A Guide to Sites, Museums, and Memory

Murat Plantation Guadeloupe, France

Sugar refining complex, Murat Plantation, Guadeloupe
Sugar refining complex, Murat Plantation, Guadeloupe.

The founder of this sugar refinery is believed to be Antoine Luce, a French notary from the Champagne region of France who arrived on the island of Marie-Galante in 1657. In 1665, the plantation already housed 11 enslaved people, aged 9 to 36 years.

In 1807, the estate was bought by Frenchman Dominique Murat from the Aquitaine region of France, who was married to a creole-speaking native of Marie-Galante. He had several new buildings erected. The plantation and sugar refinery were renamed "Bellevue La Plaine" and became a powerful production unit.

In 1807, 114 slaves worked on the plantation, a number which was to triple over two decades—307 were recorded in 1839 (175 women and 132 men)—which made it one of the largest "worksites" in Guadeloupe, some years before abolition. The skilled slaves, including laborers, masons, and carpenters joined a number of European craftsmen and some colored free men in the construction of buildings, of which the remains can still be seen today and which underwent extensive restoration work in the 1960s when a plan was made to build a hotel.

The plantation comprised the conventional sugar refinery buildings, one or more mills (in this case one livestock mill and one windmill), the sugar refinery itself and its annexes, and the domestic buildings. The quality of the stonework and the crest on the windmill bearing both the Master's initials and surname and the construction date (1814) are all signs of a skilled workforce.

The plantation's originality stems not so much from the opposition between the "Main house," where the masters lived, and the hundred cabins, long since gone, assembled with wooden posts and thatched roofs which housed most of the slaves in 1839, as from the neo-classical architecture of Murat's house. Though the plan can no doubt be attributed to the family, it is clear that the freed master-masons and master-carpenters, most of whom had learned their skills while they were slaves, showed extensive knowledge of the metropolitan architectural fashions of the time.

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


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