Side view of Scotts Hill in 1906
When my grandfather George Nugent retired from service in Nigeria in 1925, he returned to Antigua, with my grandmother, Gladys, and their children. They took over a house called Scotts Hill on the outskirts of St John’s which was too big for the needs of his parents, Oliver and Mary.
Nowadays Scotts Hill refers to the whole district, including a ridge stretching south to Belmont. The house of that name survives, slightly off (though not visible from) America Road, behind Harney Motors, whose owner Ewart Harney now owns the house. His late father, Egbert Ewart Harney, a lawyer and member of the Antiguan Legislative Assembly, bought the
The same view 102 years later
house after George Nugent died and the rest of my family left Antigua in the 1940s. The land on which Scotts Hill stands may have been part of the extensive ‘Nugent estates’ that were first occupied by Walter Nugent in the late 17th
Century. It was certainly occupied by Nugents in the early 20th Century and indirectly the house played a role in bringing my grandparents together.
Scotts Hill (also spelt Scots Hill or Scot’s Hill) was built as a girl’s reformatory but never used for that purpose. It was taken over as an army barracks in 1905. One of those stationed there was Colonel Osbern Foster of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Whilst in Antigua he met George Nugent’s sister, Catherine Mary Monica Nugent (known as Monica). They were married at St John’s Cathedral on 21st January 1906.
An inside view in 1939
Since my great grandparents seldom visited Britain, I like to imagine that Monica’s elder brother George was entrusted with the task of vetting her fiancé’s family. That mission would have taken him to the Foster family home, Shenley, at Redhill Surrey to meet Osbern’s parents, Major Kingsley Osbern Foster and his wife Constance Julia (néeBirch). Major Foster may have shown my grandfather the observatory he had built in the back garden to pursue his hobby of astronomy. George would have met Osbern’s brother, Ronald, and sisters Muriel, Gladys, Evelyn and Ada.
The front of the house in 2008
In due course, George and Gladys announced their engagement. They were married at St John’s church, Redhill on 27th September 1910 – four years after Gladys’s brother Osbern and George’s sister Monica. They had six children, Monica, Peggy, Oliver, Osbern, Joyce and Nick. Oliver was my father.
And another coincidence: the wedding in Antigua of Osbern and Monica was carried out by the Reverend Shepherd. Thirty-three year later, Dean Shepherd married Joyce Nugent and Tony Robertson, also at St John’s cathedral.
Osbern Foster marries Monica Nugent in Antigua in 1906. Monica's brother George and father Oliver stand behind her.
According to Joyce, who was only 4 when she went to live at Scotts Hill, the house had 29 rooms, 9 verandahs and 86 windows which
Nine year old Joyce describes the impact of the 1928 hurricane on Scotts Hill
had to be shuttered from outside and barred from the inside to prevent burglars getting in. When there was the threat of a hurricane they had to be secured more firmly with a bar and nails (see panel).
My father talked a lot about Scotts Hill and considered it fitting that, in the 1950s, we moved to a house in Scotts Lane, near Beckenham, Kent.
From pictures of Scotts Hill in the early 1900s, it seems to be isolated, outside the city. Nowadays it is hidden by trees from adjacent buildings including the large motor showroom. The nearby ridge still gives magnificent views over the island in several directions.
(Sources: Joyce Robertson’s Travels; Nugent family tree and papers; family photographs; Ewart Harney)