Vambell Estate near Sandy Point but actually in the Parish of St. Thomas, takes its name from its earliest known owner Peter van Belle. The estate was located in the English quarter of St. Kitts.

Van Belle
Peter van Belle was born in Province of Holland now part of the Netherlands probably in the 1640s. Very little is known of his early life. With his brother Joshua, he became involved in the Asiento de Negros. This was an agreement between the Spanish Crown and another sovereign power or a private person. Under the agreement, the contractor paid the Crown a specified sum, for a monopoly to supply a specific number of enslaved Africans to the the Spanish colonies in the Americas. The Van Belle brothers acted as representatives of Domingo Grillo and Ambrosio Lomelin. Over time Peter acquired land in Curacao and Surinam where he owned a quarter of the Brandenburg Plantation as well as property in Britain, St. Christopher and St. Thomas. Van Belle was also Director of the Danish Factory in St. Thomas

He married Susannah Durant in 1697, a Hugenot from Nimes in Languedoc, France. The couple did not have children. The couple moved to his property in St. Kitts some time before 1705 shipping his personal possessions and his enslaved workers to Old Road. In his will dated 28 May 1718, Peter left Susannah as his main heir but the property in the Dutch islands he left to Joshua’s children. He also made contributions to churches and institutions in Rotterdam and the parish of St. Thomas, St. Kitts and a sum of £15 for the erection of a church for French Protestants in Sandy Point. In turn Susannah’s will left various sum to her godchildren and to churches including the French Churches in Basseterre and Sandy Point and her personal estate to her brother, Daniel Durant and his daughter Elizabeth who were living in Germany. The plantation and a parcel of land of 18 acre she left to Peter Soulegre and Peter Salvetat who lived in St. Kitts. Governor Hart described Soulegre as “not only the wealthyest man” on the island but in all respects and worthy and discreet gentlemen.”

Peter Soulegre sold the plantation to Ralph Payne whose family had arrived on the island around 1653. Payne died in 1763 and his son also Ralph Payne (later Member of Parliament, Lord Lavington and twice Governor of the Leeward Islands) two years later sold Van Belle and other neighboring properties to William Wells.

William Wells had arrived in St. Kitts sometime around 1750 with his brother Nathaniel. By 1759 he was a successful merchant but had lost his wife and two very young children. He never remarried but fathered children with enslaved women on his plantations. In 1783 he had three of them christened including Nathaniel, his son by the enslaved woman Joardine known as Juggy.

Sometime before 1789, Nathaniel was sent to live with his uncle who had returned to London, possibly as a companion to cousin Burham. He was also attending school. In his will, William provided for number of legacies, most to slaves that he wanted freed and to children he had had with them but the bulk of his estate, estimated at over £200,000 sterling he left to young Nathaniel. Unfortunately the two brothers died within a space of two years while young Nathaniel the youth, still a minor, had to go to live with another uncle the Rev Robert Wells in Glamorgan.

In 1800 Nathaniel came of age. His uncle Robert was reluctant to give up the estate saying William’s will had not been proved properly. Nathaniel gave him a settlement of £10,000 and took full possession of his father’s estates. The following year he married Harriet Este, daughter of the former chaplain of George II and bought Piercefield manor for £90,000. Vambell estate was part of the marriage settlement. At this point, Wells  freed some enslaved workers who seem to have been his relatives or connected to him through his half-sisters. He did not free the rest of the plantation workers. Abolitionist James Stephen criticised his absence from the island which he felt was leading to the ill-treatment of his enslaved workers.

In 1824, Wells and his second wife, Esther sold Vambell and the slaves on it, to John Benjamin Waterson who was leasing it at the time. By 1834 when compensation to enslavers was being calculated following Emancipation, Waterson and his mortgagees, Horatio Adlam and Edward Hardtman filed claims. The decision went in favor of the mortgagees. They were supposed to receive  1842 2s abd 5d doe 107 enslaved workers.  It was probabably soon after, that the plantation became part of the properties of James Ewing and Co and remained as such till the 1880s. The company may have been responsible to installing steam powered operations.  IT WAS WORKED WITH ????

Eventually it was bought by Joaquim Ferara. He was said to have arrived in St. Kitts in the mid-19th century as an indentured servant. Patiently he worked at growing an enterprise which allowed him to start buying estates that were being sold off at low prices as sugar faced one crisis after another. Then in 1918 Vambell along with Chalk Farm were acquired by Messrs. Berridge and Burt for the sum of £2200 from Ferara’s heirs Joseph Ferara, Mrs. McNish and Mrs. Dinzey.

On the 31 August 1935, the estate was bought by dentist Norman Augustine Losada. He was the son of Augustine Moure Losada who arrived in St. Kitts at the turn of the 20th Century.  He married Marie Carmalie Deravin, the daughter of the French Consul on the island.  A M Losada was also a photgrapher who produced some really beutiful postcards of St. Kitts and he was the founder on a business that became the largest establishment in Basseterre in the 20th century.  Norman is still remembered, perhaps not very fondly, for the  way he practised dentistry.  He resold the land to A M Losada Ltd in 1966 for the sum of $44,000. Sugar cultivation at Vambell was given up.  Instead the property was used  for cattle rearing and the land remained in possession of the Losada heirs when the Government acquired the sugar lands in 1975.

National Archives
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Church Street
St. Kitts, West Indies

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