Les Lilas Estate Artefacts
There is something special about learning through the process of discovery as you gradually unlock the many layers of a mysterious fragment of history. In the last few years, I uncovered various artefacts and actual fragments of the colonial past from the 19th century onwards which informed me while putting this document together.
This document is to be used as a resource into the life on a cocoa estate in the late 19th century. The images are not to scale as more attention was given to highlight the artefacts and any details it may have had. I do hope that this document will shed more light on our colonial past and bring awareness that even the tiniest fragments have stories to be told.
Earlier in the year, presented the rare opportunity to excavate the midden at the former Les Lilas Estate which is now the home of Ajoupa Pottery owned by Bunty and Rory O’Connor. This midden contained the refuse from the estate house and kitchen as was the common practice of disposing waste on estates in rural areas in the 19th century to the early 20th century. This midden provided a cross-section into the lifestyles of the Melizan family during the turn of the century at the height of the cocoa industry from 1890 till the beginning of World War One. Many of the artefacts such as beverages, fine crockery and domestic products mostly came from Europe in countries such as England, Scotland, France and Germany.
Located in Freeport, Les Lilas Estate is in the ward of Montserrat had the most fertile soil to plant cocoa and coffee in Central Trinidad. From 1880 to 1930 the foothills of Montserrat was populated by a growing community of French Creole families such as the Agostini, de Verteuil, Knox and Devenish. Les Lilas estate was another estate owned by the French Creole family of Charles Melizan (b.1848-d.1924) and his wife Elisa Bonasse and seven kids. On this estate, they never planted any cocoa trees but instead dried cocoa and coffee beans from other nearby estates on the three cocoa houses. Only one remains in existence on the present property with the original estate house. The family prospered until 1921 when the price of cocoa fell from $24 per 225 pounds the previous year to $10 per 225 pound because of greater competition from the West African cocoa industry. The final blow for the local cocoa industry in 1927 was the rapid spread of the Witch Broom disease caused by a fungus Monilophothora Pernichiosa that killed many infected cocoa trees.
I wish to thank Bunty and Rory O’Connor for allowing me to dig on their property and engaged with the project from the beginning. This document is my gift to everyone who has inspired me and shared their knowledge and collection with me.