A Guide to Sites, Museums, and Memory

Vanibel Plantation Guadeloupe, France

Stone archway, among the ruins of Vanibel Plantation, Guadeloupe
Stone archway, among the ruins of Vanibel Plantation, Guadeloupe.

The earliest historical information concerning this plantation was taken from a map drawn by the French Royal Engineers between 1765 and 1770. The site, which was known at that time as "Moulin à l'Eau," was owned by the Leborgne family. The size of the buildings and the number of cabins built to house enslaved people shows the relative affluence of this plantation and sugar refinery.

The plantation was captured during the French Revolution. After the abolition of slavery in 1794, seventy enslaved people worked the fields there.

When slavery was re-established in Guadeloupe in 1802, ninety-two slaves worked on the Moulin à l'Eau plantation. The estate's progressive decline led to a high death rate among the slaves. In 1822, only forty-four enslaved people remained, housed in fifteen cabins.

One cyclone in 1821, followed by another in 1825, which caused devastating damage to the buildings of Basse-Terre, precipitated the decline of the plantation which was sold in 1827. The new owner, Charles Billery Richeplaine, is believed to have carried out some restoration work, including work on the mill which still bears the inscription "DAVID M 1827," overlooking the southwestern bay. He expanded the estate, in particular by purchasing coffee, banana, and cassava plantations. The cane fields were all but abandoned once slavery was permanently abolished in 1848.

The plantation changed ownership many times up until the late nineteenth century, when sugar production was finally abandoned. Coffee production continued into the early twentieth century.

Vanibel Plantation is part of the Slave Route—Traces of Memory network organized by the Conseil Général of Guadeloupe.


Related Topics: