The History of Romney Manor
Set in approximately 8 acres, these grounds have considerable history dating back to the 1600s. Prior to the island’s European conquest, which began in 1623, there is strong evidence that Carib Indian Chief Tegreman’s village occupied the site. Petroglyphs located on the Wingfield Estate attest to the presence of Amerindians at some point during the property’s history.
Romney Manor & Wingfield Estate have had only 5 family owners to-date. You might recognize the first, Sam Jeffreson II, the great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson (3rd president of the U.S.A), who purchased the property in 1625.
The modest house, once named the “red house” to reflect Jeffreson’s Quaker roots, was renamed Romney Manor upon its mid 17th-century acquisition by the Earl of Romney. In 1834, contrary to the instruction of the British Parliament, Lord Romney declared his enslaved Africans free men, becoming the first estate in St. Kitts to do so.
Most of the activity on the property, has been growing & distilling sugar cane. Over the years, its owners have witnessed the crushing of cane by animal, water and steam power. This all changed in the 1920s as the cane processing became centralized in the nation’s capital, Basseterre. The Wingfield Estate grew, harvested and loaded sugar cane until the mid-2000s, that’s 350 years!
Romney Manor became a batik enterprise in the 1970s under the tutelage of its current owner. Wingfield Estate began its transition to the beautiful gardens and active archaeological site it is today in the 2000s, when the St. Kitts government discontinued all sugar cane operations on the island.
Many visitors frequently express a sense of spirituality while enjoying the gardens and grounds. An all-time favourite is our magnificent Saman tree, the largest living organism in St. Kitts. It is over 400 years old, 24 ft in circumference and covers ½ acre. Just imagine the stories it could tell. Many visitors return time and time again to savour this memorable experience. The present owner feels more a sense of stewardship than ownership, recognizing the magnificent Saman tree as the true owner of all it surveys.
Home of Caribelle Batik
Experience a taste of heritage and tradition. Explore 400 years of history and celebrate 40 years of creativity.
Caribelle Batik has acquired an international reputation for fine batik products made of quality fabrics including the exclusive Sea Island cotton. Using ancient Indonesian methods, Caribelle produced its first batik in 1976. Caribelle has since become the Caribbean’s most sought after batik textiles. Distinctive and unique in design, our batiks cause bystanders to take notice and engage in great discussion whenever they are worn. In addition to their eye catching attributes, these products are durable and last a lifetime.
Many of our products are produced right here at Romney Manor. Caribelle Batik employs a full time local staff of 36, each one dedicated to providing unique products and a memorable visitor experience. During a visit, you can watch as our artists expertly demonstrate batik techniques and provide a full narration of the ancient art form and its history. Then you can browse our bright and colourful shop where no two pieces are exactly alike.
Caribelle Batik’s home is at the house and garden of Romney Manor, adjacent to Wingfield Estate. It has established itself as the island’s leading destination. Come experience an exceptional retail facility containing distinctive, one-of-a-kind Caribelle fabrics, apparel, gifts and accessories.
Wingfield Estate is adjacent to Wingfield River in a lush rainforest located in Old Road Town, St. Kitts. The estate is set in the picturesque foothills of the island’s central mountain range, with elevations over 3000ft.
One of the unique aspects of this area is the Wingfield watershed. This is a natural resource that covers hundreds of acres, depositing water into Wingfield River. The watershed provides the island with more than ¾ of the island’s water requirement.
Wingfield Estate is one of four places on St. Kitts that has 17th century Amerindian petroglyphs (a carving or inscription on a rock). The petroglyphs of Wingfield Estate are considered to be amongst one of the finest examples of rock carvings in the Lesser Antilles and on St. Kitts they are one of the most accessible. Local folklore states that Carib Chief Tegreman, a powerful Amerindian chief who ruled several islands, had his village within the grounds of Romney Manor.
Wingfield was the first land grant in the English West Indies in 1625. The property’s original crops were tobacco & indigo, dating from 1625 to the 1650s. Sugar cane became more profitable and was continuously grown on the site for 350 years, from the 1650s to the mid-2000s.
The sugar industry functioned over the centuries using, in order: animal-driven, water-driven and eventually steam-driven methods of crushing the cane. Water power was used from the 1600s to 1920s, with aqueducts and a water turbine unique in the Eastern Caribbean.
In 2013, we discovered the original rum distillery. It had been buried for many years. This is one of our most exciting discoveries. We have established as a fact that rum has been produced by this estate since 1681, although we believe it began sooner than this and continue our research to ascertain the exact dates of operation. As such, Wingfield’s is recognized as the oldest intact distillery in the Caribbean.
The grounds still contain remarkable masonry, which includes: aqueduct, chimney, mill house for crushing cane, boiling house, distillery, lime kiln, subterranean tunnel and so much more. Archaeological digs are an ongoing process.
The site not only has links with the Amerindian Chief Tegreman, but also to the direct ancestors of the American president Thomas Jefferson and to the Earl of Romney of England. Please visit our History of Romney Manor page [link] for additional interesting estate-ownership details and associated historical photographs.
Wingfield is adjacent to Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor. The estate also hosts the site office of the popular zip line. As a result, 170,000 visitors per annum visit the area. Over the years, Wingfield has transformed into a unique and user-friendly destination with interpretive signage and graphics that explain its remarkable history and purpose.
The estate is a work-in-progress, with many archaeological digs ongoing and utilizing both visitor and local participation. This alone has attracted many journalists, bloggers, & reporters who’ve written exceptional pieces, bringing even more attention to this historic gem.
Wingfield is positioned on the fringe of a tropical rainforest, surrounded by nature. The setting is one of peace & serenity and is indeed a photographer’s dream. What a contrast to its three centuries of sugar production! Come envelope yourself in times long past.