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The ancestral home of the Greatheeds
The ancestral home of the Greatheeds
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By Anatol Leopold Scott

Tidbits: “choice morsels” mostly from Legacies of British Slave-ownership database

The founder of the West Indian Greatheed families was John Greatheed (d. 1739). He and his wife, Francis Greatheed, emigrated to St. Kitts, purchased land from the Crown, bought slaves to work on their sugar plantation and, as a result, amassed a considerable fortune which enabled them to buy several properties (Guy’s Cliffe and other lands in Warwick and Old Milverton) when they returned to England. His St. Kitts plantation was then left to be managed by his fourth son, Christopher Greatheed (1714-1780) and, thereafter, by his grandson, Richard (Bertie) Greatheed, son of Samuel Greatheed, another of John Greatheed’s 12 sons.

Samuel Greatheed, the Elder (d. 1829), of Landford Lodge, Wiltshire and St. Vincent, was the son of Christopher Greatheed and Mary Greatheed (née Crooke, of Croydon, Surrey) who had managed the St. Kitts estate for his father. Samuel purchased the land which became Arnos Vale Estate (449 acres) on St. Vincent early in the 1764 land auctions. The purchase was made jointly under the title of “Crooke and Greatheed,” with William Crooke (his mother’s relative) holding half ownership. Possibly because of marital difficulties between William Crooke and his wife, Mary Wilson, William’s moiety (half share) in Arnos Vale Estate had been passed, for safe keeping, to Mary Greatheed, Christopher’s wife. After the death of William Crooke, in her 1792 Will, Mary Greatheed passed William’s moiety to her son Samuel Greatheed so that, when the Elder died in 1826 and passed his moiety to Samuel, Arnos Vale was left, in entail, to Samuel Greatheed Junior (d. 1847). According to production records uncovered for the period 1801-1818, there is no doubt that the plantation Samuel inherited was a very successful operation: with an average annual use of 331 slaves, it produced the following totals: sugar – 12,118,443 pounds, rum – 423,008 gallons, and molasses – 68,334 gallons.

Samuel Junior also inherited the family estate, Landford Lodge, Wiltshire, and all land in England extending to “the heirs of his body lawfully issuing, in default to next son and so on… split equally between any daughters”.   According to the Elder’s will, Samuel had the choice of keeping or selling the Arnos Vale estate. The Elder’s will also specified that provision had been made earlier, at the time of her marriage, for his daughter, Mary Trollope (née Greatheed), who had married Barnard Trollope. But interestingly, in an 1826 codicil to his 1823 will, possibly because of concerns over Barnard Trollope’s debts, The Elder left strict instructions to his trustees giving Mary Trollope additional legacies of £1,500 – to be invested in Bank of England stock — to be independent of her husband’s debts and liabilities and £1.000 to be held by trustees at the disposal of Mary Trollope in addition to what has been given, entirely free from her husband.

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Samuel Junior’s second wife, Sophia Greatheed, (née White) was the mother of his second son, John Greatheed. At the time of his father’s death, John Greatheed inherited the second Greatheed Estate on St. Vincent, Belleisle Estate, 486 acres, which had belonged to Michael White, his mother’s relative (owner of Petit Bordelle and Sharpe’s Estate). John’s mother, Sophia Greatheed, was appointed Executor of all of Samuel’s Estates during the time ‘she shall continue unmarried and sole guardian of my children by her.’ He also left her his ‘Carriage with four wheels and any musical instruments I may have.’ He had estimated that Arnos Vale Estate was worth £24,000. Had Samuel Junior sold Arnos Vale estate to satisfy the Elder’s wishes, his legacies to his children with Sophia, John Greatheed and Sophia Burgess (née Greatheed), would have been met from proceeds of the sale and it would have been ‘equally divided between wife and children with money split between younger children and, If they die before 21, money should go to their children or else be equally divided between surviving siblings.’

Interestingly, if the Arnos Vale Estate were sold, he also would have left: to the lawful children of Sir George Cooper, Knight late, one of the judges of Supreme Court of Madras, £4,000 to be equally divided interest at rate of 4 per cent per annum; to Samuel Cooper, late surgeon in British army and brother of George Cooper Knight, £4,000; to Leonard Cooper, captain in EIC Army adjutant of the Black Town, Madras, brother of Sir George Cooper, Knight, £4,000; to his cousin Richard Wilson Greatheed £500 “as a mark of my esteem and affection for him”. He also left “to Edward [Cammy??] my manager and attorney in the island of St Vincent £500 as a mark of my sense of his very valuable services”.

The Will of Samuel Greatheed, the Elder, was proved in 1829 but Arnos Vale Estate had not been sold by his son, Samuel.   It is not known whether the legacies to non-family members were ever honoured but it is known that those to Sophia and her children were not. In 1833, therefore, John Greatheed took Samuel Greatheed to court and won a judgement of £10,000. In 1834, a claim for compensation based on a total of 284 slaves 128(F) 156(M) on the Estate was submitted (the number of slaves had undergone a drastic decline from the 1818 level). In 1836, Samuel Greatheed, as owner, and John Greatheed, as Trustee, were awarded £7,648 17S 3D – $95,827.00 ECC; how or whether this amount was split between the brothers has not been determined but, in 1846, the estate was charged with £24,000 for two children, John and Sophia, and mortgaged to Boddington & Davis. Samuel Greatheed died in 1847 (Will proved in 1847) but, in his will, he indicated that his Estate (including Arnos Vale and his freehold at Landford) should be sold and the proceeds put in trust for his wife and four children. In 1847, the family was obliged, as a result of debt, to dispose of Landford Lodge and its lands but Arnos Vale was still not sold.

Samuel Greatheed’s son, William Samuel Greatheed, sold his commission and tried to turn around the estate between 1850 and 1853 but he was unsuccessful. The estate was unproductive throughout 1854 and, in 1855 as executor of her husband’s estates, Mrs. Sophia Greatheed “distrained on crops and stock, mules etc.”. Soon after, the estate was sold for £10,500 – EC$131,544 to a Reverend F. Brathwaite.

It is interesting to note that, compared to Arnos Vale Estate in 1834, John Greatheed, the disgruntled son of Samuel Greatheed the Elder, submitted a compensation claim for the 114 slaves on his Belleisle Estate and was awarded an uncontested amount of £3,210 5S 7D – EC$40, 215. As usual, however, the “‘freed” slaves and their progeny were left with none of the financial or social benefits that had flowed from the two estates.