Dominica

Wallhouse

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History

An estate south of Roseau named after a place near Edinburgh in Scotland where John Gillion, the first British owner of the estate, came from. As elsewhere in Dominica, whatever name was given to the estate, the workers and people in the neighbourhood often called it after the owner. Therefore they referred to Wallhouse as 'Gillon', (pronounced in the Creole way 'jillon'). It had the layout of a classic self-contained 18th century sugar plantation. The Great House with its outside kitchen, servants' quarters and storerooms stood above and inland of the mill. This was powered by water channelled from the River Gillon in a canal across aqueduct arches to the waterwheel. A sluice gate also channelled water into the house where it fed a large stone bath and a constantly flowing water closet. Beyond the mill was the sugar curing house and distillery. (In the 1990s this wing was restored as a restaurant and discotheque). The manager's house and overseer's quarters were beyond that. (Opposite this Paramount Printery was built). The sugar cane fields were up the valley and on the wide, gently sloping ridge above the works. An identical layout can be seen at L'habitation Ceron in northern Martinique. At the height of its activity in the early 19th century, Wallhouse had its own jetty for shipping produce. In 1827 the estate was worked by 170 slaves, who produced 84,400 lbs of sugar, 1,526 gallons of rum and 3,086 gallons of molasses. In 1802 three of the first breadfruit plants to be brought to Dominica from Tahiti via St. Vincent, were grown here. Following the Gillon family, Wallhouse was owned by J.S. Laidlaw, then by J.C.Spooner in the 1870s, and later by Cox Fillan who shifted the crop from sugar to limes. By the 1920s the estate was 279 acres in extent and was owned by a group called The Wallhouse Syndicate. For a time the house was regularly rented to winter tourists from North America and used for local picnics and parties. The Syndicate was bought out by J.B. Charles who years later sold it to L. Rose & Company in the 1960s, who then sold to Leopold Emanuel in 1979. Charles kept the factory and Great House for himself, and from 1980 to 1995 it was the Prime Minister's residence, when his daughter, Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, served in that capacity. The rest of the estate on the ridge above was subdivided into streets and house lots as an extension of the suburbs of Roseau, similar to other formerly large productive estates around the capital such as Goodwill, Bath, St. Aroment, Canefield and Castle Comfort.



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Last modified: October 17, 2004 Created by Petr Hloušek
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