The History of Balenbouche Estate begins with the first indigenous Amerindians, who came from Central America and lived on the island for hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived. Then, from the late 1700’s to the 1930’s Balenbouche was established as one of the sugar producing caribbean plantations by the French and British. In 1979 St Lucia became independent. Since 1964, the former st lucia plantation has been owned and managed by the Lawaetz family, who gradually converted the property into an eco-friendly Guesthouse, organic farm and retreat center.
Many Caribbean Plantations have a pre-colonial history which is often forgotten. Long before Africans and Europeans, indigenous people settled at Balenbouche.
Almost 2000 years ago the Igneri (commonly known as Arawak, which was actually the common language spoken by many tribes at the time) came to St Lucia in large dug out canoes. They were followed by the more nomadic and war-faring Kalinago (Carib) Indians around 1000 AD. When the Europeans arrived, the indigenous population sought to fend off or coexist with the newcomers, but eventually suffered a typical fate, with many succumbing to diseases or becoming enslaved. In the 1660’s, the remaining native inhabitants on St Lucia surrendered to the French, leaving behind only traces of their presence, such as beautiful clay pottery, stone tools, carved rock basins and petroglyphs, some of which can be found along the Balenbouche river. Amerindian traditions, such as cassava making and boat building, have left a mark on St. Lucian culture.
The Africans, Europeans and East Indians who lived and worked on Caribbean Plantations gave rise to the unique West Indian culture and language of today.
Balenbouche was first established as a sugar and rum producing caribbean plantation in the 1740’s. African slaves were brought to work the plantations. The French and British fought over the island for many years, resulting in the colony changing hands 7 times before being ceded to the British in 1815. On February 22, 1979, St Lucia gained its independence.
Balenbouche was owned by several families through wars, natural disasters, financial troubles, and personal tragedies. The earliest known family name associated with Balenbouche is “Martin” in 1770. Between 1840 and 1860, the Estate was owned by the Gaillard de Laubenque family. When emancipation was finally enacted in 1834, 166 slaves worked on the plantation, which was then 587 acres, largely sugar cane fields. The community of Piaye to the East of Balenbouche was founded by freed slaves and retains a strong African identity. The French Creole or Patois commonly spoken by St Lucians and many other islanders evolved out of the need for slaves speaking different African languages to communicate with each other. Check out this online Kweyol Dictionary for an intro to the local language, or download the St Lucian Creole Dictionary app.
Between 1859 and 1893, 4500 indentured laborers from East India were brought to St. Lucia to work in the cane fields. Balenbouche Estate was one of the few plantations in the South to use Indian laborers. They typically worked for 3-5 years, receiving in return a small wage, housing, clothing, food and medical care. Eventually, some were able to choose between owning ten acres of land or ten pounds sterling. Others, after a further five to ten years of ‘industrial residence’, could get a free passage back to India. About half of all indentured laborers went back to India.
By the turn of the century, St Lucia had a free East Indian population of 2,560 persons in a total population of 42,220. Many of the East Indians who previously worked on the Balenbouche plantation settled in the community of Balca to the North of the Estate. The East Indian culture has influenced some of the food, art and festivals in St Lucia.
“Balenbouche is indeed a world within itself exuding a tranquil presence of warmth, hospitality and harmony.”
+ 1 (758) 455-1244
P.O. Box VF 707, LC12101, St Lucia
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