Sir Oliver Nugent of Antigua
Sir Oliver Nugent was born in Antigua in February 1815, one of the fourth generation of Antiguan Nugents. His father, Dr Nicholas Nugent, was for many years Speaker of the Antiguan House of Assembly. At an early age, Oliver was sent to England for his education, firstly to school at Warminster, Wiltshire and subsequently to Edinburgh University. On his return to Antigua he entered the House of Assembly, succeeding as Speaker when his father retired in 1847. He was also Private Secretary to the Governor aged only 21. He was subsequently the first President of the General Legislative Council of the Leeward Islands. Sir Oliver commanded the Antigua Yeomanry Cavalry for 20 years with the rank of Colonel.
Sir Oliver was a planter and for nearly forty years represented several absentee landlords, including the Codringtons and Robert and Henry Jefferson and Co of Whitehaven. He appears to have been an important figure in the production and shipping of molasses from Antigua.However, it is as a public servant and for his roles in the Antiguan House of Assembly and Leeward Islands Legislative Council for which he is best remembered. He was instrumental in creating a Federation of the Leeward Islands in 1871, being rewarded with a knighthood the following year, receiving the honour in person from Queen Victoria. An obituary in the Leeward Islands Budget (Sept 1st 1894) records “the air of dignity and decorum which he imparted to the deliberations of that body”.
Lucretia, Lady Nugent
In 1845 he married Lucretia Louisa Ottley, daughter of George Weatherhill Ottley and Jane Ottley of Parham Lodge, another long established West Indian family. George’s father came to Antigua from St Vincent whilst Jane was born a Ledwell in Liverpool in 1786: her younger sister had married Nicholas Nugent, Sir Oliver’s father, so both Sir Oliver and Lady Nugent had Ledwell mothers. They had several children of whom two sons and three daughters survived into adulthood. Their early married life was spent at Betty’s Hope, one of the island’s largest sugar estates. From 1860 they lived at Millars, another large sugar estate in the parish of St George. In 1829 it was recorded as being of 406 acres with 297 slaves. Slavery was abolished in Antigua in 1834. By 1921 the estate had grown to 979 acres. It never converted to steam and a derelict windmill still stands there, not far from today’s airport runway. It had served as an American officers club during World War II. It is not known whether any part of the estate house has survived. The family also had a property at Redcliffe Street, St Johns.
Sir Oliver died on 28th August 1894 aged 79, and was laid to rest at St George’s churchyard, overlooking Fitches Creek and looking across the bay to Parham, alongside his wife who had died three months earlier on 30th May 1894. According to the Antigua Standard 1st September 1894, his funeral cortege was accompanied by an honour guard of police officers.
Sir Oliver’s will records legacies of silver plate, the Skerrett estate and money in the Colonial bank to his elder son Nicholas (b 1845) and to Emily (b 1866) the house in Redcliffe Street. Other surviving children were Oliver (b 1850), his second son, whose branch of the family was to live on in Antigua till the 1950s, Maria (b 1840) who in 1875 married Sir Charles Cameron Lees, who was Leeward Island Governor 1883-5, and the youngest, Constance Lucretia, who married William Montgomery Gordon in 1892.
Sir Oliver Nugent ran Millars estate on the site now occupied by Antigua's airport
(Sources: Leeward Islands Budget, Sept 1st 1894; On molasses: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/ANTIGUA/2002-04/1020110500 ; Nugent Family tree; Oliver Nugent’s notes; ‘Antigua Then’ Margaret Lockett, p55; Jan Augustin; Agnes Meeker; On his funeral: Antigua Standard 1st Sept 1894.)