Little Bay, montserrat, west indies

 
 

The Little Bay estate of planter William Carr, on the island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles, West Indies has long been recognized as a site of importance to Montserrat’s heritage; in the 1980s Prof. Lydia Pulsipher brought the site to the attention of Montserratians and proposed that comprehensive research be done there. Over the years she made many efforts to draw the attention of local officials to the need to preserve and investigate the site and its history. It is perhaps ironic that disaster elsewhere on the island is what has brought William Carr’s Little Bay estate to center stage in Montserrat’s attempts to revitalize itself and to reclaim its heritage, but the opportunity now exists to assist Montserratians in recovering a portion of their rich heritage while contributing through archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research to issues of concern to the wider archaeological community.


The site is highly significant to Montserrat’s heritage, first and foremost because it is the oldest known European site on the island, Carr having established the first plantation there ca. 1639 (the island was first settled by Europeans in 1632. Whatever we learn about the site through excavation and other forms of research will contribute to knowledge about the site and its role in the island’s history.


The site is of interest in the wider realm of Caribbean archaeology, especially plantation archaeology, both because it provides information on the early period of European colonization in the Caribbean and because it has the potential to provide information about change over time in agricultural and industrial practice. Pulsipher’s research indicates that the plantation initially produced cotton and indigo but by 1660 was converted to sugar production. This involved construction of new buildings and alterations to existing structures. The ruins that survive at the site incorporate reused brick, both the usual red brick and many Dutch yellow “clinker” bricks. One of the goals of the long-term research at the site will be to delineate the phases of use and reuse of buildings and landscape.

 

ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE WILLIAM CARR ESTATE

Site of the Carr Plantation at Little Bay, 1989; Lydia Pulsipher and Krysta Ryzewski sift soils from the Manor House complex; excavation in slave village; outbuilding foundation, Manor House complex.