cemetery, reformatory and lunatic asylum as well as Scotts Hill, home of G O Nugent, and Clare Hall.
The Camacho-Moody map (1933) shows Lady Nugent cemetery, reformatory and lunatic asylum as well as Scotts Hill, home of G O Nugent, and Clare Hall.
sold to J Maginley in 1921, presumably by Sir Oliver’s sons (Sir Oliver died in 1894).  We know that in the mid 19th Century it consisted of 314 acres, but had consisted of 500 acres a century earlier. ‘Skerret’s Pasture’ may have been split off from the main estate, whilst the ‘Folly’ element suggests a merger since there was at one time a separate Folly estate.  (See 1826 Johnson map where Skerrets, Folly and Clare Hall are shown as distinct estates.) In 1944 ‘Skerret’s and Folly’ became part of Antigua Distilleries/Montpelier Sugar Factory.

Erdiston pictured in 2013- compare the 1934 picture, bottom right in the collage at the top
Erdiston pictured in 2013- compare the 1934 picture, bottom right in the collage at the top
Sir Oliver’s second son, Oliver, returned to Antigua after schooling in Britain. Around 1891 he set up home at Hodges Bay House near the island’s northernmost tip. Later he lived at Renfrew, 7 miles south of St John’s, and after briefly occupying Scotts Hill on the outskirts of St John’s spent the last ten years of his life at Erdiston, in Stapleton Road near the High Street.

Oliver’s only son, George, spent his early married life between the family home in Berkshire, England, and his work as a colonial officer in Nigeria. On George’s retirement in 1924, he took his family back to Antigua and set up home on the south western outskirts of St John’s at Scotts Hill which – the Antigua Star of October 1936  reported – “formed part of the original property… now once more in the possession of the Nugent family and is the home of Mr George Nugent.” Scotts Hill may have been occupied by Sir Oliver and Lady Nugent, George’s grandparents, between 1891 and their deaths in 1894. Their son, Oliver, and his wife Mary also lived there for some time. In the 1930s, George bought a small adjoining plot of land from the island’s government.

George Nugent’s widow, Gladys, sold Scotts Hill to Egbert Harney about 1940. George’s mother, Mary Nugent, lived on at Erdiston till her death in 1956. Oliver and Mary Nugent are buried at St John’s cemetery. George Nugent is buried in St. George’s churchyard alongside his grandparents, Sir Oliver and Lady Nugent, overlooking Fitches Creek and Walter Nugent, the first Nugent in Antigua, is buried in St John’s churchyard.

The above account is open to corrections and additions. If you have relevant data kindly message the site at: nugentsofantigua@gmail.com

(Illustrative maps: Baker ‘Four Walter Nugents’ 1746-8; Bowen ‘Garrat-Nugent’ detail 1747; Johnson 1826 detail showing ‘Skerrets/Folly/Millars’; Camacho-Moody Stuart 1933 showing ‘Lady Nugents cemetery’, ‘reformatory’, ‘lunatic asylum’, ‘Scotts Hill’, with credit for Baker and Camacho to the Antigua and Barbuda Museum, Bowen and Johnson in Nugent family possession.)

(Other sources: Nugent family tree; various maps as sourced; 1865 sale: circular of the West India Committee of 22 October 1936; V L Oliver’s History of Antigua; Dunning Hill- Oliver’s; the Books ‘Emancipation’ and ‘Antigua Then’; Antigua Star of October 1936; personal research by Jan Augustin who provided the new picture of Erdiston; land records provided by Agnes Meeker.)