Video: Roger Leech

In this video Roger Leech introduces the 18th century slave village at New River to University of Southampton students.


Roger Leech: The collaboration as you know is to look at several slave villages on these two islands of St Kitts and Nevis and we selected first of all the site called The Spring on St Kitts and we were going to look at this site at New River, both because they are well documented - we know exactly where the slave village is - it's easy on St Kitts because there's a very good map of the late 1820s which shows the location of all the slave village sites but there is no such map for Nevis and we are dependent on Nevis for really for just a few really good estate maps, like the one which you are holding in your hand, which show exactly where the slave villages are. No 11 is marked 'negro houses' and that is the normal nomenclature for a slave village. So that tells us exactly where the slave village is at New River. The plantation at New River, we are still researching the history of it, from the records on Nevis and also records we will be looking at in the Suffolk Record Office in England. The family who owned it in the 19th century were a family of clergymen from Suffolk and all the records, title deeds and a description of an English person visiting the estate in the 1830s are all in the Suffolk record office in Ipswich. And it's from Ipswich that this map came as part of those records.

But I think it's more likely that the name New River derives from an association with the New River company of London and was actually named after that for some reason. Perhaps the owner of the estate in the 17th century or early 18th century had shares in the New River Company. The New River Company was formed in the early 17th century to provide a new water supply for London.

The slave village is uphill of the plantation house and the sugar mill which is actually down there where the chimney is which you would have seen when you got out of the vehicle. Can everyone see that chimney in the distance? So that's where the mill is and we're going to walk down there in a few moments.

So the slave village is actually downwind of the mill and the great house of the plantation so any smells from the slave village would have blown in that direction, as you can now see. The trade winds and the prevailing wind is in that direction. So this is a typical situation for a slave village, downwind of the great house. But it's not typical in another respect. The planter wants to be watching what's going on. So you might come across pictures which show the planter doing just exactly that, sitting on the steps of his house and watching the slaves at work.