I am very grateful to the National Library Service and UWI West Indian Collection for giving me access to their Microfilm Reels and Microfilm reader respectively, to continue my research for Vaucluse. I could hardly contain myself as I sat down last week to read publications of The Barbados Mercury and Bridge-Town Gazette newspapers from 1816.
These newspapers are so rich with life of the day that I poured over them for hours. I mentioned in my blog about the Bussa Rebellion, that there was an ad in the Barbados Mercury on Feb 3, 1816 with the words “…at the estate of HP Simmons called Vaucluse, formerly Yorkshire Hall…”, which proved that he owned the plantation quite early in 1816. When I saw that ad with my own eyes I was so excited!
I must say that the content of the ad surprised me. I was expecting an ad for the sale of something, but it was far from that. Apparently, someone called J. Manning was missing a female slave and he (or she) believed that the slave was being harboured at Vaucluse plantation since she had connections there. So he put an ad in the Mercury offering a reward of £10 for her return. Wow! My creative juices started to flow right away as I thought of ways to weave that nugget into my story. It meant going back and re-writing a chapter but I did not mind, because I had real, live information to include.
As I said, the Mercury and Gazette newspapers were filled with many nuggets that give insight into life in 1816. News of the ships that docked and their cargo, merchants advertising their goods, announcements of cockfights, ads offering rewards for missing slaves, crimes perpetrated and so much more. I could literally spend days pulling out information to include in Vaucluse.
So you can be assured that in the book when Henry Peter goes to a cock fight at a Mr. Agard on February 3rd there was actually a cock fight that took place on February 3, 1816. Whether or not he went to that one or the one at Mr. Roberts (see ad) is beside the point. As the author I say that he did.
I wanted to include some photos of the actual ads from the newspapers but the quality is not the best so I recreated these, which I’ve included without altering the way they were written. You can be sure to find some of that information scattered throughout Vaucluse as I weave it into the life of Henry Peter Simmons.